VW Golf R

Shiny paint - not standard. Not available at all

The VW GTI has been one of the best cars, if not, best hot hatches of all time. In various incarnations from Golf I to Golf VI, all have been the car to beat in terms of performance, driving dynamics and all day drivability. VW has however always given a special edition run the limelight, usually in the form of the R32, mated with a larger V6 and VW’s four wheel drive system.

The Golf VI R however changes things up a little. Purists cry in the corner as it drops the V6 for the very popular 4cylinder 2litre turbocharged Golf V power plant tuned up to push out 1.2bar on the turbocharger. This pushes the output to 188kW and 350Nm, which makes it near on the least powerful unit when compared to the Megane & Focus RS, but not in the last the slowest. The change to the use of the small turbocharged engine was probably mainly due to emissions and fuel consumption pressure internationally, but also a great decision because it’s one of the VW group’s best engines of all time in my view (It is also used in the current Audi S3)

Stopping. Something you don't want to do in the Golf

While we’re on the engine, I must say that it’s a fantastic lump of metal. Sadly the over-cautious German engineers have decided to down-tune it by 11kW for us South African folk due to the warmer and dryer climate we have here… I think they could have just given us those 11kW. 0-100km/h drops on the clock at just over 6seconds on the manual, and sub 6seconds for the DSG. There’s heaps of torque and strong pull all the way from the low down revs. It builds up fairly linearly all the way past 6500RPM but there’s masses of torque right on from 3000RPM. It’s a lot less psychotic than the Renault RS or the Ford RS, being a little more sedate in every day driving. Fuel consumption is fairly scary, I averaged close on 15l/100km which is a far cry from the 8.5l/100km claimed by VW.

I was glad I got the manual version as I drive a Golf with a DSG gearbox. The manual is a sweet shifting 6speed with usual VW feel and very easily modulated clutch. The gears are a little longer in throw, but you easily get used to it. DSG might be quite a bit faster in gear changes, but the manual is heaps of fun pushing through the rev range keeping the turbo on the boil darting through traffic.

R for Really quick

Speaking of darting, the Golf R comes with the Haldex 4 wheel drive system that is also shared with the Audi S3. This system is different from the Haldex system in the golf R32 due to the electronic pump which ensures that power can be delivered to the necessary wheels not only after there’s been a loss in traction, but nearly pre-emptive to that. You never really feel it working, which is great, but there’s definitely something to be said for the feeling of security and surefootedness when pushing through the bends. The usual front wheel loss of traction when pushing into a corner on pull off isn’t there, and neither is the crazy front wheel torque steer. You might say it’s too reserved and not crazy enough, but I for one prefer the stability, and sure-footedness of the 4wheel drive system. Sure, it’s probably there for the northern hemisphere clientele, and less so because the 188kW can’t be handled by the front wheels. Thankfully there’s ESP, ABS, EBD and ASR as standard for when things get a bit hairy. Oh, and there’s also a standard launch control function, a very welcome addition.

The R also features a lower suspension than the GTI as well as large 19inch 5 spoke alloys (which I like a lot). Any performance hatchback requires an exhaust note that makes your chaaaiirnas super jealous of your new set of wheels, and the Golf R doesn’t disappoint. It’s not as downright crazy as the Megane RS, but it manages to produce a fairly meaty growl through the centre mounted twin pipes. Unfortunately, there’s not enough of that forced induction noise from the front, which is a pity, because that’s one of the sweet sounds from a turbocharged engine that you can play up.

Eyes.

The model I had to test featured VW’s DCC (Dynamic Chassis Control), which adjusts the shock absorbers automatically according to varying road conditions. Three modes, sport, normal and comfort. I have got to be honest and say that you should probably not opt for this option (Around R10K) as the regular set up would surely be sufficient. I found myself driving around in normal or comfort most of the time as the suspension already has a very sporty bias. To be frank, it’s a jarring drive, and can really get a bit much when you’re when driving over our famous Joburg blacktop.

