The popular Volkswagen Golf heads into its seventh generation for 2016. Available in 2-door and 4-door hatches as well as a 4-door "sportwagen". The Golf 1.8T is powered by a 170-horsepower turbocharged 1.8L 4-cylinder. This is mated to either a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission.
The Golf GTI, available with either two or four doors, comes with a potent turbocharged 2.0L 4-cylinder that produces 210 horsepower and 258 lb-feet of torque. It's offered with a choice of 6-speed conventional manual or DSG dual-clutch transmission.
The Sportwagen, based on the 4-door Golf hatch, features 30 cubic-feet of rear cargo space, expandable to an impressive 66 cubic-feet with the rear seats down. It comes with the 1.8L engine and the same choice of transmission options.
At the top of the range is the Golf R. With 4 doors, a very impressive engine and all-wheel drive, it is the ultimate European "hot-hatch." The Golf R comes with a highly tuned version of the GTI's 2.0L turbocharged engine that makes almost 300 horsepower. It comes with only the 6-speed DSG transmission, but is packed with premium standard features that include a sport-tuned suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, HID headlamps, heated power-adjustable leather seats and dual-zone climate control.
Two-door 1.8T models are offered in base and S trims. The base trim includes 15-inch alloy wheels, power-adjustable and heated side mirrors, Bluetooth audio streaming and hands-free connectivity, an 8-speaker stereo with iPod hookup, 5.8-inch touchscreen and HD radio, as well as cloth seating with a 60/40 split folding rear seat. The S trim adds an upgraded radio with a 6.5" touchscreen and satellite radio, steering wheel audio controls, smartphone-integration, remote keyless entry and a leather shift knob.
For the 4-door and Sportwagens, three trims are offered: S, SE and SEL. In the SE, buyers will find 17-inch wheels, rain-sensing windshield wipers, halogen fog lights, a power panoramic sunroof and a rearview camera. Inside, amenities include a Fender premium audio system with eight speakers and a subwoofer and heated front seats. The top-of-the-line SEL trim includes 18-inch wheels, touchscreen navigation, dual-zone automatic climate control and front sport seats with 12-way power-adjustable driver's seat.
Available packages include a Lighting Package, with adaptive bi-Xenon headlights, which turn in conjunction with the car's movements down the road. The Driver Assistance Package features Park Distance Control with front and rear proximity sensors, as well as a Forward Collision Warning that alerts you when there's trouble ahead.
All Golfs come with standard safety features that include anti-lock brakes, traction control and engine braking assist, plus a host of airbags to protect the cabin.
We should count our lucky stars that Volkswagen even decided to bring the eighth-generation Golf to the US. After decimating the affordable German car's lineup for 2022, only two variants remain destined for our amber waves of grain: The hopped-up GTI and the even-hoppier Golf R. The previous Golf R was fun, but it didn't feel like it was truly its own car. That's changed in the model's latest generation, where this hot hatch has finally come into its own.
If you've never noticed, VW's performance hatchbacks are color-coded, with the GTI leaning heavily on red and the Golf R relying on blue. That visual differentiation is a bit more obvious this time around, thanks in large part to a bright-blue strip that spans the width of the front end, which still has a bit of the ol' sloping-brow look thanks to the new fascia. There are plenty more visual differences that set the GTI and Golf R further apart from one another, like the Golf R's more aggressive bumpers, 19-inch alloy wheels and the not-so-large-I'd-call-it-obscene rear wing. Combine that all and you have a Golf R that finally has some visual bark to match its bite. The new look is quite visually aggressive, although it's worth mentioning that the wheels and wing on my test car are part of an Performance Package, so you may be able to skip 'em if you prefer. (The early test car shown here is actually a European-spec model, and it's unclear at this time if VW will offer this equipment as an option or if the company will just bundle every US-spec car with it.)
The interior has a few key differences, but it's largely the same experience you get in lesser Golf variants. R-specific touches include loads of blue contrast stitching, different dashboard trim and an excellent pair of sporty front seats with integrated headrests and bitchin' blue plaid inserts. The seats themselves aren't so tight as to alienate parts of the American market, but they're still supportive in the right ways when the driving gets spirited.
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