yes they do...
You can get 2k off MSRP fairly easily
Pre, it is not that the VW is really refined compared to some other cars out there, all my refinements are in relation when I compare it to the STI. The R is more refined than the STI, but has essentially the same interior as the GTI minus some very small additions. THe R is not more refined than say a Jaguar XF.
I can totally understand your feelings about it since you are coming from a sport wagon of the same make. Lots of parts bin sharing with the VWs. THe differences would be minimal.
Other than that, your points are pretty spot on. It is a bit softer than an STI. An APR stage 1 tune really evens the playing field though I promise. But stock to stock, it is definitely not on pace with a stock STI.
I had to drive it twice to get a real feel for what it was all about. At first I thought the steering was not up to par. But at low speeds it feels one way, and at high speeds it feels much tighter. THe damping is one thing that is spot on though. IN transitions, the car does not flop about. It takes a set quickly. I just wish it had come with summer tires vs the All seasons it came with.
Summer tires from what I hear, really liven up the brakes, and the turn in and steering.