Volkswagen Golf 8 R Variant im Test

What is it?

Last year a friend wanted to pick up one of the last new Golf 7 R Variants. I could understand his request only too well. The 7 Series R surprised more than positively in terms of driving dynamics. And the addition of a long tail shows the cool, understated connoisseur all the more clearly. If you want to fly under the radar and most of the others on and off, you can use the VaRiant.

Unfortunately, the car was no longer available sooner than expected and a T-Roc R was suggested as an alternative. He declined with thanks. Crossover boom or not, but there is very likely nothing, so nothing at all that a T-Roc R can do better than a Golf R Variant.

VW Golf R Variant (2021) im Test

And with the model change, the chances for the SUV should not necessarily have increased. As an 8th, the station wagon had another clean growth spurt and should now have a little more space ready for all of your living beings / hobbies / Black Friday excesses.

Like the hatchback, which we have already found to be very good, the Variant swaps the somewhat musty Haldex all-wheel drive for the new “In” solution with two multi-plate clutches on the rear axle. Thanks to this, the more liberal forces flowing backwards can also be juggled back and forth between the rear wheels.

One consequence of this all-wheel drive setup, which is almost anarchic by VW standards, is the inevitable drift mode. And there is also a special Nordschleife mode. Both are part of the performance package, which also guarantees a 19-inch model, a top speed of 270 km / h and more self-determination when shifting gears. 2,095 euros, for which the regulars’ table (and their children, if they are still too young for FFF) will adore you.

Funnily enough, according to VW, the 80 kilo heavier variant has a more balanced weight distribution and a better drag coefficient than the five-door R. There is much more in the rear (611 to 1,642 liters). And for the first time he gets a trailer hitch with which you can hook up to 1,900 kilos. As you can see, it would be absolutely negligent not to buy the station wagon. Now he just has to drive reasonably well …

How is he driving

Basically, the world shouldn’t have changed compared to the Golf R Hatchback, which we galloped up against the “little brother” Golf GTI Clubsport last May. But the conditions are completely different this time. The hatch came to us on sticky Michelin Cup2 tires, pounded over heartwarming Eifel country roads and the even more heartwarming Nordschleife in the best of conditions.

On the other hand, we received the R Variant in very november weather on winter tires. And no Eifel far and wide. Of course, he can’t do anything for that and, to be honest, such a scenario depicts the purpose of the potent practitioner much better. But the difference in handling was quite noticeable.

VW Golf R Variant (2021) im Test

Although it was not so much the handling as such, but rather what sparked into your fingers via the front wheels and steering wheel while the car was – um – “trading” around. Surprisingly, a lot sparked on the extreme semi-slick of the five-door. The steering had much better stories in store than I usually know from VW. Now with the Variant it felt a bit like “Connection temporarily interrupted”.

The car turns in very easily and comfortably (except in race mode, where it becomes much harder and too angular at the edges), does not throw any drive influences into the valance, but leaves it with a lack of feedback with the winter tires. I would then actually push the tire with the flake on the flank into the shoes. It’s crazy what kind of influence the black gold has.

Otherwise, the long R does a pretty good job. The electronic lock and the added negative camber at the front are extremely successful in combating understeer. There’s plenty of grip anyway, that’s nothing new. The fresh torque vectoring all-wheel drive setup massages any clumsiness and front-heaviness out of the calves of the Variant. Everything now seems more neutral and agile.

There shouldn’t be a lack of propulsion either, right?

Not really. The EA888 two-liter four-cylinder (in the meantime we have reached evolution stage 4) is tried and tested like no other sports engine on this planet. In this case, it can give off 320 hp and 420 Nm of torque. From 0-100 km / h it takes 4.9 seconds to go two tenths more than in the hatchback, but a) who cares? and b) VW measures quite conservatively anyway. This golf is fast. Very.

VW Golf R Variant (2021) im Test
VW Golf R Variant (2021) im Test

Much more important, however: absurd starting weaknesses and DSG jerks do not play a role here. In “Comfort” the car gets going much more comfortably than in “Sport” or “Race”, but as long as you can choose how hard you get kicked in the buttocks, everything is fine.

