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A blue 2022 Volkswagen Golf R parked by a rocky cliff

2022 Volkswagen Golf R: Super Hot Hatch With Kryptonite to Match

The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R is even more powerful, faster, and refined than before. But while its solid chassis, brakes, suspension, and AWD make it supremely capable, they also might make it too capable to be truly involving. And its capacitive-touch controls are a significant flaw.

The base Volkswagen Golf might be leaving the US, but its performance variants are sticking around. And that includes the spiciest of the Golf-based hot hatches, the Volkswagen Golf R. Now based on the eighth-gen model, the 2022 Golf R promises some of the nameplate’s best performance yet. However, this superhero Golf has a big weakness.

The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R is so much more than a stronger GTI

A blue 2022 Volkswagen Golf R parked by a rocky cliff
2022 Volkswagen Golf R | Volkswagen
2022 Volkswagen Golf R
Engine2.0-liter ‘EA888 evo4’ turbocharged four-cylinder
Horsepower315 hp
Torque280 lb-ft (manual)
295 lb-ft (automatic)
TransmissionSix-speed manual
Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Drive typeAll-wheel drive
Curb weight3360 lbs (automatic)
0-60 mph time3.9 seconds (automatic, Car and Driver)
Price$44,640 (manual)
$45,440 (automatic)

As in years past, the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R rides on the same platform as the Golf GTI. The Golf R isn’t just more powerful than the GTI, though; it’s also AWD, not FWD. And while the Mk8 model follows the same recipe as the last-gen 2019 model, VW upgraded more than just the engine.

Firstly, the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R has a redesigned AWD system that can send up to 50% of the engine’s torque to the rear. Furthermore, not only can the Golf R’s AWD vary torque right-to-left, but in Drift Mode, it can send all the rear torque to a single wheel. And the hot hatch has a front-mounted limited-slip differential to further improve handling.

Secondly, the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R doesn’t just have more power and driven wheels than the GTI. Compared to the outgoing Golf R, the Mk8 model has stiffer springs and anti-roll bars, re-tuned adaptive dampers, and a new, lighter-weight aluminum front subframe, Autoblog reports. It also has bigger wheels than the current GTI as well as a functional rear wing.

Unfortunately, we don’t get the Golf R Estate wagon in the US. However, not only do US-market 2022 Golf Rs have a manual option, but we get the R Performance Package as standard, Car and Driver notes. That means two more driving modes—the previously-mentioned Drift and the Nurburgring-focused Special. Plus, not only are the driving modes adjustable, but so are the suspension, AWD, and variable-ratio steering.

In addition, Volkswagen gave the Golf R some interior updates for 2022. But those updates weren’t necessarily upgrades.

It’s Car and Driver’s hottest hatch, but the 2022 Golf R “has a major flaw”

The black-leather-upholstered front seats and dashboard of a 2022 Volkswagen Golf R
2022 Volkswagen Golf R front interior | Volkswagen

On paper and in the real world, the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R is an incredibly fast hot hatch. It’s not only more powerful than the Honda Civic Type R, but thanks to AWD and its DSG transmission, it’s faster. In Car and Driver’s hands, the Mk8 Golf R beat the CTR’s 0-60 mph and ¼-mile times by 0.9 and 0.8 seconds, respectively. And this was against the lighter Civic Type R Limited Edition, mind you. Yet the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R isn’t just a straight-line monster.

Car and Driver calls the driving experience “as that of a Porsche 718 Cayman with a back seat.” Yes, the steering could use more feedback, but it’s quick and accurate. The brakes are responsive, firm, and hugely effective; and even in Special Mode, the suspension is remarkably compliant, MotorTrend says. Plus, the upgraded AWD and suspension mean the 2022 Golf R has ridiculous levels of grip, not to mention precise handling. And despite its “violent” amount of power, the EA888 is “linear and refined,” Car and Driver reports.

However, at times the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf R feels too competent, MT muses. Sure, it’s fast, but even in Drift Mode, it doesn’t really drift or rotate, even when you want it to. Also, the GTI has both more steering feel and more character overall, MT says. And while accessing the driving modes is one-button easy, putting the stability control in its sportiest modes requires digging through sub-menus, Autoblog notes.

That, even more than its unflappable nature, is the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R’s real kryptonite. While the new 10” center touchscreen, digital gauge cluster, and optional heads-up display are welcome, the capacitive-touch controls aren’t. They’re just as problematic and annoying as they are in the 2022 GTI. The well-bolstered seats are comfortable, and heated rear seats are nice, but the “controls are a mess,” Autoblog says.

Is it worth buying over its hot hatch rivals?

Despite the Golf R’s speed and luxury advantages, Car and Driver gave the Civic Type R the win in its CTR vs. Golf R comparison. It’s not as fast, but the Honda hot hatch has better controls and, more importantly, is more satisfying to drive. Also, not only does the CTR’s incredible shifter put VW’s stubby DSG shifter to shame, but the 2022 Golf R’s manual has “a difficult-to-locate clutch takeup point,” MT notes.

The CTR won’t be the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf R’s only significantly rival for long, though. The GR Corolla is coming, and if GR Yaris reviews are anything to go by, the VW has a serious fight on the horizon. And while it’s not a hot hatch, the 2022 Subaru WRX has gotten more refined without losing its sense of fun.

Still, if you can get past the UI learning curve, the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R is “one of the best all-around vehicles in the world at its price,” Autoblog says. Other hot hatches might offer more thrills, but few can balance sheer speed with daily-drivable competence like this. And every superhero needs some kind of weakness, right?

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