First Drive Review – 2015 Volkswagen Golf R Feels Like 400HP Heaven

 HD Drive Review Golf R

What makes a so-called “cult classic” ?

Without looking up any textbook definitions, we can easily define it by a photo of the 2015 VW Golf R.


It is a car that will appeal to only a single-digit percentage of car shoppers seeing a 4.9-second sports-car for around $40,000. For the other 95-percent of car shoppers, the VW Golf R’s very demure exterior makeover, similar turbo four engine to all other USA Golfs and fairly dull curb appeal will rule it out of the consideration set. After all, a BMW 235i, 4 series or Lexus IS350 are all far more effective yuppy status symbols at the same price.

Most people will not be able to get over how tiny the “R” badges are in front and back, with the fresh front bumper, sills and quad exhausts far too forgettable. Especially in this silver (which is not expected to be offered on USA Golf R models, after all) — the Golf R looks less butch and macho to outsiders than the GTI. It is a dead ringer for the base Golf TSI for 95-percent of shoppers.

But then there is that last five percent of car owners. These are the guys and gals like us. People who gladly owned and loved the bug-eyed, first-gen Subaru WRX from 2002-2004. Sure, it was fugly. But go for a drive. Boost whoosh and AWD handling like no compact ever before.

This same slim minority will make the 2015 VW GOlf R a forever cult hero.

Once initiated to this special club, you can select Race mode from the Golf R’s drive modes in the touchscreen panel. Grinning from ear to ear, you will relish the roaring blatt and deep roar from those quad pipes on full throttle. The giant belch of power out those quad pipes on upshifts through the seamless seven-speed DSG will become a daily thrill.

The 2015 Golf R’s 292-horsepower and 280-pound-feet of torque are up 36 and 37 ponies and torques over the GTI — but this is just the on paper figure.

HD Drive Review

From the driver’s seat and through the 5th-gen Haldex AWD, you know for sure that this incredible EA888 engine is easily making 350+ horsepower and over 350-pound-feet of torque. It is a total monster in race mode — which appears to unlock all this power and fun via some incredible, engineered-in cheat codes in the ECU.

Why underlabel the power output so radically? For insurance reasons, corporate politics (protecting Audi S3), deterring competitors from increasing outputs, and dozens of other conspiracy-type theories.

We do not know for sure why VW is underselling the Golf R’s greatness.

But like all cult classics, the reasons are r blinker

Once you have seen the movie, watched the world fly by in the Golf R on full throttle — you will be a fanboy instantly and forever.

Best VW of 2015? Without a doubt.

Best VW ever?

Very possible.

After some time at the wheel, $40,000 seems fairly reasonable.

Even better news? VW USA is saying that a manual-transmission may come along in a few years. The DSG would be our choice, but VW is keeping the cult flames burning brightly with this performance flagship.

Honoring loyalists and winning over converts — one Race-mode Golf R blast at a time.

Just like the silly film Wet Hot American Summer? Yes!

[If you haven’t seen that one, just insert your cult classic fave instead.]

2015-Volkswagen-Golf-R-Review-27dfa2015 Volkswagen Golf R

golf r blinker HD Drive Review Golf R

About The Author

Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of, an innovative and rapidly expanding automotive news magazine. He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank. Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)