Golf R: Volkswagen hot hatch’s power evolution to 235 kW

As humans, we seem to be regressing to the point where if Takealot or Mr Delivery closed, we would not survive for one week. But out in the wild, every other species evolves over time.

They get smarter, fitter and stronger, and thankfully the same happens with cars. The Volkswagen Golf R is a prime example.

Golf V R32

Back in 2007, Volkswagen’s first Golf R landed in South Africa. It was a Golf 5 and it was known as the R32. Setting it apart from the front-wheel drive GTI, the R32 was equipped with all-wheel drive.

The Golf R which was initially produced under the R32 moniker.

It had a sweet-sounding 3.2-litre V6 engine under the bonnet and on paper, this naturally aspirated powerplant produced 184 kW of power and 320 Nm of torque. Numbers impressive at the time, but the lack of oxygen at altitude blunted the performance of this hot hatch.

The numbers we got were a 0 to 100 km/h time of 7.31 seconds, while 200 km/h came up a whole 30 seconds later, and the 1km speed was 184 km/h.

Fast for its time, but the turbocharged bogeyman in the GTI era was coming in hard and these cars ran as close as can be to the R32.

Golf VI R

The R32 name was now retired with the introduction of the sixth generation VW Golf and the brand’s most powerful model now wore the R badge for the first time.

As to be expected, with emission controls getting more severe, the Golf R now joined the GTI of that era and ran a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine.

VW Golf R 6
The Golf R 6 swapped the naturally aspirated 3.2-litre engine for a 2.0litre turbocharged mill.

Power was up only slightly to 188 kW and torque increased to 350 Nm. But because the lack of oxygen no longer being an issue as the air was now forced into the engine, the performance numbers improved somewhat more than expected.

The 0 to 100 km/h sprint was done in 6.27 seconds. This Golf R chopped off a full 10 seconds from the 0 to 200 km/h time and got there just 26 seconds while hitting the trap a 1km at 199 km/h.

ALSO READ: Volkswagen Golf 8 could potentially be the last

Golf VII R

For the Golf VII R, the power continued to climb. The 2.0-litre turbocharged engine squeezed out 206 kW of power and 380 Nm of torque. So, the power had broken into the plus 200 kW class and the times followed.

For the first time a proper sub six-second 0 to 100 km/h was achieved. The Golf R now jumped to 100 km/h in a mere 5.13 seconds thanks to Launch Control being added to equation.

VW Golf R 7
The seventh generation Golf R was the first to feature more than 200 kW of power.

The Golf R had now moved into seriously fast car territory, with 200 km/h coming up under 20 seconds and the 1km speed well over 200 km/h at 215 km/h.

Golf 7.5 R

VW was in no hurry to launch their eighth generation of the Golf. The midlife cycle upgrade of the Golf VII, became known as the 7.5 with many seeing it as almost a new model.

Yes, it was tweaked in most areas, but the improvement in power under the bonnet saw the Golf R 7.5 push out only seven kilowatts more to now offer 213 kW, while the torque remained the same at 380 Nm.
But this little bump in power allowed the Golf R to get to 100 km/h in 4.95 seconds.

The five-second barrier had been broken and the Golf R continued bullying much more expensive and fancied equipment. The 0 to 200 km/h sprint now came up a full second quicker at 18 seconds and the 1 km speed went up four km/h to 219 km/h.

Golf 7.5 R Akrapovič

Right at the end of the Mk VII model’s life, Volkswagen South Africa brought us the full power version of the 7.5 and added an Akrapovič exhaust system to the deal.

Full power meant the same 2.0-litre turbocharged engine now offered 228 kW and 400 Nm.

Great performance sprint times were expected from this now most powerful ever Golf, but things did not go as planned.

VW Golf R 7.5
The Golf 7.5 R received a 15 kW power boost and performance exhaust system.

I have road-tested cars for decades and I follow the same procedures and use the same venue when chasing performance times. But this Golf R ran fractionally slower times than its 206 kW and 213 kW predecessors.

Nobody would believe this, and some didn’t publish their slower times for fear of being crucified by the Volkswagen faithful. I did! So, why do I think this happened?

First up, Launch Control determines how quick you jump off the line. This car was a fraction slower to 20 km/h compared to the others and this was time it simply never got back.

South Africa is also listed as a hot weather country by Volkswagen Germany, and our cars are said to be slightly de-tuned to compensate for this weather and our poor fuel quality. Hence our quoted power and torque numbers differ from what is offered in Europe.

I honestly don’t believe that because in reality they have all produced numbers on the dyno that exceed the manufacturer’s claim. And the 213 kW version made the same power as the 228 kW version when tested this way.


Arriving in early 2023, we will be getting the Golf VIII R, and this car has already taken the Most Powerful Golf Ever title from the 7.5 Akrapovič model and will offer 235 kW of power and the same 400 Nm of torque from its predecessor.

In Europe, they get the full 420 Nm because of their cooler climate and better fuel as I have just explained to you.

But I will bet you a cold beer that our Golf 8 R will be just as fast as their 8 R and break back into the four-second bracket and pull over 220 km/h in 1 km.

The reason? Because these smart guys at Volkswagen Germany know their stuff and how to tune their cars for our climate.

To see a breakdown of the Golf R’s numbers over time, click on the link below.

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