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Old 07-02-2019, 12:43 AM   #1
Cronkodile
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Default I rented a 2016 Golf R for a week. Here's how it compares to my 2018 STI.

So I’m a little late, but I finally got my hands on a Golf R to live with for a few days. So here’s my impressions compared to an STI, for the curious!

This was a manual 2016 Golf R with Continental Extremecontact DWS06 tires. My own car is a 2018 Limited STI, conveniently running the same tires. That makes for a nice handling comparison.

The very first thing I noticed was the steering. The car is noticeably more nimble. Until I just looked it up while writing this, I could have sworn the R had a shorter wheelbase, the way it handled. Turns out it’s almost exactly the same as the STI, but you’d never know. It’s easy to dart around in a way that the STI is not. In fact, of all the cars I’ve driven, only the Alfa Romeo 4C comes to mind as being easier to throw around. The Golf has less understeer than the STI too, and I found I had more confidence to chuck it into corners, even with the all-seasons. After returning home to my STI, I was consistently overcooking corners after just a few days in the Golf.

Let’s talk power. The Golf has more turbo lag than the STI. Butt dyno reports that the it launches slower than the STI and takes longer to build to full power, but peak power output is similar. Because you don’t hit peak power earlier, there’s less feeling of power falloff at higher RPMs which let you stretch the entire rev range a little more. But man, you really have to be on top of the throttle between shifts to keep things spooled. If you feel like the STI has bad turbo lag, the Golf is worse. To me, this makes it less ‘fun’, because around town or around corners, you’re bogging when you really want the acceleration (coming out of corners, passing, etc.).

Aside from a few issues, the interior impressed me a little more than the STI. The infotainment system looks like it was actually designed in this decade. The Fender audio system was as good as, if not better than, my Harmon Kardon speakers (and miles better than the base Subaru system). It was a little bass-heavy to be truly representative of the song, but I didn't mess about with the audio settings and I'm sure this could be tuned to taste. There’s neat blue accents that fade up when you get into/out of the car, and the materials don’t feel cheap. The only exception were the seats, which lacked good back support and I imagine would start to get uncomfortable after a few hours. Bring a back pillow for the long drives. Speaking of bass-heavy though: Apparently the subwoofer replaces the spare tire? So the car does not come with a spare, or so the rentee tells me.

The driver’s footwell was strangely cramped. I’m 5’9, and with my seat set so I could comfortably bury the clutch, my knees were coming dangerously close to touching the dashboard. I actually had to raise the steering wheel a little to keep from brushing it. After some adjustment it was a non-issue for me, but if you regularly have problems with this in cars, you’re probably going to have an issue here. While it is a hatchback, there's less space behind the rear seats compared to a full trunk (enough to fit exactly one wheel, I found out). And this is kind of my problem with measuring cargo space in a hatch. Sure, the air in front of the rear window is 'cargo' space, but length and width limitations (including from a sloped rear hatch) still come into play. So while it's true the Golf could potentially be your 4 cylinder AWD hatch replacement, check out the trunk of both before automatically assuming it will be a better hauler.

There are three preset driving modes, and this isn’t some simple throttle response thing. These are three real modes, affecting the steering response, shifting, suspension, (engine power?), and exhaust noise. The STI is permanently stuck in “Race” mode (not that I’d set it any other way). With the R in Race mode, suspension, acceleration, and exhaust noise are comparable to an STI in Sport mode. As a result, putting the car into “Comfort” mode makes it a significantly better daily driver than the STI.

And in comparison to the STI, that’s what this car really excels is at: being a daily driver. After getting back in my STI, the shifter throw was so short I thought I wasn’t going into gear. The clutch felt SO heavy. The car was loud, the throttle was twitchy, and the clutch grabby. In comparison, the Golf R felt like any normal car around town - at least until you switched it into Race mode and stomped on the gas. It’s easiest to judge a book by its cover, and in this case it would be true. The STI, with its giant wing and hood scoop, is brash, loud, and raw. The Golf R is quieter, more refined, but maybe a little more boring, too. But despite all the thrashing, I still managed to get 28.5mpg average, 10mpg or more better than my STI. And that is a pretty significant pro in itself.

I’ll try to sum it up with the following:
- If you want power, but you’re concerned that the STI won’t be enough of a comfortable daily driver, you should include a Golf R in a test drive.
- If you need an automatic, I would definitely recommend a Golf R over a CVT WRX.
- If you want a practical sports car, but are concerned that the STI won’t be fast/fun enough, I don’t think the Golf R will win you over. The only exception to that might be Autocross, because damn the handling is good.

Pros: Nimble as hell, less understeer, better daily driver, driving modes that actually mean something, good forward visibility, better infotainment system, quieter cabin, available with DCG. 10mpg better fuel economy.

Cons: Turbo lag, small trunk, uncomfortable seats, cramped for big people, boring looks (IMO), difficult to launch.

Equals: Butt dyno, fun factor, rear seat room, good engine noise.
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Last edited by Cronkodile; 07-02-2019 at 11:01 AM.
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Old 07-02-2019, 01:29 AM   #2
SummerKnightLT
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thanks for sharing.
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Old 07-02-2019, 01:33 AM   #3
carsebuco
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I've never considered a German car, and this review didn't help my point, but that was a really good read. Thank you for taking your time to write down your experience this detailed.
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Old 07-02-2019, 09:06 AM   #4
86Dreams
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Thanks for sharing.
Interesting note about the handling. thats due to its suspension set up and steering rack ratio. The rack ratio is variable between 9.5:1 and 14.1:1 vs the STIs 13:1. 9.5(probably in race mode) is going to mean way more aggressive handling compared to the sti. The springs on it are also stiffer in the back and softer in the front, opposite of what the STI has. If you compare this to a lot of the cars that seem to perform consistantly well in auto x then it follows their pattern.

sources:

https://newspress-vwusamedia.s3.amaz...849c7a87bd.pdf

https://forums.vwvortex.com/showthre...it-Spring-Rate
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Old 07-02-2019, 09:16 AM   #5
MountainMan10
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I considered the Golf R. My wife saw me looking at it on the web. Took one look at the picture and said UGLEEE. That was the end of that.
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Old 07-02-2019, 10:35 AM   #6
cmiovino
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We have a few Golf R's race at our local autocrosses and they're insanely quick with the stage 2 APR package. We're talking a battling for FTD quick out of ~120 entries.
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Old 07-02-2019, 12:51 PM   #7
R1Armadillo
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Thanks for the write up!

Love everything about the Golf R exxxxcepppt... the looks.

Buddy has a a hooked up (400+ HP) R, and it's a blast no doubt, but I just can't get past the looks...

A shot from Cars and coffee/ Hunt Valley Horsepower in Hunt Valley last year!

Last edited by R1Armadillo; 07-02-2019 at 12:57 PM.
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Old 07-02-2019, 01:11 PM   #8
2018wrx_newbie
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Thanks for the detailed write up. Good read.
I never considered the VW, mainly because I am not a fan of the look.
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Old 07-02-2019, 01:27 PM   #9
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I considered a Golf R with the DSG, until my GTI started experiencing issues around the 60,000 mile mark. Call me crazy, but I didn't expect to go through two water pumps, a radiator, and an intake manifold between 60k and 70k miles. I also needed to replace one of the wheel hubs as it was starting to make noise, but I traded it with the iffy wheel hub, lol.
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Old 07-02-2019, 02:58 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan10 View Post
I considered the Golf R. My wife saw me looking at it on the web. Took one look at the picture and said UGLEEE. That was the end of that.
Amen to that. Its one of the ugliest out there. Looks kind of like a toyota matrix or some shiet. If VW would redesign the frame to be a little more "aggresive," i will probably consider getting one.
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Old 07-02-2019, 10:50 PM   #11
Geese1
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I had thought about getting a Golf R in the past, but the hassle of actually trying to get one (didn't seem like you could just go to your local dealer and factory order one to your specs) kept me from pursuing it farther.
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Old 07-02-2019, 11:42 PM   #12
ejicon
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Great post. I've been mentally preparing myself to test drive an R and an STI back to back to see which one I'll go for when purchasing my next car. The problem with test driving an R is that dealerships refuse to let you test drive them. I have yet to seriously go in and test drive an R but I've seen stickers and signs on all of the R's at my local dealership saying "NO TEST DRIVES." That's wack.

edit.... you guys and gals think the R is ugly? What do you all think about the STi's styling?

I went through a similar change in vehicles at one point a few years back.

I had a 2016 WRX for about 2 years which I used as my daily commuter to work. It had a CVT which needed resetting and firmware upgrades throughout the entire time I owned it. The WRX was fun. It took corners exactly how people describe how it does and was quick. Getting a CVT was a sacrifice for wanting to put up with LA Traffic. I really enjoyed it.
The following year, I got myself into a 2016 VW GTI with the upgraded Performance Package. WOW! This car drove like a dream. It was compact and sporty with loads of power. The one thing that truly turned me off to the GTI was the lack of ALL-Wheel drive after owning All Wheel Drive vehicles for 20+ years now. The GTI with the performance package added bigger brakes, a VAQ limited slip differential, and 10 more horsepower for a total output of 220 hp. With all of that power being pushed out of a front wheel drive car, you get spinning tires just about every time you push it. I hated that and it turned me off from week one of owning it.

Personally, I feel that the GTI is a way better buy than a WRX but an STI is a better buy than an R. Again, I'll have to find an opportunity to actually test drive an R instead of basing my opinion on online reviews and word of mouth.