The same applies here again: This unit is neither a jerk-biting aggro with accelerator pedal inputs nor a designated barrel organ, but simply a very burly draft monster that generates brutally effective and easy propulsion without much fanfare. The double clutch pleases in everyday life with fast and smooth gear changes. And if you have booked the aforementioned performance package, then the thing won’t spit in your soup on its own initiative. That means: You decide how far you want to turn down the gear and not the little man in the transmission electronics. It’s a first step. That you have to pay extra for this is still strange.

The gearshift paddles are – unlike in the GTI and GTI Clubsport – finally big enough, but look like they come from the 3D printer home set for children aged 6-10.

So does the R Variant somehow manage the balancing act?

For the most part, I would say yes. Even on winter tires you can tell that you can now breathe more freely in terms of driving dynamics, that it is less restrictive and therefore more fun. It is also positive that he is remarkably careful with the inmates’ backs and bums. Only in race mode or if you turn the damper bar in the corresponding menu completely to rodeo (all the way to the right) does it get bumpy. The 1,045 euros for the adaptive chassis with its noticeably broad portfolio is money well invested.

So there is golf in the 8 Series R Variant in a golfier way. In spite of all the power, speed and serious dynamics, you have to attest that even he is not one for 180 pulse and the really big adrenaline.

VW Golf R Variant (2021) im Test

But the points are simply missing where you can rub yourself really nicely. All controls tend to be easy and pleasant, you will never be scrutinized by the chassis, steering, seats, locking diff and Co. But hey, if that’s what you want, buy a Honda Civic Type R or a Hyundai i30N and don’t complain after you’ve driven 500-600 kilometers in a row.

Whereby, there is of course a topic with a lot of potential for friction. I suspect you have an inkling of what is coming …

Ha, it has to be the waitress!

Exactly. The Golf 8 has been on the market for a while now. Long enough, one would think, to somehow put an end to this fiasco. A cockpit has never been the cause of more abusive reports and general dissatisfaction. And we’ve had enough time to get used to it. That won’t work anymore.

I’ve also driven a couple of Golf 8s now. Our WOB-GO 545 was once again one of the less motivated examples. At least the infotainment did not crash this time, but the loading times, for example with the navigation search, were epic.

VW Golf R Variant (2021) im Test
VW Golf R Variant (2021) im Test

Then there are the terribly fiddly, unlit air conditioning controls and these unspeakable touch surfaces on the steering wheel, which only seem to react when you can’t really use it. Especially when you drive more ambitiously, you constantly come against it with the heel of your hand and adjust something. With a performance model like the R, that’s not a good thing.

We just have a Polo facelift in the editorial office. There was also modernization, but not with a mallet, but sensible. Conventional buttons on the valance, much better designed haptic surfaces for the climate setting – so it works.

Very good at least: the digital instruments and the 700 euro head-up display.

And the rest of the interior?

Everything that is not painted black on the steering wheel is very comfortable to grip and the seating position is great. However, the sports seats lack support on the seat surface. With the fabric seats of the GTI Clubsport it was much better recently, although it is the same chair. It is probably due to the leather package, which costs 2,895 euros, so it is better to try it out before buying it before the slippery animal skin ends up on the order form.

VW Golf R Variant (2021) im Test
VW Golf R Variant (2021) im Test

The space in the rear is fine. You can tell, however, that the extra centimeters for the body and wheelbase went into optimizing the trunk volume. In addition, the huge panoramic sliding roof restricts the headroom. With my 1.85 meters, I hit the top on the side.

Conclusion: 7.5 / 10

Anyone who wants to feel every pebble (and every eddy in their backbone) on every trip and plow hard so that something stirs is definitely at the wrong address. The new Golf R Variant is undoubtedly a serious performance car, but it tends to maintain a subtle pace.

The new all-wheel drive brings the right kind of momentum into the booth here too, but all in all the super-fast, effortless, high-traction, somewhat spark-free progress predominates. Coupled with this space and the dying nonchalance of its body shape, the R is actually a family car that is difficult to resist.

If it weren’t for the below-average usability and a horrific test car price of almost 70,000 euros, the rating would have been higher.