2024 VW Golf R Prototype Driven: A Step Forward?

2024 VW Golf R Prototype Driven: A Step Forward?

We took a drive in a prototype of the updated Golf R, and it’s promising

For a long time, the VW Golf R wasn’t a car we’d recommend for keen drivers. You know – the sort that relishes a twisty country road on which to be a ‘helmsmith’, perhaps with a propensity to do the odd track day. It was always a bit one-dimensional, with an all-wheel drive system which would provide bags of traction, until it didn’t, at which point you almost always got one thing – understeer.

That changed with the Mk8 Golf-based version of the R, which adopted Volkswagen Group’s snazzy torque splitter, a part which has been (somewhat belatedly) fitted to the 2024 Audi S3 we also recently drove. There was room for improvement, of course, both dynamically and from the stuff the R inherited from the boggo Golf it uses as a starting point – mostly surrounding all the interior tech stuff us car journalists moaned about incessantly. And customers, it turns out.

2024 VW Golf R prototype - front

2024 VW Golf R prototype – front

We’ll get back to that, but this being a hot hatch, we’ll focus on the fun stuff first. And here, VW has done quite a lot. Mechanically, the chassis is the same, but the software that controls the adaptive dampers has been tweaked, and the same goes for the torque splitter. The latter’s response has been softened, which should, in theory, make for a car that feels more natural when it is starting to oversteer.

In Race mode, the turbocharger is kept spinning faster than it needs to under partial load, the idea being you don’t have to wait for it to fully spook when you floor it. The updated Audi S3 does the same thing and also shares the R’s other new turbo trick, where the throttle valve is kept open during the overrun, a little like an anti-lag system.

2024 VW Golf R prototype - rear

2024 VW Golf R prototype – rear

All of that should make for a better car when you’re on a good road, but what you’ll appreciate more often is the updated tech. There’s now a larger, much-improved 12.9-inch infotainment screen with gasps backlit temperature shortcut keys on the bezel, so you’ll actually be able to see them at night. Unlike the rest of the Golf 8.5 range, though, you don’t get physical buttons on the steering wheel.

Before you moan, there’s a good reason for this – the left haptic button pad on the outgoing car has the ‘R’ button integrated, which VW didn’t want to lose. Developing a new version of the 8.5’s physical button pad with an R button wouldn’t have been cheap.

But don’t panic, because VW has increased the amount of pressure needed on the R button to engage it, so you won’t find yourself accidentally switching the mode on anymore in what the company refers to as a ‘faulty operation’, or what I refer to as a ‘pain in the arse’.

2024 VW Golf R prototype - driving

2024 VW Golf R prototype – driving

I would still prefer real buttons, but during our drive of a prototype Golf R, I didn’t accidentally press the R button once. Our time in the car was, we should note, not particularly long, and not exactly ‘dynamic’. As twisty as it got were the slip lanes on and off the autobahn, with the route including a de-restricted section in which I was able to accelerate up to about 140mph before having to back off due to traffic.

Power is up by around 10bhp to 329bhp, which, of course, you don’t notice. You can, however, clock the changes to the soundtrack. VW has tweaked both the exhaust, which pops a little more than previously, and fiddled with the ‘sound actuator’ to give it an “even rougher sound”. On the latter front, it’s particularly burbly, giving off an almost five-pot-like warble which works better than you might expect.

2024 VW Golf R prototype - cabin

2024 VW Golf R prototype – cabin

I could detect a little more responsiveness from the EA888 inline-four with its rejigged turbocharger, but for the most part, its character remains much the same as before. It’s still smooth, refined and quite happy to rev, but lacking a little in terms of thrills, “rougher sound” notwithstanding.

The prescribed route didn’t offer the change to properly assess the Golf R’s handling, but a greedy bit of throttle on a bendy slip lane did make the car’s rear end step out ever so slightly, and in what seemed a more natural way than the pre-update car might manage. The ride is impressively smooth even with the adaptive dampers turned up to their firmest setting, it’s worth noting.

2024 VW Golf R prototype - driving

2024 VW Golf R prototype – driving

And that, for now, is all we can report. Although we have seen the car minus camo, the aesthetic stuff remains under embargo until the end of the month, and in terms of driving it, we’ll need more time behind the wheel before giving more detail, which will happen in time. 

For now, we can at least say that the Mk8.5 Golf R is looking very promising. 

Read More

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *