2018 Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition
Waste disposal is not the thing to attract an adrenalin rush in someone seeking a heart-stirring driving experience. However, all the action need not be limited to under the bonnet.

Heightened vehicle performance can be an arm’s length away from – and at the upper end of the sporty spectrum – to the power plant. Take the new VW Golf R Special Edition, for example.

Replete with performance options, previously available only in Europe, the outstanding feature of the Golf R Special Edition is the Akropovic exhaust and muffler made from a titanium alloy resistant to high temperatures and characterised by four unique pipes producing notes ranging from those of a muffled trumpet to a full-on brass ensemble, the latter particularly at high engine speeds and when changing gear. Oh, and it saves 7 kg in weight compared with the standard R system.

All this comes at a price: $61,990, plus on-road costs, five grand more than the standard Golf R. An optional Panoramic electric glass sunroof can add $1900. However, the hatch really is something special.

While on the restrained side of hot hatches the Special Edition squares off on all four wheels as if challenging all-comers to ‘have a go’. Unlike some of the pretenders this champ can mix it with the best.

Cross-drilled front discs with special performance pads and a silver logo plate on the calliper are part of the R Performance brake system, which joins the Akropovic exhaust in saving weight.

2018 Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition

Lighter by two kg than the set-up on the standard Golf R, it provides increased stability and improved response in the wet while being less prone to fading. Combined with gloss black Pretoria 19-inch alloy wheels weighing just 9.6 kg, unsprung mass is further reduced.

Added are such visual touches as gloss black door mirrors and a subtle tailgate badge. All in all, the exterior presents a rather subdued appearance for such an out-there performer. It is left to the wheels to hint at something ‘Special’.

The cabin comes with standard features found in the common-or-garden Golf R. This includes a 9.2-inch display with gesture operation, satellite navigation, CD player, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. In addition, there’s a 12.3-inch active driving display.

Leather upholstery, heated front seats, power adjustable driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, proximity key and push button start, shift paddles, and a three-spoke leather sports steering wheel all add a premium feel to the surroundings.

Storage is great with big door pockets front and back. There are two cupholders in the rear fold-down armrest and another two up front, along with deep stowage under the centre console armrest.

To complete the Special Edition package, however, Volkswagen Australia has included a Dynaudio 400 Watt premium audio system, normally a $1000 option Down Under.

The Special Edition has the same 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine as the regular Golf R with the same output of 213 kW and 380 Nm. This is mated with a seven-speed DSG dual clutch automatic transmission and VW 4Motion all-wheel drive.

2018 Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition

Earning a five-star ANCAP safety rating, the Golf R Special Edition boasts autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control with stop / go, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert as standard. Automatic parking is on tap, as are a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.

To all intents and purposes, the Golf R Special Edition is built to show off the hand-made exhaust system. All the rest is Golf R old hat.

The word ‘muffler’, applied to the Akrapovic, is an oxymoron. In no way does the system dumb down the powerplant, the exhaust helping the Golf R Special Edition deliver, through its twin trumpet-tipped titanium tailpipe, a rip-roaring ride with soundtrack to match.

The maker claims a sprint from zero to 100 km/h in less than 5 seconds, with fuel consumption of 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres on the combined urban / highway cycle.

Not on offer is a six-speed manual variant. However, the auto is finely tuned to produce relaxed travel in town and spirited going out in the sticks through fast stretches and tight and twisting bends. It’s not missed.

In other words, the VW Golf R Special Edition can be a boulevard cruiser or theme park thriller; the choice is yours.

The car is a five-seater hatch back with plenty of head room, although skinny seats, offering plenty of lateral support, are a problem a broad-backed person needs to wear.

Boot space is limited by the all-wheel drive to 343 litres against the 380 litres of the front-wheel drive Golf hatches.

The good news is the final batch of 400 ‘Specials’ allocated to Australia, we are told, are all on their way Down Under; the bad news is, they are selling fast and some of us could be left but to look on in envy.


VW Golf R Hatch $56,490
VW Golf R Wagon $58,490
VW Golf R Special Edition $61,990
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local VW dealer for drive-away prices.
SPECIFICATIONS (VW Golf R Special Edition 2.0L Turbo 4-cylinder petrol 7sp DSG automatic AWD Hatch)

Capacity: 1.984 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 213 kW @ 5400-6500 rpm
Maximum Torque: 380 Nm @ 1850-5300 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 98 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.2 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: 166 g / km

DRIVELINE: Seven-speed DSG automatic, 4Motion AWD

Length: 4263 mm
Wheelbase: 2626 mm
Width: 1799 mm
Height: 1436 mm
Turning Circle: 10.9 metres
Tare Mass: 1450 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 55 litres

Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Ventilated disc

Five years / unlimited kilometres

About Ewan Kennedy

Ewan Kennedy, a long-time car enthusiast, was Technical Research Librarian with the NRMA from 1970 until 1985. He worked part-time as a freelance motoring journalist from 1977 until 1985, when he took a full-time position as Technical Editor with Modern Motor magazine. Late in 1987 he left to set up a full-time business as a freelance motoring journalist. Ewan is an associate member of the Society of Automotive Engineers - International. An economy driving expert, he set the Guinness World Record for the greatest distance travelled in a standard road vehicle on a single fuel fill. He lists his hobbies as stage acting, travelling, boating and reading.
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