The Otherwise Great 2023 VW Golf R Has a Frustrating Drawback
You can’t get a new Volkswagen Golf in America anymore, but critics agree that the GTI and R variants are more exciting anyway. The Golf R has the biggest engine of the two, plus it’s one of the only compact cars with standard all-wheel drive. It’s a well-rounded hot hatch overall, but it has one troublesome quirk that might annoy its drivers.
So much to enjoy inside the 2023 Volkswagen Golf R
The Edmunds review of the latest Volkswagen Golf R was overwhelmingly positive, highlighting the vehicle’s satisfying performance and practicality. Each of these hot hatches comes with a 315-hp turbo-four engine, though torque output varies on which transmission you choose. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard and you can pay a little extra for the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Edmunds preferred the latter option, noting its relatively smooth shifts that are uncharacteristic of a dual-clutch. It also helps the Golf R achieve an impressive 0-60 mph time of just 4.3 seconds. The standard adaptive suspension both maximizes ride comfort and adds to the Golf R’s sporty driving character with quick, precise maneuvers. The automatic-equipped Golf R also has good fuel economy estimates, averaging over 29 mpg combined city/highway during real-world testing.
The Volkswagen Golf R showcases excellent braking confidence as well, which is always important for a car that’s so fast. The AWD system has a torque-vectoring rear axle, which automatically supplies more grip to the wheels that need the most traction. Road grip is further aided by the standard performance tires attached to 19-in wheels. Besides being fun to drive, the Golf R’s interior is surprisingly very accommodating.
The presentation itself doesn’t exactly exude luxury with all its plastic pieces, but the build quality is a step above most hatchbacks. Test drivers noted that the backseat isn’t the roomiest, but never described it as being unbearable. The front seat cushions are the widest, but each seat offers an appropriate amount of support. Almost every seat has standard heating and the front seats come with ventilation settings.
Drivers should also appreciate the cargo area’s height-adjustable low floor and the 60/40 split-folding rear seats. With every seat upright, you already get nearly 20 cubic ft of usable space. The back row folds completely flat, granting you over 34 cubes of storage area.
The Volkswagen Golf R needs some better controls
The Golf R’s climate control system can only be configured with touch inputs, which heavily annoyed Edmunds test drivers. These controls don’t have any backlighting and aren’t clearly labeled, so they’re bound to be a distraction in both day or night. The center stack is also notably bare of any physical knobs and buttons, though you can still adjust some settings with steering wheel controls.
The touchscreen infotainment interface suffers from some input delay and illogical menu structures. The graphics are still crystal-clear overall, especially when you’re using the navigation feature. The voice controls are also reportedly more accurate compared to those in other cars.
Is the Volkswagen Golf R still worth buying?
While a frustrating control layout could be a turn-off for many buyers, the Golf R makes up for this with its impressive overall value. Besides an extremely limited Anniversary Edition model, this hatchback only comes in one trim priced at $44,740. Several of its luxury rivals are more expensive despite having slower acceleration times and fewer standard features.
Every Volkswagen Golf R has a panoramic sunroof, genuine leather seats, and automatic tri-zone climate control. In addition to navigation, this car has wireless smartphone integration and a lengthy list of advanced driver’s aids. Once you’ve mastered the controls, you can enjoy the Golf R’s performance potential to its fullest.