Above: Golf R Performance Special Edition FULL REVIEW

Above: This Week’s Car Review – 2020 LEXUS NX 300 AWD Petrol Turbo

2019 VW Golf R Performance Special Edition Video Words


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.

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ABOVE: Golf R Performance edition


Exterior design is simple, neat, and some would say, Teutonic. The delicious touches tantalise and tease. You run your fingers along the straight, no-nonsense lines. You admire the jewel-like headlights, and the way Golf R seems to sit, almost anchored to the ground.

An R badge is accentuated with the addition of “Performance” to let people know you’re not a person to be trifled with. It also says you have more shekels to spend on pleasure.

This simplicity carries a certain elegance that eschews the loud, shouty performance that lies beneath. And, shouty it is.

LED lighting front and back looks sharp. Dusk sensing headlights turn high beam on and off without driver involvement. You’ll find yourself flashing the odd oncoming truckie every now and then though, especially in filthy weather.

Tail lights have a crisp pattern of lines, Audi-style. Stop lights shine like beacons. Progressive indicators sweep gracefully in the direction of the turn.

The VW badge at the rear is the handle for the hatch as well as a cover for the reversing camera. When reverse is selected, the badge pops out revealing the camera lense This keeps it clear of schmutz so no matter how remote your parking spot, wildlife will be as safe as churches.

Remember, Golf R is a pin-sharp hot-hatch, and the clean lines reflect the perfection on the road. Black 19” Pretoria alloys look mean, and have tyres so low, you only need a 50c piece to measure their height. Each alloy saves a kilo in weight, hoorah.

There is a further 7kg weight saving with the stunning Akrapovič titanium exhaust system. Quad pipes emerge from the rear end like something a Bond villain would be proud of. They are art pieces in their own right. I dare you to resist touching them, when they’re cold of course.


The cabin is crisp, clean and neat, like a well-made, luxury, hotel bed.

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

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

Supportive sports seats, clad in Vienna leather, have power adjustment for the driver. They wrap around you to keep you from sliding about like a rag doll.

The leather-clad steering wheel looks and feels dead sexy. Entering this cabin is an event.

There is no flummery to distract occupants. It is all class.

The multifunction steering wheel buttons control Active Cruise Control, audio, and menu functions in the driver’s screen.

An LCD driver screens sits in place of traditional driver instruments. 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. Speed, revs, and fuel is still easy to see, but directions take pride of place. There is no HUD (head up display) on the windscreen, and voice guidance is handy, but very annoying, so this is the next best thing.

The central LCD is independent of the driver LCD so you can have navigation in front of the driver, and audio on the main screen. It a stroke of genius. It also means passengers can thumb through your music library without you missing navigation turns.

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 your 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. Little grooves on the exterior door handles lock doors, and the inner surface unlocks. It is a near sensual experience.

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. Like most hatches, legroom can be a challenge if your friends are very tall. Of course, they can stay home if they don’t like it.


Golf R Special Edition has extra special features. Some to save weight, and others just because they look fabulous. Weight savings mean you can go around corners even faster. 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.

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. They glisten in the sun, and at just the right angle, seem to fluoresce.

R body styling kits include grille and bumper embellishments and a sex-A-F. side skirt.

There is semi-automated parking if you feel lazy, but you’re better off doing it yourself. Frankly, some technology allows people on the road who really shouldn’t be there.

R Performance Golf has only one option, a $1,900 glass sunroof, and it’s a cracker.

Drive and Engine

Golf R is AWD with VW’s 4Motion system. It gives loads of extra grip when things get a bit eggy.

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. Dynamic mode makes the exhaust emit a pleasing burp between gear changes. If you don’t want to feel like you’re having a heart attack, this mode is not for you.

Dynamic ride is firm, very firm. It’s just the ticket for a track day.

VW ditched the troublesome dry clutch DSG in favour of a wet clutch unit with 7 speeds. Changes are slick, but comfort mode does best 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, so 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 by slowing down and stopping. It activates hazard flashers applies brakes to prevent rolling into traffic, or off a cliff. That is handy if the you’ve somehow gotten a nasty knock on the noggin.

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

Blind spot monitor alerts the driver to hidden obstacles, just in case you’re all overcome with greatness.

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


Golf R is an all-round good guy. It is a sexy, super fit, professional athlete.

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. I can as easily give you a cuddle, as it can a smack upside the head.

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.

There is an innate smugness about it, and I’d buy Golf R Performance with my own money. Few cars are both benign and a weapon at the same time.

Also look at:

Facts and Figures: 

  • 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.

Rating System

Golf R Performance Edition

Rating System (against others in its class)

  • Overall look and feel 8
  • Interior look and feel 7
  • comfort 7
  • Practicality 8
  • Engine 7
  • transmission 6
  • Technology – cabin 7
  • Technology – driver assist 7
  • Safety 7
  • Driveability 8

Total 72

Vehicle rated against others in its class

1 – terrible

5 – average

10 perfection