Last edited by ejicon; 07-03-2019 at 01:16 PM.
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Old 07-02-2019, 11:57 PM   #13
gunz4me
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ejicon View Post
Great post. I've been mentally preparing myself to test drive an R and an STI back to back to see which one I'll go for when purchasing my next car. The problem with test driving an R is that dealerships refuse to let you test drive them. I have yet to seriously go in and test drive an R but I've seen stickers and signs on all of the R's at my local dealership saying "NO TEST DRIVES." That's wack.
Oddly enough, as much as I complain about the local VW dealership, they did let me test drive a Golf R. It's their lack of service department that deterred me from purchasing another VW. Well that and the fact that Audi/VW hasn't been able to get a water pump right in over two decades.
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Old 07-03-2019, 07:36 AM   #14
Valenzx
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R1Armadillo View Post
Thanks for the write up!

Love everything about the Golf R exxxxcepppt... the looks.

Buddy has a a hooked up (400+ HP) R, and it's a blast no doubt, but I just can't get past the looks...

A shot from Cars and coffee/ Hunt Valley Horsepower in Hunt Valley last year!
I am so with you, the back is hideous to me. I can't get over the minivan look. At least the focus RS/ST and Veloster N have a little style.
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Old 07-03-2019, 11:37 AM   #15
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I like my Golf-R and STI. They are worlds apart. Mine both run Cobb Stage1+. The Golf-R is considerably faster than my STI once it gets going.. like from 10mph up.

It’s not so much turbo lag, the flywheel on the Golf-R is much lighter so it takes a bit of finesse to get the car going until one is familiar with how to drive the car. As far as fun, the STI is very fun to drive but after 2 hours straight it starts to get a tad tiring for me.

I like having the differ flavors. I was a little surprised when my WRX Limited drove more like my Golf-R than my STI.
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Old 07-03-2019, 12:37 PM   #16
jasonwrx86
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Personally I think the Golf R is expensive and too small for me.
I would love to see a Jetta R at the price they are asking.
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Old 07-03-2019, 11:50 PM   #17
Cianski06
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jasonwrx86 View Post
Personally I think the Golf R is expensive and too small for me.
I would love to see a Jetta R at the price they are asking.
The golf is the more expensive car in general, the interior is usually a bit nicer and has less hard plastics (last time I checked). And I believe all golfs come with IRS where the Jetta is a torsion beam. I believe the GLI Jetta is the only current Jetta with IRS.
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Old 07-04-2019, 02:09 AM   #18
transmutation
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Excellent review. I considered an R when I was shopping but like others said, VW dealers woudn't let you get close to one and most of my friends with a German cars spend more time waiting at the dealer for repairs then driving. I knew I wanted the Suby (have since forever) but wanted to make sure I looked at the competition. The RS was the only one that really got me excited but at the time dealers were still doing the ADM bull**** so I told them to enjoy watching their cars rot on the lot. The RS I tested did for another year... For the record I think the Golf R looks classy but I love the STi rough and tumble ruggedness.
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Old 07-04-2019, 09:20 AM   #19
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Wrong thread. NM.

Last edited by Scorpius; 07-07-2019 at 05:20 PM.
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Old 07-04-2019, 09:56 AM   #20
Kemo_Saabe
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How was the pedal placement for heel/toe shifting? I had looked at a GTI when I bought my WRX and the I found with the pedal placement on the GTI it was very difficult for me to heel/toe shift.
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Old 07-04-2019, 04:30 PM   #21
oichan
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Yeah, the GTI/Golf-R were designed more with the DSG in mind. I run an aftermarket pedal with custom adapter on my MT Golf-R which enables heel and toe. In contrast I did not need to mod the pedals on my STI/WRX at all.
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Old 07-04-2019, 05:06 PM   #22
kabz
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Fantastic write up! I traded my STI as I just didn't get on with it. Loved my older 13 wrx apart from the looks. STI looked good but felt lame to drive. Bad clutch. Bad shifter.

I did keep my 04 WRX project car and have that running on a EJ swap. Love driving it. Really nice clutch action and lighter shifting and a proper big scoop. Also wagon life. Great overall package.

It does sound like the Golf R is awesome, but as with my GTI, I'd be worried about water pump leaks then ending up on a flatbed again inside 15k miles.
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Old 07-07-2019, 08:15 AM   #23
Senfinger
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MountainMan10 View Post
I considered the Golf R. My wife saw me looking at it on the web. Took one look at the picture and said UGLEEE. That was the end of that.
Ditto for me as well! Small World
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Old 07-07-2019, 09:34 AM   #24
Jacky Treehorn
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Add me to the list of people that could never drive a golf because of the styling. I just see minivan or a flattened beetle
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Old 07-07-2019, 03:23 PM   #25
FaastLegacy
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scorpius View Post
I've never had any of my Subaru's in the dealership for repairs other than for the Takata air bag recall. Nuff said.
Which is irrelevant if you haven't owned a VW and have personal experience to compare it to.
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