Thankfully, things on the interior of a usual VW masterpiece. It’s not a very exciting interior, but damn everything just works, is easy to operate, and has a high quality feel. It’s something I really appreciate, as you spend all your time looking and touching the inside of your car, and very little time peering at the outside… in all honesty. The test car I drove had the optional Dynaudio 300Watt Excite system (R13K option) with colour touch screen, and that’s an option box it’s definitely tick. The R interior is much like the Golf VI GTI interior, however blue and white dials are employed, as well as R nomenclature throughout the leather bits.  There is an option for racing bucket seats however the standard seats are more than capable of doing the job.

Other standard features that set it apart include the bi-xenon swiveling headlamps, daytime LED running lights, park distance control with visual display and of course the R badges.

Doors. Ajar

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the R, coming straight out of the Megane RS into this made it easy to do a direct comparison, where the Megane RS and even Ford Focus RS are a lot crazier, hands on, the naughty cousins of the family, the Golf R is a little more reserved. It also harnesses a seemingly more accomplished feel not only in driving but also quality of vehicle. I’d probably not opt for it on a track day or for a gymkhana but it’s incredibly easy to drive as an every day car and then tear the tires off it if you’ve had a really bad day.

At R415,100 for the standard Golf R 4Motion Manual and R460 000 for the unit I drove as tested we’re very close to BMW 1 Series and other performance model territory which then raises other questions. I stand firm in saying it’s the best quality model when compared to its rivals, which, when paying this much money for a car if it’s not just your weekend drive, is worth keeping in mind.

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VW Golf 6 Bluemotion 2011

Unfortunately I am part of a breed that would have red paint thrown all over them in the near future. Why …
Well … I am not a fan of hybrid / eco-cars. I have never been. I believe the eco-hybrid cars are to big V8 engines, what video was to the radio star. Sure they are a driver for the direction where motoring is going in the coming years, but it scares me. I wasn’t part of the big V8 Chevrolet generation, so I’m catching up. I love the rumble, how you can practically hear the oil-fields running dry, and the incredible performance. I’m still enjoying that…and the eco-car is here, burning pitchforks in hand, to take that away.

Thankfully, there was no threat of red paint this week as I took delivery of a VW Golf 6 Bluemotion. For those not in the know, Bluemotion is VW’s eco-line, using modifications to current models to make them more … no … a LOT more economical and environmentally friendly.
The modifications on the Golf are cosmetic changes to the body (lower sills, a wing, different grille and undercarriage changes) to make the body nice and slippery when cutting through the air. Low-resistance Michelin rubber, Start-Stop system, (which switches off the engine when the car is stopped and in neutral) low resistance engine modifications, lowered sports suspension and a form of regenerative braking is employed. No big battery here

The Golf Bluemotion is powered by a 1.6TDI (turbo diesel, 77kW, 250NM) engine, that is actually a lot more responsive and gutsy than you’d think. The part I heart about this car, is that you don’t have to drive the hell out of it to get it to move. The 250NM of torque means you can easily cruise at speed, overtake without shutting your eyes and saying your last prayers, and get off the green-light without having a man on a bicycle whizz past you. So far, so good.

The interior is standard Golf stuff, with no fancy bits, but has everything you need :
• Electric windows and mirrors all round
• Great sound system
• 7 Airbags, ESP and ABS with EBD
• Multi-function leather steering wheel & cruise control
• Dear VW. Please put iPod/Aux plug in as standard, it’s 2011

The options list is unfortunately, not as extensive as the rest of the range, mainly because they don’t want you loading up the car with extra weight and then getting the same fuel consumption as the Hummer. It’s sensible, as saving weight is the name of the game here. Speaking of saving weight, there’s no spare tyre (confused face) Not ideal in SA conditions, but they do give you a fixing kit and compressor.

Handling and braking is pretty much on par with other Golf 6 models. The drive is firm (lowered sports suspension) but the big soft sidewalls on the Michelin tyres means you don’t crash over bumps and undulating surfaces. That said, I’m not a huge fan of these tyres, you can practically feel them bending away from the rims when you corner aggressively, but I guess they get the main job done … economy.

