Got an e-mail from my dealer on Monday that my Golf R had arrived, but because we live in Houston and my dealer is in San Antonio, we couldn't pick it up until yesterday (Saturday). I'm sure most of you can relate; it was a long week.
My first thought upon seeing her was how great Rising Blue looks in person. I've seen a lot of great pics of RB on this forum, but nothing compares to seeing it in real life. I snapped a couple of pictures before even going inside to do the paperwork:
And a pic with my wife's new Tiguan SEL, which we picked up at the same time:
Before I say anything else, I have to give props to VW of Alamo Heights (formerly Rod East VW). Not only did they give us a great price on both cars, but it was the smoothest car buying experience I've ever had. And even though I previously negotiated a 2.49% rate with them for the R (matching PenFed), when we got into the finance office, they gave me a 1.9% rate out of the blue. I've never met a nicer and more professional group of sales people at a dealership, and couldn't recommend them more.
Interior and Driving Impressions
By way of background, this is my first VW, and I'm coming from a 2009 M3 coupe, so my perspective is probably a little different from that of a longtime VW enthusiast.
The interior of the R is a very sweet place to be. Everywhere the R meets your skin, from the seat to the steering wheel to the shifter, is perfect. For those of you complaining about not getting the Recaros, the car doesn't need them. The seat is well-bolstered, and holds me perfectly. We drove more than 3 hours back to Houston this afternoon, and it felt great. I think the seats strike the perfect balance of providing excellent support and snugness without creating any pressure points or hot spots. I really liked the seats in my M3, but these are even better. The leather isn't quite as soft as the seats in the M3, but still very good quality. The steering wheel has perforated leather, which provides a combination of grip and softness that is just right. I've driven a lot of cars, and this is the best steering wheel that I can recall.
The ergonomics of the car are also excellent. I was able to adjust the seat and steering wheel into just the right position for me. All of the instruments and gauges feel like they are where they should be. The steering wheel is a nice small size, but it doesn't block the view of any of the gauges like my M3 steering wheel did. All of the dash board controls are within easy reach and are laid out in a simple and organized way. The driver compartment feels compact, but not constricting. I'm 6'2" and 195 pounds, and it doesn't feel tight. It feels intimate and creates a nice connection with the car. On a related note, I was surprised at how much space the back seats have. A buddy who is 6'4" rode in the back seat and had plenty of room for his legs.
The Dynaudio sound system, once you get the settings sorted properly, is excellent. Nice clear, crisp sound, with good balance, even at high volume. Having heard it, I have no desire to change it. All the media options are great, and very simple to use. The RNS-315 is a solid little unit. Very, very user friendly with a responsive screen and no lag. It has lots of cool little features. I've got an RNS-510 sitting here at the house waiting to be swapped out, but honestly, it won't be necessary for most people.
Put all of these things together, and the interior impressed me a lot. The materials and fit and finish is very high quality, and it looks both classy and sporty at the same time. Aside from a couple missing features, you have just about everything you could want in a car. A couple of my friends, both of whom drive high end cars, rode in the R, and both of them were very impressed as well.
Now for the good part. Even though it is not blisteringly fast or have razor-sharp throttle response like my M3, the R is an absolute blast to drive. I was sure that I would miss all that power, but was surprised to find that I was having so much fun driving the R at any speed, that I barely gave it any thought. Don't get me wrong, the R is plenty quick (although I'll definitely be adding some go-fast mods). It's just that you don't have to be driving it balls to the wall to have a lot of fun. You can definitely feel the turbo kick in just over 3,000 rpm, but it's a nice smooth build in power, not an on/off switch. Coming from a series of naturally aspirated cars, this was very welcome, especially when applying a heavy dose of throttle in the twisties. It did not upset the R's balance.
VW hit a home run with this suspension. I understand the desire to lower the car from an aesthetic perspective, but driving this car confirmed that I will not be touching the suspension. The ride is extremely comfortable. It is firm, with surprisingly little body roll for a stock suspension, but supple with nice small-bump compliance. It's just a really great balance between sport and comfort. It transmits a good amount of road feel, but without ever feeling harsh or jarring. I was also surprised at how unflappable the R is while cornering on bad road surfaces.
The AWD is impressive in putting power to the ground, no matter what the road surface is like. Not much to say on that front. The traction control, in full-on baby sitter mode, definitely is overly interfering in hard cornering, which is a shame because it kicks in just when the car is starting to do what you want it to do. It won't allow any sliding whatsoever. I have not tried partially turning it off, so I will avoid further judgment until I do. And I can also confirm that the Dunlop all-seasons blow big chunks. They will not be on the car for long.
The steering response is not as sharp as in the M3, which was borderline telepathic, but the variable assist is set up far better in the R. The steering is nicely boosted for low speed maneuvering, but very nicely weighted at speed. I always wished that the M3 had a little heavier steering feel at higher speeds, but the R gets it just right. The R also feels very nimble and tossable without being at all twitchy.
The shifting in the R is glorious. The clutch has a quick engagement low to the floor and a good consistent release. The shifter, despite sitting a little tall for my tastes and having very long throws, is buttery smooth. So much better than the notchy Getrag box in the M3.
The R really is a situation where the sum of its parts is greater than the whole. No one thing about the R will blow you away; but put all the pieces together, and you have a very, very fun car that will put a huge smile on your face. I absolutely love it.
Engine and Performance
- APR Intercooler - INSTALLED
- APR/VWR intake - INSTALLED
- Modshack intake bracket - INSTALLED (Details at Post 686)
- APR Stage 1 (93 Octane) flash - INSTALLED (Driving impressions at Post 29)
- APR HPFP and Stage 1+ flash - INSTALLED (Driving impressions at Post 352)
- 42 Draft Designs downpipe (resonated w/ cat) and APR Stage 2+ flash - INSTALLED
- APR RSC catback exhaust - INSTALLED (info re custom connector to 42DD downpipe at Post 804; details and pics at Post 823)
- CTS throttle pipe - INSTALLED (Details at Post 823)
- Neuspeed turbo outlet pipe - INSTALLED
- CTS heat shield and Aero-lite heat reflective tape - INSTALLED (Details and pics at Post 857)
- HPA/Haldex Gen 4 Competition controller - INSTALLED (Install notes at Post 798 and driving impressions at Post 817)
- NGK PFR7B spark plugs and R8 coil packs - INSTALLED (Info at Post 857)
- BFI Yellow Torque Arm "Dogbone" Mount Insert - ARRIVED
- 034 Motorsport catch can with oil drain - ARRIVED
Transmission and Shifter
- Sachs SRE Performance Clutch Kit - INSTALLED (Initial impressions at Post 724; post-break-in review at Post 797)
- HPA short shifter - INSTALLED (Details and pics at Post 711)
- Tyrol Sport solid shifter bracket bushings - INSTALLED (Details and pics at Post 711)
- 42DD shifter cable bushings - INSTALLED (Details and pics at Post 711)
- VW Mk4 metal relay lever (1J0711202J) - INSTALLED (Details and pics at Post 711)
Wheels, Suspension, and Braking
- HRE P43S wheels in gloss charcoal (19x8.5" ET47) wrapped in 235/35 Continental ContiSportContact 5P rubber - INSTALLED (review posted here)
- Euro Golf R springs from OEMplus - INSTALLED (See this post for all details)
- RacingBrake two-piece rotors from here - INSTALLED
- StopTech stainless steel braided brake lines from ACHTUN!NG - INSTALLED
- Carbotech 1521 brake pads ordered directly from Carbotech - INSTALLED
- ATE Super Blue brake fluid - INSTALLED
- Tyrol Sport brake master cylinder stopper - ORDERED
- Tyrol Sport DeadSet Rigid Subframe Collar Kit (front) - INSTALLED (Impressions at Post 721)
- RNS-510 navi, Video-In-Motion, and 9W7 bluetooth, and harnesses/wiring from Peteski / Peter_Chicago at vwnavi.com - INSTALLED (Post 105)
- OEM flip-out badge reverse camera (from here) - INSTALLED (Post 105)
- iPod/Media-In cable replaced with OEM cable that allows song tagging - INSTALLED (Post 569)
- OEM Euro cupholder and bottle opener from OEMPlus - INSTALLED (Post 116)
- Stainless steel R seat handle inserts from Bold Sport - INSTALLED (Post 116)
- Stainless steel R tread plates for rear door sills from Bold Sport - INSTALLED (Post 241)
- Podi blue needle boost gauge w/ steering column mount from here - INSTALLED (Post 678)
- Gentex GENK45A homelink and auto-dimming rearview mirror with VW mount adapter from here - INSTALLED (Post 100)
- Hardwired Escort Passport 9500ix with Blendmount - INSTALLED (hardwire details at Post 100 and Blendmount details at Post 470)
- Automatic headlights - INSTALLED (Details and demonstration video at Post 376)
- OEM underseat drawers from ECS - INSTALLED (Details and pics at Post 439)
- LED interior light replacement - INSTALLED (Details and pics at Post 572)
- VW first aid kit from ECS - INSTALLED (Details and pics at Post 440)
- Airbag warning stickers removed from visors - DONE (see Post 742)
- Double Apex USB charger - INSTALLED (Details and pics at Post 894)
- VAGCOM coding with VCDS and micro-CAN cable from Ross-Tech - DONE (Coding directions at Post 175)
- Tinted Euro-LED tails (without fogs) and harnesses from here - INSTALLED
- Color-matched Rising Blue side-markers painted by John@FTC5 - INSTALLED (Pics at Post 155)
- XPel Ultimate clear bra - INSTALLED (Pics and details at Post 149)
- Formula One Pinnacle ceramic tint (35% on sides/20% on back window) - INSTALLED (Pics at Post 110)
- OEM heated aspherical side mirrors from BKS Tuning - INSTALLED (Pic and details at Post 408)
- R valve stem caps from Bold Sport - INSTALLED (Pics at Post 501)
- Soundaktor removed (instructions and impressions at Post 529)
- Neuspeed carbon fiber engine cover with APR Stage 2+ badge - INSTALLED (Pics at Post 720)
- Audi R8 oil cap and black VW coolant and washer fluid caps - INSTALLED (Pics at Post 720)
- Klii Motorwerkes Rising Blue color-matched rear badge insert - INSTALLED (Details and pics at Post 823)
- Cam follower replacement (pictures and info at Post 772)
- Clean and oil VWR air filter (details at Post 732)
I'd like to give a shout out and thanks to European Legacy Motors here in Houston for all the fine work they've done on this car.
How she currently looks (updated 11/2/13):