The eighth-generation Volkswagen Golf R has been spotted a multitude of times already, so while images of a Mk8 Golf R prototype have been seen before, it’s Volkswagen’s official debut of two other R models in as many weeks which gives us new insight into what to expect on the next flagship Golf.
As revealed in both the new Arteon R and Tiguan R, the next Golf R will likely feature a new evo4 variant of the EA888 turbocharged four-cylinder engine that’s been a staple of VW’s performance range since the Mk5 Golf GTI. In the Arteon and Tiguan, the new engine produces 319bhp between 5800 and 6400rpm, with 310lb ft of torque available from 2000rpm. While we can only speculate whether the new R will feature the same engine, due to the stringent and expensive emissions testing required in 2020, we’d suggest it’s likely to share this engine with its bigger cousins, and the numbers they produce.
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We’re also expecting the new Golf R to share the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission of the other R models, something confirmed by this prototype’s stubby gear selector and chunky paddles. But while the basic powertrain isn’t particularly different to that of the previous model, its all-wheel-drive system is due a bigger upgrade with the implementation of a clutch pack on the rear drive unit, giving the next Golf R the availability to power torque vector between the rear wheels.
This type of rear clutch pack, as first seen in a European hot hatchback on the Mk4 Ford Focus RS, increases the flexibility of an all-wheel-drive car’s power delivery, in the process allowing for more direct control of the power split. This represents a big shift from the early Haldex all-wheel-drive systems seen on early Golf Rs and Audi S3s, which should make the next Golf R more entertaining on road and track than previous models.
Other hardware upgrades such as a chunkier brake package, 18- or optional 19-inch alloys, lower sports suspension with adaptive dampers and a bespoke steering calibration should also be on the cards, all of which will work in conjunction with a selection of drive modes selectable through the infotainment system or by a dedicated steering wheel-mounted ‘R’ button. Another big update will be the stability control, which should be controllable on a sliding scale rather than a more binary on or off input. This control will allow drivers to more finely tailor the amount of active safety intervention at any given moment – similar in concept to the yellow traction control knob in an AMG GT R.
As for the styling, we can clearly see a tall rear wing, quad exhaust outlets, deeper chin spoiler and Lapis Blue paintwork as expected on an R model, but these images also give us a look inside the prototype’s cabin, where new bucket seats, a chunky steering wheel and bespoke dash trim are present.
When it comes to the reality of a performance Golf above the R, Volkswagen’s sales and marketing boss, Jürgen Stackmann, has previously said that the next-generation Mk8 Golf R could be pushed to around 400bhp: ‘With a little more expressive design, R can go beyond the rational side of things. It [the R brand] can find its place in a different league of pure performance and there’s a space where customers are willing to pay a significant amount of money.’
But there is a hierarchy to consider within Volkswagen, and with Audi having top billing with its more expensive five-cylinder RS3 within the MQB family, the Golf R is unlikely to quite reach those 400bhp-plus highs any time soon. Still, the previous Golf R was a fantastic all-rounder on the road, and although it had some help along the way, proved to be a big sales success for Volkswagen.