Picture a Lamborghini Aventador: spoilers, vents, V12 engine, scissor doors. Now, picture the scene in The Last Crusade where Indiana Jones responds to a sword-swinging baddie with a laconic pistol shot. Theatrics are all well and good, but when you’re packing heat, you don’t need much more than a willingness to pull the trigger.
Now, picture a Volkswagen Golf. It’s businesslike, no? While the hatchback box shape has matured over seven generations, it remains familiar in its mildness. It is clean-cut, neatly pressed, and ready to go to work. If it sounds like I’m talking about a pair of charcoal slacks, I pretty much am. The VW Golf is the business-casual of the automotive world. Add a GTI designation, and maybe you’ve just paired a fancy pocket square as an accessory. Add an R, and…
Well, not much, really. From the exterior, the ultimate Golf is just a set of quad exhaust pipes, a chin spoiler, and a quartet of 19-inch alloy wheels hotter than a standard GTI. It doesn’t get a big spoiler, it doesn’t get wild slashes to the bodywork – if you’ve ever seen a pair of stylish trousers with scarlet lining, then consider this the wheeled version of that. There’s a lot going on here, but the R hides its light under a bushel.
In order to uncover that light a little, I headed up the valley to HPA motorsports, an elite Volkswagen tuning house located in an industrial complex in Langley. If you’re a VW enthusiast, you likely have already heard of HPA, but it may still come as something of a surprise to learn that their headquarters are sequestered away in an industrial park in the Fraser Valley.
Why’d I mention the Aventador at the outset? Because HPA builds a Golf that’ll run it to ground, a 740 hp (!), all-wheel-drive monster that gets to 100 km/h in 2.8 seconds, 200 km/h in 8.9 seconds, and hits 300 km/h in 22.2 s. I’ve driven it, and it is utterly insane, even more so than their usual 5–600 hp fare.
Usually when you talk to tuners, there’s a lot of scoffing at the factory limitations, but the crew here will tell you that VW raised the bar when they released the current iteration of the Golf R. The 2.0L turbocharged engine makes 292 hp at 5,400 rpm, and a fat 280 lb-ft of torque from 1,800 rpm. Haldex all-wheel-drive and wide sticky tires on 19-inch alloys handle the grip. It’s all enough to give a Subaru STI something to sweat about.
Despite the similar performance metrics, the Golf R is nothing like an STI. For one thing, it’s a hatchback (bring back the STI hatch, Subaru!), for another, this is a car for grownups.
Monsters Inc.? HPA and the 740 hp Volkswagen Golf
Now, before anybody in a Monster Energy flatbill gets too offended, I actually own an STI. It’s quite good fun, it doesn’t mind getting its boots dirty, and it is about as refined as a hay-baler. It’s a perfect fit for me because I haven’t had occasion to wear a tie since about 2011.
But there are people who have real jobs: accountants, lawyers, real estate agents, doctors, engineers, software programmers, mid-level management types. Can you show up for work every day in a screaming blue car with a wing that looks like a Cessna crashed into the back of your car? If you can, try to keep that job, it sounds like fun.