We’ve been waiting for the next era of Volkswagen’s hot hatches to reach our shores, and it’s finally happening in the latter part of 2021. That may not sound too encouraging on its face, but there’s a ton to look forward to. Not just with the mid-range Golf GTI, but with the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R Mk8 as well.
Right up top, there’s the new styling. Now, the Golf R has historically been the more conservative-looking hot hatches around. From the outside, it mostly looks like your standard Mk8 Golf. We won’t be getting the more ordinary version of the Mk8 Golf here, but to the casual observer this does just look like…a hatchback. It’s not as loud about its go-faster pedigree as, say, the Hyundai Veloster N or the last-generation Ford Focus RS. Those of you who have experienced the Golf R, though, know not to underestimate its capability on looks alone.
What’s under the hood this time?
Up front, the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R brings more sculpted LED headlights, as well as a light bar across the slim grille. Most of the area for cooling is lower down, though the flanks have been restyled to be slightly more aggressive than the Mk7 model. Around the back, you get proper quad exhaust outlets and a decent-sized spoiler (though again, not overstated). Volkswagen also slimmed down the LED taillights and brought their new “R” badging to the Mk8 Golf R.
As for what’s powering the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R, we still have the 2.0-liter EA888 engine under the hood. However, there’s quite a bit more oomph on tap. Finally, the next-generation Golf manages over 300 horsepower. In fact, this model pushes 315 horsepower and 310 lb-ft torque to all four wheels. Volkswagen says this car will sprint from 0-60 in 4.7 seconds. Per their own estimates, that is slightly faster than the previous generation model, which managed a 4.9 second time when equipped with a DSG gearbox. Some independent tests show the Golf R could run a time in the 4-1/2 second range, so we may see better performance as journalists get their hands on the new model.
Drive modes, chassis upgrades
Another trick the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R has up its sleeve is a new torque vectoring 4Motion all-wheel drive system. With this system, the rear differential not only splits torque up to 50:50 between the axles, but can also shift power between the two rear wheels.
If you’re more oversteer-inclined, the Golf R packs a new “Drift” driving mode. That does not make the hatch entirely rear-wheel drive, but retunes the system to send more power to the rear and sets the stability control to Sport mode. While the stability control is enabled by default, drivers can defeat the system if they choose. On top of the normal drive modes and Drift mode, “Special” mode is available to set the car’s driving parameters up to how the car was tuned for the Nürburgring Nordschliefe. It carries softer damping than Race mode for bumpier, uneven surfaces so the tires can maintain contact to a greater extent.
Engineers didn’t just update the powertrain, either. The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R also sports chassis and brake upgrades, including larger discs. The new front brake rotors are now 14.1 inches by 1.3 inches wide (up from 13.4 by 1.2 inches). The two-piston aluminum front calipers help reduce mass by 60 percent on each side over the previous model.
Interior and technology
Inside, the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R looks understated in hot hatch terms, carrying the same practicality as the previous model. You do get “R”-embroidered sport seats as well as a large 10-inch infotainment system. The 7-speed DSG transmission loses the old gear lever for a toggle switch, similar to what you’d find in the new GTI. However, like the GTI, you can still get the Golf R with a 6-speed manual transmission. So it’s still a proper hot hatch, if you lean toward the good old days of rowing your own gears.
A 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit also comes standard on the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R. The new system brings a nice touch in that it greets drivers with the “R” badge as soon as they open the door with the key in their pocket.
As far as personalization goes, there are a few different options with both exterior and interior colors. Lapiz Blue Metallic, shown in these photos, is the car’s signature color. If blue isn’t your thing, though, it’s also available in Pure White or Deep Black Pearl.
2022 Volkswagen Golf R availability
Sadly, U.S. customers are in for a bit of a wait with the new Golf R. It should launch around the same time as the GTI, in the latter half of 2021. Pricing is not available yet, but expect the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R to cost at least a bit more than the old car’s $40,395 starting mark.