Things are changing at VW and most of the Golf family may not be around on the US market at the moment. But at least the stellar Golf R is still with us. At MotoPickers, we love it. Enjoy it while you can, for this is an iconic hot hatch. The 2023 Volkswagen Type R returns after a gap and it has had a high-tech redesign and been given even more power. This is because VW has upped the R’s turbo by 27 horsepower, enhanced its 4Motion AWD system, and filled its cabin with new displays that we think hit the spot.
Follow through for a close look at all the stats and facts you need to make an in-depth decision about whether the 2023 VW Golf R is for you.
Why the 2023 Volkswagen Golf R is important
The Golf R is a niche icon, and that makes it important. VW more or less developed the hot hatch market decades ago with the original GTi, and it then made an icon from an icon and created the Golf R. It’s the R that is now their absolute Golf performance model, and it is a really strong contender in its market. Some buyers cannot see past it and opt for it like moths to a flame! Though it does not sell in vast numbers, VW needs to make sure the R is always top of the hot hatch tables, as part of ensuring VW is still associated with classic hot hatch sports car speed.
Powertrain and Performance
The 2023 VW Golf R comes as a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder. It’ll give you a very commendable 315 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque. Though it is fundamentally the same engine as we enjoyed in the Mk7 Golf R, the engineers have tweaked the power by a significant extra 27 bhp.
As standard, the 2023 R comes with improved 4Motion all-wheel drive (AWD) and a six-speed manual transmission. A seven-speed dual-clutch direct sequential gearbox, (DSG) automatic transmission with paddle shifters is also available and we think an increasing number of buyers will opt for it.
Ride & Handling
For the new 2023 Golf R, Volkswagen has revamped its 4Motion AWD and there is no doubt it is more dynamically responsive than its predecessor. It can handle information from several electronic systems and it invariably applies the exact amount of appropriate torque to each wheel. This makes cornering a delight, as it enables extra power to reach the outside rear wheel to improve the body as it bends.
The R comes with DCC adaptive damping and it travels on 19-inch alloy wheels fitted with summer-only tires. The dual-piston front brake calipers are usually blue and are matched with 14-inch cross-drilled rotors. The driving modes are all accessible from the steering wheel and make a difference to the application of the car’s power.
The 2023 Golf R makes itself clear in a crowd. It is more upfront visually than its heritage models. The front end is aggressive and has sharkier LED headlights, a raked hood, and a larger rear spoiler at the edge of its roofline. Large 19-inch wheels and low-profile performance tires fill its wheel wells to maximum effect. In addition, the increased presence is enhanced with four chrome-tipped exhaust outlets.
The 2023 model’s color range is a bit limited, and it is only available in the now famous VW lapis blue, white, and black. All feature Golf R exclusive blue accents in the grille and brake calipers.
This is where you will notice the most difference. The new 2023 Golf R has had a successful high-tech transformation. You now get a 10.25 inch digital instrument panel and a 10 inch touch screen. It is sleek, aeronautical looking and well designed. There are far fewer buttons and switches than before, with many tasks controlled through the central display.
The rear seats three and the Golf R Nappa leather-upholstered cabin is a very fine place to sit. Front seats are as well-bolstered as you’d expect, and the seats and integrated headrests are both heated and ventilated. We love the fact that in this new model R you can set the mood with a 30-color ambient lighting system.
VW will only offer the 2023 Golf R in one well-appointed trim. It comes standard with a head-up display, tri-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a wireless device charging pad. The trad Golf R’s flat-bottomed, leather-wrapped steering wheel is heated.
As above, those very pleasing front Nappa leather seats are also heated and ventilated, while the rear seats are merely heated.The driver’s seat is designed for optimum flexibility and features 12-way power adjustments and seat position memory. An electric sunroof also comes as standard.
Infotainment and Connectivity
The 2023 R uses the VW Golf 10-inch MIB3 Discover Pro touch-screen infotainment system. It is a highly effective system. It includes navigation, along with support for Android Auto and Apple Carplay functionality. You also get four USB ports, which are nicely placed, SiriusXM, and support for the subscription-based VW Car-Net Wi-Fi hotspot.
In terms of sound systems, the 480-watt Harman Kardon audio system with nine speakers is juicily good.
The joy of a Golf R is that you get stellar performance and also some day to day practicality. Compared to typical sports coupes, the hatchback Golf R is roomy, versatile, capable of satisfying a family’s needs, and also much more capable as a carrier than many larger cars, including some SUVs who should be ashamed of how meager their space is. An often forgotten benefit of car-based hatchbacks over SUVs is that their low-load floors make loading and unloading cumbersome packages much easier.
Information about the 2023 Golf R’s fuel economy has not been released by either VW or the EPA as we wrote this. Let’s be honest, however, it will not be the most economical of cars, given that high bhp. It will likely thrive on expensive premium fuel, rather than regular unleaded.
For information, the 2022 Golf R featured a similar powertrain and earned EPA fuel economy ratings of just 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway for the manual version, and a tad more for the automatic, which nudged up a little to 23 mpg and 30 mpg.
Advanced Safety and Driver-Assistance Technologies
This is a safe car. VW outfit the new Mk8 Golf R with the IQ Drive suite of advanced driver-assistance and safety aids.These include lane keep assist; blind spot monitoring; rear cross traffic alert; automatic high-beam headlights; adaptive cruise control; and automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection. This is a strong list.
Also included is VW Travel Assist, a hands-on partially autonomous system that manages steering, acceleration, and braking and which works actively to limit driver tiredness. If the driver fails to respond to multiple audible, visual, and braking cues, the VW Emergency Assist system works to ensure the car comes to a controlled stop.
Pricing and Trim Levels
The redesigned 2023 Golf R has a starting price of $43,645 when fitted with a six-speed manual and $44,445 with the seven-speed DSG automatic transmission. There are no options, and this is pretty much the full price, as there is only one trim level. This is a competitive price, though for some there will always be something unnerving about paying that amount of money for a mass market model car.
Production and Availability
The new Mk8 Golf R will be produced in Volkswagen’s massive Wolfsburg, Germany plant, along with most of the Golf range. The previous Golf was assembled in Puebla, Mexico, which has now shifted to the production of the VW Taos. It should be in dealerships now.
This is a highly competitive market.
The 2023 Golf R faces an array of fine cars competing in that segment of the market. The Honda Civic Type R and the new Hyundai Veloster are fine fast machines. Add in the Subaru WRX, the Lexus IS, the BMW 2 Series, the Audi A3, and Mercedes’ strong staple of hot engines in the A-class and you have a stable of worthy contenders. Indeed, even the Golf GTi itself can run the R close, and for many it remains an even more iconic hot hatch.
But there remains no doubt that anyone looking to bag a hot hatch with style and authority and swagger should note the virtues of the 2023 Golf R. It is not to be ignored. It’s a MotoPickers favourite.