2019 VW Golf R Performance Special Edition

2019 VW Golf R Road Test Review

VW GOLF R Special Edition front 34

Over 40 years ago, VW created Golf, and all was good.

It quickly became a favourite, and a household word for quality. “The doors shutting sounds just like a Golf”, people would utter. Since then, the humble entry level hatch has grown, and grown. More models were added to the range, including a GTI.

The Hot Hatch was born.

The MK VII landed around 6 years ago, then the MK 7.5 a few years ago. Golf R sits proudly at the top of the tree. A 400 unit Special Edition “R Performance” brings 7 grand’s worth extra stuff for a mere $4,000.

VW GOLF R Special Edition brakes


Exterior design is simple, neat, and some would say, Teutonic. This simplicity carries a certain elegance that eschews the loud, shouty performance that lies beneath.

LED lighting front and back looks sharp. Automatic headlights include a dusk sensing function that turns high beam on and off without driver involvement. Tail lights have a sharp pattern of lines, Audi-style.

The VW badge at the rear is the handle for the hatch as well as a cover for the reversing camera. The camera stays clear of schmutz so no matter how remote your parking spot, wildlife will be as safe as churches.

Remember, Golf R is a sharp-as-a-scalpel hot-hatch, and the clean lines reflect the perfection on the road. Black 19” Pretoria alloys look slightly menacing, and have tyres so low, you can measure their height with a finger, using just a couple of knuckles. Each alloy saves a kilo in weight.

R highlights have the final Special Edition flourish with the 7kg weight saving of the sensational Akrapovič titanium exhaust system. Quad pipes emerge from the rear end like something a Bond villain would be proud of.

VW GOLF R Special Edition interior


The cabin is crisp, clean and neat.

The less-is-more exterior extends to the interior design. Golf GTi is given nips and tucks all round to bring us the range-topping R.

But it is so much more than a GTi in a fancy frock.

Supportive sports seats are clad in Vienna leather. The driver’s seat has power adjustment, and a leather-clad steering wheel looks and feels dead sexy. Multifunction buttons control Active Cruise Control, audio, and menu functions in the driver’s screen.

The LCD driver screens sits where traditional instruments would normally live. It allows its user to display vehicle status and information such as navigation. In navigation mode, the map is shown as it would be in the centre stack.

In turn, it allows the central LCD to be used by the passenger. The infotainment system includes CarPlay/Android Auto. A clever auto-hide menu bar give the screen extra real estate when controls aren’t required. As a hand nears the screen, the menu reappears showing the usual controls.

Ergonomics are excellent. Once the driver is used to the system, it is easy to use, and all controls can be reached without straining. It is, after all, a Golf.

Cabin access via smart entry, includes push button start so keys can stay in your pocket.

Visibility is decent, aided by a reversing camera.

Boot space and rear legroom is average, with seats folding 60/40 to provide a near flat floor for larger items.

VW GOLF R Special Edition features


Golf R Special Edition has extra special features. Some to save weight, and others to look good. Weight savings aid performance and handling. That’s always a good thing when talking about track-focused cars.

A titanium Akrapovič exhaust system saves 7kg, and the Pretoria Alloy wheels save a kilo each and are unique to R Performance upgrades. Also unique is: Turmeric Yellow paint, performance brakes, gloss black mirrors, 400W Dynaudio premium speakers, and “R Performance Options” rear badge.

VW GOLF R Special Edition exhaust

Infotainment via the 9.2” LCD touch screen includes Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, gesture control and voice control. The screen also displays rear view cameras images.

LED lighting has dusk sensing, and automatic high beam assistance, and paint colours are pearlescent or metallic.

R body styling kits include grille and bumper embellishments and a side skirt.

R Performance Golf has only one option, a $1,900 glass sunroof.

VW GOLF R Special Edition engine

Drive and Engine

Golf R is AWD with VW’s 4Motion system. Power comes from a punchy 213kw/380Nm 2.0L turbo petrol 4 cylinder engine. Drive modes include a dynamic option which makes steering, throttle and transmission even more urgent and sporty. Ride is then firm, very firm.

VW ditched the troublesome dry clutch DSG in favour of a wet clutch unit with 7 speeds. Changes are slick, but comfort mode does for most situations. If the preset modes options don’t float your boat, “Individual” settings can be saved. You might prefer sporty steering but a gentle throttle and soft suspension for example.

Comfort mode is best for around town. Throttle is slightly less urgent and ride feels, as the mode suggests, comfortable.

Even in comfort setting, Golf R sits flat in corners. Gear changes are still very fast, but are not held as they are in sport settings. You can opt for paddle shifters, or simply allow the DSG to do its own thing. Shifting between manual and automatic mode is simple.  It makes for easy touring and on the highway, Golf R is a grand tourer in the true sense of the word. It is powerful, spacious, and can take all your gear.

Cruise control once set, will keep an eye in front and slow down if needed. Lane guidance will take the strain out of long distance travel by keeping the car centred.

Once back in town, stop/start increases efficiency by switching the engine off at idle when stopped at lights.


Golf has a 5 star rating, but only for front wheel drive models. Golf R has 4Motion, and has not been rated. You could assume the 5 star rating from 2013 would extend to AWD models. It is important to note that 2013 date stamp.

Golf has a full complement of airbags for front passengers, with a knee bag for the driver, as well as curtain side airbags. There are 7 airbags in all.

There is AEB, and multi collision braking. It avoids a second accident but slowing down and stopping. It activates hazard flashers applies brakes to prevent rolling into traffic, or off a cliff. That is handy if the driver is disabled by injury.

Extended Electronic Differential Lock applies pressure to the inside wheel, and operates on both axels. Preventing wheel spin aids traction.

Blind spot monitors alert the driver to hidden obstacles.

Good Bits:

  • Sensational AWD system
  • Clean, crisp design inside and out
  • Brisk acceleration

Not so Good Bits:

  • price
  • rear space for very tall passengers
  • attractive to thieves


VW Golf R is an all-round good guy. It does everything right, and can go from pussy-cat to demon at the press of a button. It is practical as an everyday drive, but is just as happy at a track.

Gadgets have been updated making the driver’s seat a very pleasant place to be. Long distances are no problem and all Golfs come with a 5 year warranty. There is only 1 year of roadside assistance but that is offset with a assured service pricing. It saves up to $1336 on the first 5 services.

I’d buy Golf R Performance with my own money.

VW GOLF R Special Edition rear

Also look at:

Facts and Figures: 2019 VW Golf R

  • Engine: 2.0 L 4Cyl Turbo producing 213kW/380Nm
  • Transmission: AWD 4Motion, 7 speed DSG Auto
  • Warranty: 5 Yr/ Unlimited km with 1 Yr roadside assist
  • Safety: AWD not tested (FWD Golf 5 star 2013)
  • Origin: Germany
  • Price: from $61,990 MLP*

*MLP – Manufacturers List Price includes GST and LCT but excluding statutory charges, dealer costs and dealer delivery. See your dealer for RDAP. Does not include price of any options.

VW Golf R


VW Golf R is an all-round good guy. It does everything right, and can go from pussy-cat to demon at the press of a button. It is practical as an everyday drive, but is just as happy at a track.

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