Apparently, if you launch a brand new hot hatchback nowadays, it simply must have a drift mode. The Ford Focus RS kicked off the trend when it was launched a few years ago, followed not too long after by the Mercedes-AMG A45. Now we have the new VW Golf R, which comes with something called a ‘drift profile’.
The name might be different, but it amounts to the same thing. Once enabled, the ESP settings and torque distribution of the all-wheel drive system are fiddled with, allowing the Golf 8 R to get its drift on.
It’s able to do this thanks to the new all-wheel drive system, which - as the new Arteon R - has something called ‘R Performance Torque Vectoring’. This setup can lob anything up to 100 per cent of torque to a single wheel, leaving understeer “eliminated,” VW says. The system is fed via a seven-speed automatic gearbox, although judging by a prototype spotted at the Nurburgring recently, a six-speed manual should be on the way.
Although Audi’s inline-five was reportedly considered for the new Golf R, VW has stuck with the ‘EA888’ inline-four turbo engine, producing 316bhp and 310lb ft of torque in this ‘evo4’ form. It provides the R with a 4.7-second 0-62mph time and a 155mph electronically-limited top speed. Spec the R- Performance pack, and this is bumped up to 168mph.
The R sits 20mm lower than a regular Golf on standard-fit adaptive dampers and features 357mm front discs squeezed by blue-painted, R-logo-adorned callipers. Add 5bhp for those, we reckon.
On the bodywork front, we have a new front bumper, larger side skirts, a rear diffuser and a much bigger rear wing compared to the one found on the old R. The extra downforce this brings - along with the power bump and the trick all-wheel drive system - contributes to a big uptick for the R’s on-track performance.
On the Nurburgring Nordschleife, it’s 17 seconds faster than the Mk7 Golf R, although it’s worth pointing the car used to set this quicker lap was wearing Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 semi-slick boots. As with the recently revealed Golf GTI Clubsport, the R also has a Nurburgring drive ‘profile’ tuned to the track’s characteristics.
The colour palette will be limited from launch, consisting of the R’s signature hue of Lapiz Blue, plus Pure White or Deep Black Pearl. 18-inch wheels are fitted as standard, with 19s on the options list. Go for the later, and it’s possible to spec the Cup 2 semi-slicks.
Inside, there are sports seats, a unique steering wheel with a blue marker at the 6 o’clock point, and larger shift paddles for the DSG ‘box. The Digital Cockpit has been given an R makeover, including liberal use of the R logo and a special ‘Sport skin’ that places the rev counter in the middle of the display.
This or the GTI Clubsport?