Auto Review: 2019 Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition

YOU’RE the middle child in a trio of sporty hatches. You’ve been called the best all-round hot hatch in the family. You are the 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI. Your upstart little brother is the 2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI.

But you’re being picked on by the other kids in the hot hatch playground, including the 2019 Renault Megane R.S. Cup Chassis and the 2018 Hyundai i30 N Performance. It’s time to call in your evil twin, the 2019 Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition to bust heads.

Now while we’re not implying you get violent or even incite it, we are here to confirm that if the Golf GTI is the well-behaved but sporty middle hot hatch child in the VW family, then the Golf R Special Edition is definitely its angry sibling.

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Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged inline 4-cylinder TSI engine, generating a thumping 213kW of power and 380Nm of torque, it’s mated to a finely tuned 7-speed DSG gearbox, and features Volkswagen’s patented 4MOTION all-wheel drive system.

It’s the last part of that package that makes the Golf R Special Edition such a grin-inducing bucket of fun to drive. Unlike its mostly front wheel drive rivals, you can throw the Golf around like a rag doll and know it’s going to stick to the road like glue.

Add in a performance braking system designed specifically to increase high performance stability and responsiveness, that weighs in 2kg lighter, and it’s easy to see why this nice set of wheels is already looking like a classic.

There’s more weight savings all over the place, but it’s not just bigger brakes that make the Special Edition, well, special. It also sounds far more raucous than a standard Golf R, thanks to its hand-made Akropovic titanium exhaust system.

And it rides on dead-sexy 19-inch Pretoria black alloy wheels. There’s also LED front and rear lighting and cool dynamic blinkers on the rear. Throw in a rear diffuser and a lower front air intake, and the package is complete.

What also makes the Golf R, and its performance siblings, different is just how suited it is as a daily driver. It’s got that, I’m just a good looking hatch cruising to work look about it, at least until you unleash angry by switching it to race mode.

There is indeed a race mode, which activates the full aural stimulation of the exhaust system, and the snap crackle and pop that goes with it, and forms part of a package that includes multiple drive modes, variable shock absorbers, and adjustable damping.

You can even customise your settings should you so desire, through ‘individual’ mode. The other drive modes include Eco, Comfort and Normal. Race mode is the standout though, and turns the potentially sedate Golf R Special Edition (SE) into a pure beast.

Oddly though, we feel like the SE version could have done with a performance boost, instead of having the same power as the stock Golf R. It feels like it wants to go harder, and Volkswagen could have definitely gone there.

It’s limited edition status is signified by special badging and further confirmed by the fact just 400 examples will be built. There’s some more special stuff inside too, with the insanely good 400W Dynaudio Excite sound system a welcome edition to the package.

There’s also heated black Vienna leather appointed front seats, and like much about this special edition, they’re very comfortable. Rear head and leg room is good for a five door hatch, but the boot is smaller than most of its rivals, and smaller than the Golf GTI.

On the safety and technology front, the Golf R Special Edition features driver fatigue protection, an electronic handbrake and manoeuvre braking, that provides obstacle protection through the parking sensors, when parking.

Hitting the road at $61,990 plus on-roads, which is a lot of money for a hot hatch with a VW badge on it, the Golf R SE also scores a 12.3-inch high definition digital dash that can be customised to suit your driving information requirements.

Volkswagen’s premium Discover Pro infotainment system is on hand too, with the 9.2-inch touchscreen display offering support for gesture and voice control, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink, 2D and 3D SatNav and 10GB of hard drive space.

There’s a super clear reversing camera, with autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control with stop/go, lane-keeping assist, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert all standard.

It’s got key-less entry and push button start, shifting paddles, and a sports steering wheel as well, and the whole package has a more premium feel, as one would expect, than the standard Golf R.

It comes in six colours, including Atlantic Blue Metallic, Indium Grey Metallic, Tungsten Silver Metallic, Pure White or Deep Black Pearl Effect (ours was the Pure White variation), and exclusive to the Golf R Special Edition, Tumeric Yellow.

Should you choose to go the extra mile for the 2019 Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition, and we definitely think its worth considering doing so, you’ll also get a 5-year warranty and a year of free roadside assistance.

Our test vehicle was supplied by Volkswagen Australia. To find out more about the 2019 Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition, contact your local Volkswagen dealer.


Driving experience
Exterior styling
Interior look and feel
Technology and connectivity
Family friendliness
Value for money


Pros - the special edition bits (the sound system, bigger brakes and that wicked handmade exhaust).
Cons - some will balk at the price; needs more power; less boot space than normal Golf.
Mark Holgate
Mark Holgate
A journalist with more than 24 years experience, Mark Holgate has worked with a number of regional, suburban and metropolitan newspapers, as well as stints with motoring specific publications like Which Car? Motorsport News, Auto Action and Street Machine. He is also a contributor to DriveTribe.


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<strong>Pros -</strong> the special edition bits (the sound system, bigger brakes and that wicked handmade exhaust).<br> <strong>Cons -</strong> some will balk at the price; needs more power; less boot space than normal Golf.Auto Review: 2019 Volkswagen Golf R Special Edition