2012 Volkswagen Golf R: ‘The most powerful VW sports performance vehicle ever sold in the U.S.’

Volkswagen Golf R

Volkswagen Golf R

The 2012 Volkswagen Golf R is the fastest Volkswagen Golf on the planet, or at least the fastest ever to come from a Volkswagen assembly plant. It’s faster even than the legendary Volkswagen R32, which was powered by 3.2-liter’s worth of VW narrow-angle V-6 while the new Golf R has only an upgraded version of the turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 as used in the current Volkswagen GTI.

But it’s a heck of an upgrade. The standard two-liter is rated at 200 horsepower while the 2012 Volkswagen R comes in at 256 horses. Admittedly it’s not a big jump up from the old R32 which was rated at 250 hp, but the 2.0 turbo is lighter than the R32 and all the weight comes off under the hood. Volkswagen brags that the Golf R has a weight distribution of 60-40 front-to-rear and a curb weight of 3325 pounds for the two-door model,. The Golf R engine also fattens up the torque curve, at 243 lb-ft instead of the 236 lb-ft of the R32.

2012 Volkswagen Golf R engine

The 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine in the 2012 Volkswagen Golf R is rated at 256 horsepower.

All-wheel drive is standard on the 2012 Volkswagen Golf R. Power is distributed via a fourth generation Haldex system, and every Golf R brought to the U.S. will have a manual transmission. The European Golf R has the option of VW’s DSG dual-clutch transmission, previous the only way the R32 could be had on this side of the Atlantic. But the new Golf R will only be available over here with the conventional six-speed manual gearbox because U.S. enthusiast feedback indicated that’s what most want, and VW can’t justify bringing over what would be a fraction of the fraction of the total Golf import number.

A DSG-equipped Volkswagen Golf R might be marginally quicker, but Golf R customers apparently prefer the tactile joys of shifting for themselves. And 0-60 mph in less than six seconds isn’t exactly tardy for this class. Top speed is electronically limited to 130 mph.

Volkswagen tweaked the suspension of the Golf R as well. It’s not only firmer than that of even the Volkswagen GTI, it also rides .6 inches lower as well.

The 2012 Volkswagen Golf R will be available as both a two- and a four-door, the latter added for the first time in the U.S. for a Golf R model, according to Rainer Michel, for Volkswagen of America vice president of product marketing and strategy, so that Golf R owners can go for a drive with the family on board too.

Two-door or family-style four-door family, the VW Golf R goes out with a front bumper that VW says has a motorsport look, and it has a high-gloss black radiator grille with LED daytime running lights integrated into the standard Bi-Xenon headlight cluster. The Golf R gets its own 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and VW paints the brake calipers gloss black. At the rear of the car, by a center-mounted chrome twin tailpipe and racing-style diffuser, also in gloss black, shall one know the Golf R.

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John is a veteran auto writer, first published in Custom Rodder magazine in 1980. Since then, he has been published in all the big car magazines, including Car and Driver, Road & Track, Motor Trend, Auto Week, Automobile, plus a variety of others, including but certainly not limited to Automobile Quarterly, Collectible Automobile, and Special Interest Automobiles. John’s work has also been featured in a number of consumer and general interest magazines such as Consumers Digest, Popular Science and others. John has written four books, including a history of the Mazda RX-7 (selling for more out-of-print than it did new), buyers’ guides for Mazda, Datsun/Nissan and Volvo cars, and is co-author of 365 Cars You Must Drive with Motor Trend editor Matt Stone, and his work has been translated into Italian, Estonian, Portuguese, Russian, and Bulgarian. John is recipient of the prestigious Ken Purdy Award for Excellence in Automotive Journalism, awarded by the International Motor Press Association, and the Golden Quill from the Washington Automotive Press Association. John has three adult daughters and has been married for more that four decades to Mary Ann, Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania.