2012 Volkswagen Golf R
2012 Volkswagen Golf R. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Paul Williams

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2012 Volkswagen Golf R

Arjeplog, Sweden – Car enthusiasts in North America are always lusting after European versions of vehicles they can’t get. Maybe “the grass is always greener,” but it’s true that there are some really desirable machines over there. Unfortunately, according to car manufacturers, the business case for bringing them here often just doesn’t work.

If you’re after the ultimate Volkswagen Golf, for instance, you want the Golf R, right? Based on the GTI and available pretty much everywhere but here, any Golf R you’ve seen in Canada would be a grey market version.

But that changes now. 2012 is the year Volkswagen finally brings 500 Golf Rs to Canada, although this will not come as news to the 400 fans who have already placed a deposit on what the German carmaker bills as the fastest, most capable Golf Volkswagen’s ever built.

2012 Volkswagen Golf R
2012 Volkswagen Golf R. Click image to enlarge

The due date is approaching fast, with the cars reaching our shores by mid-March, and dealerships by mid-April (many dealerships will have only one allocated). At $39,650 the Canadian specification Golf R is fully loaded (really — there are no options). Standard equipment includes sunroof, keyless access with start/stop button on the steering column, satellite radio, sport suspension, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather interior, 18-inch model-specific Talledega wheels, Topline heated sport seats, adaptive bi-xenon headlights, LED driving lights, iPod connectivity, full “R” body kit, media data interface, navigation system, Dynaudio sound system and Bluetooth.

Okay, there is one “option” (accessory item, really) in the form of a factory approved 19-inch wheel. But that’s it. There are five colours available – blue, white, red, grey, black – although given the short supply, some buyers may not get a choice.

Under the hood you’ll find a turbocharged, direct-injected 2.0-litre, four-cylinder engine that makes 256 horsepower at 4,300 rpm and 243 pound-feet of torque at 2,300 rpm, mated to a six-speed manual transmission (the twin clutch DSG transmission is not available in the North American specification Golf R).

2012 Volkswagen Golf R
2012 Volkswagen Golf R. Click image to enlarge

Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive distributes power between the front and rear axles as required. In everyday driving the ratio is 96:4 front-to-rear, with the rear axle pre-charged for rapid reaction. It’s a Haldex Generation 4 system, also used in the Audi TT that will send 100 per cent of the power to the rear axle if required.

Tires are all-season performance, which are unlikely to please anyone (why not proper performance rubber?).

There are some differences between the Canadian Golf R and the European version. Theirs gets a 270-hp version of the engine, generating its power a little higher in the engine rpm range, with slightly lower torque. It’s marginally better at 100-200 km/h on the Autobahn, according to VW Canada, as opposed to the 0-100 km/h range where Canadians and Americans play more.

The Sport ESP electronic stability control as found in Europe is absent here, as is the electronic adjustment for the suspension. Sport ESP permits the stability control system to be (almost) fully deactivated, while ours can only turn off the traction control. Our suspension system is calibrated between the European “Comfort” and “Sport” settings.

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