VW Golf R track tested in Dubai

We test-drive the VW Golf R at the Dubai Autodrome. 

The Volkswagen Golf or the GTI gave birth to a segment no car manufacturer knew existed or even realised they should have.

With time the GTI has evolved, and in 2022 we have reached the Mk8 version of the GTI. But this review is not about the GTI, but its bigger brother, the Golf R. For the entire review video of the GTI, click here.

The hot hatchback segment is gaining popularity globally. What were cars designed on a budget for young people to have fun have now become full-fledged sports car destroyers! With the help of modern technology, hot hatches now make enough power, come loaded with tech, handle like a go-kart and carry your stuff, do the everyday drive and drop your kids to school all at the same time.

Say hello to the 2022 Mk8 edition of the Golf R.


To identify the critical differences between a regular Golf and the R, you will have to strain your eyes and have the observational powers of Sherlock Holmes.

The silhouette is exactly the same as the Golf. The R gets a subtly aggressive body kit with a new front bumper, lower lip, side skirts, and rear diffuser with quad exhausts. It also gets a new roof spoiler. The body kit on the R is different from that on the GTI. The differences are small and subtle, but there are differences. The easiest way to identify the R is by the blue brake callipers with the R logo or the R badging around the car.

Another identifying feature of the R is the rear quad exhaust. The exhaust can be upgraded to an optional titanium Akrapovic exhaust. Not only does this sound better, but it manages heat better and is seven kgs lighter.

Customers can choose an optional black pack which adds multiple cosmetic bits obviously in a black paint scheme.


Weight is always the adversary when it comes to performance. Luckily the Golf R has the perfect solution to this adversary, POWER!

The R produces 320 hp from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine. The R does the 0-100 kph run in 4.8 seconds. It comes with AWD and can be bought with two gearbox options. An 8-speed DCT or a 6-speed manual.

After driving the car at the Dubai Autodrome racetrack and handling circuit, I have to say that the DCT is flawless. If you will not be tracking the car often and it will be your daily driver, I suggest you go in for the DCT.

On the handling circuit, the R shined bright. I was not the fastest but was accurate around the course. The steering was sharp and responsive, and the car turned on a dime. The brakes were phenomenal too.

This is an intelligent car. It has selectable drive modes Comfort, Sport, Race, Special, Drift, and Individual. It comes with AWD, torque vectoring and an optional drift mode.

Straight-line performance is solid and linear. It is fast but never makes you feel like it is unstable or scary. The pace of the Golf R is a reassuring fast. It makes you feel like it has your back and is whispering, ‘Go for it, buddy, I got you!’. The Golf R will give you the confidence to drive it to the limit; believe me, you can! 


The R has the same space as a GTI or a regular Golf. Where it differs is with the quality and choices of the trim material. The R has handsome seats similar to the GTI, but the upholstery is different. Red is the dominant colour for the GTI on the interiors; in the R, it is blue. I personally love the blue.

The quality of materials remains good, and the build quality is good too. The seats get a lot of character with the pattern and big ‘R’ stitched onto the side. The seats are covered with Nappa leather and have a carbon-themed look all around. The other interior features include ambient lighting with thirty colours, stainless-steel pedals, and more carbon-look trim on the dashboard. The new Golf R also has impressive cargo space and a comfortable back seat for two adults.

The R comes with a Harman/Kardon audio system, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Wi-Fi hotspot.

Here is my biggest issue with the car. It is infotainment. I had complained about it in the GTI. It was slow and laggy there and not intuitive at all. Plus, it did not function correctly in 50 Celcius weather. VW claims to have solved the issue by upgrading the software. I did not get a chance to test it properly during the R drive. The steering wheel has touch-sensitive buttons like a touchpad. Iffy to use, but you get used to them over a while.


The competition is intense; with more luxurious brands making faster and more expensive hot hatchbacks, will the R be able to make a mark for itself? I think yes, it will be. It ticks multiple boxes like no other car does. It looks expensive to buy but is definitely cheaper than Audi, Mercedes and BMW cars. It will also be more affordable to run and maintain in the long run. Priced at a starting price of $49,000 or Dhs 180,000, the VW Golf R is a lot of car for the money. It is multi-faceted and excels at all the departments it was designed for. Imagine if you have an Mk1 GTI and want something modern and current, then the R is the perfect stablemate for that. VW got this one right.

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9 days ago

[…] While these are the upgrades found on “20 Years” anniversary edition, what does a standard Volkswagen Golf R feel like to drive? Click here to read Team TCI’s review of the 2022 Volkswagen Golf R. […]

Yash Agarwal
9 days ago

Timeless hot hatch! Perfect vehicle to do school runs and laptimes around the racetrack?

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