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Every car has a story. And every car’s name has a story too. And while we may be somewhat familiar with the history of our favorite brand or model, we may not always be clear on why it was named a certain way. Take the Volkswagen Golf R, a popular hatchback many owners love. Golf doesn’t exactly evoke a performance vehicle. And what does the R stand for? What’s the meaning behind the name?

A blue Volkswagen Golf R driving down a road.
The Volkswagen Golf R | VW Media

A look at the Volkswagen Golf R

If you’re not familiar with the Volkswagen Golf R, it’s certainly a vehicle worth a test drive. It’s a high-performance hatchback, courtesy of a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces 315 hp and 280 lb-ft of torque.

It comes with a six-speed manual transmission standard, but there’s also a feature the Golf R has long been well-known for. That’s DSG: an optional seven-speed dual-speed transmission clutch that’s better for daily drivers and, as per some reviews, offers a smoother overall performance.

As Car Buzz recounts, the modern-day Golf R started off as the Volkswagen Mark 4 Golf R32 in Volkswagen’s Racing Division in 2002. Originally powered with a 3.2-liter VR6 engine, the Mark 4 generated 240 hp, came with AWD and the DSG option. Initially, the Mark 4 was just a production car limited to 5,000 copies in the U.S. This version was only available in Deep Blue color and only had the six-speed manual option.

The next generation, the R32 Golf, was released in 2005, with more horsepower. But again, the U.S. version was limited to 5,000 units, only released in 2008, and came with just the six-speed manual. And by 2009, the R32 Golf became the Golf R, dropping its moniker because it dropped its V6 engine due to tightening emission regulations. This version was no longer a limited edition and hit U.S. lots in 2012, this time with the DSG option.

Per Auto Evolution, the intervening years saw multiple features added, such as a GTI motor, launch control, and DCC adaptive damping. The current version comes in either a base model or a limited “20 Years” anniversary edition, which is alleged to offer more power than any Golf before.

What does the R stand for?

As one might expect, the R in Golf R stands for Racing. The vehicle was initially developed for Volkswagen’s Racing Division. And while many consumers worldwide use it as a daily driver, it can accelerate, corner, and brake with the best performance vehicles in the segment.

Even when the Golf R was known as the Mark 4 R32, it enjoyed the automaker’s R badging on its fenders, grille, and trunk. And whether you get it as a hatch in the U.S. or its wagon form (the Golf R Variant) in Europe, you get a performance vehicle with a souped-up engine that is certainly a worthy racing offering.

As for why it’s called Golf? Golf here may refer to a fairly slow-moving sport. But in the German language, it refers to the Gulf Stream’s ocean current. Understanding that context makes this performance-oriented Volkswagen’s name make much more sense than otherwise.

20 years of the Golf R

After two decades of the Golf R, the automaker has some more tricks up its sleeve. While the limited edition 20 Years variant is not out yet, MotorTrend reports it will use a 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4 that generates 328 hp and a seven-speed DSG. It also should be able to hit 60 mph in a rapid 4.6 seconds.

In addition to an even more potent powertrain, the 20 Years variant will feature a rear roof spoiler, multiple additional drive modes, and torque vectoring, among other features. And specialized exterior paint and styling will be available for buyers who want to liven up their new hot hatch.

The company has indicated the model will be on dealer lots in June and will only be available for 2023. So if you want your new Golf R to come with “20 R” rather than just “R” badging, you’ll want, you’ll want to pre-order one of these exclusive vehicles today.


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