Main gripe, is probably the gearing (A 5-speed manual). You really need to be careful as a rolling change into second going round a corner and uphill could easily have you stall. You can’t really slip the clutch to keep the engine on the boil enough at low speeds. This said, should you stall you can easily fool the start-stop system into starting the engine by an in-and-out on the clutch. Ha!
Total 7day average I managed 6.5l/100km (Manufacturer claims on Urban cycle – 5.7) however I did a lot of city driving, and decided that I wasn’t going to putter around like a pensioner, but rather drive like a normally do (Which isn’t slow) to see what type of realistic consumption it’s going to give. That said, the 6.5l/100km is brilliant in my books, and I did get it down to around 4.5l/100km when highway cruising. One of my colleagues at ZACarShow (www.Zacarshow.co.za) easily returned the claimed figures because he can easily switch to a geriatric motoring style. At closer to claimed figures, it will easily get over 1200km on a tank, and is a fantastic cruiser for that, and many other reasons.

Overall this car does what it’s gone out to do … and well. It does it well without cutting off your balls and replacing them with a mangina (a-la Prius). You’re still driving a Golf6, which is respectable, and that exactly said, it’s a Golf6, which is a well engineered vehicle! How many pennies would you have to fork out for this VW? Well, it goes for R266 900 (Thankfully no CO2 Tax). For the first time, I can honestly say that it’s the ONLY eco car I’d give my own hard earned South African Rontz out for.

For more information/specification on the Golf, visit www.vw.co.za
Vehicle supplied by VW South Africa.

VW Passat – 2011

I’m sure quite a few of you have seen the latest VW ad for the Passat with the Darth Vader kid in it. It’s such a great ad, and co-incidentally quite a good car too.

I recently got behind the wheel of the 2011 VW Passat, in both guises – 2.0TDI DSG and 1.8TSI Manual. It was at a ride and drive event for VW’s sedan launches on their 60th year anniversary. There’s quite a few new variations of the models coming, from the Vivo, new Polo sedan and of course, the South African favourite, the Jetta. My focus, however was on that Passat.

The Passat has always been positioned as a mid level executive sedan, since its first iteration in way back when in the 80’s. There was an update late 2000’s but the unit has always struggled to bring in the numbers they’d hoped. It sells in incredible numbers in the UK, mainly as a popular rep-mobile and something different from the BMW 3Series and Audi A4’s that sell in droves as fleet cars for the corporates.

The new styling is in line with the new VW look, which keeps things sleek and conservative yet still looks fresh in design. To be frank, it’s about as exciting as listening to an Afrikaans sermon, but the Passat models have never tried to be daring. As a side note, the optional Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED’s really give it an up-market look from the front. Still doesn’t save things though.

Engines, at this point, are a petrol 1.8TSI (Turbo, 118kW @ 5000-6000RPM & 250Nm @ 1500-4200RPM) and a 2litre turbo diesel unit. (103kW @ 4200RPM & 320Nm 1750-2500RPM) The 2.0TDI unit is an effortless power plant. It delivers the torque seamlessly through the rev range, especially because it’s mated to an excellent 6speed DSG gearbox. The combination makes for effortless driving, in and around town, and on the highway. The gear changes are so seamless you just watch the rev counter jump up and down the revs. It’s the best bet for the driver that does a good hunk of kilo’s and wants to use it as a family cruiser over the weekends.

The 1.8TSI is just a different beast all together. The 135kW motor is incredibly keen to be revved up and the turbo keeps the power fed right through the rev range. There’s a good bit of thrust in 3rd at any point in the rev range making overtaking and gutsy city driving a real pleasure. The car’s not small, but it the 1.8TSI engine makes it easy work of the Passat’s weight. It does such good work you’ll find yourself racing around like you would in a hatchback. Strange … for a Passat. It’s genuinely so much fun to get revved and driving I seriously would suggest you take it for a spin if you’re looking in this category.

The suspension is familiar Independent McPherson struts with Anti-Roll bar and Multi-link rear suspension. Basically, it does relaxed driving incredibly well, and also gives a great sporty drive when you’re making darting around in traffic. The car makes use of an electronic parking brake, with auto-hill hold, which holds the car on an incline or decline until you get the revs right to go. Nice.

The interior is once again another jump in quality on the VW side. They are getting closer and closer to the sibling Audi interior quality, which is an interesting strategy, not only in terms of pricing, but also positioning of the brand. Anywho, the interior is a familiar happy VW place, with soft touch materials, quality switchgear, and a host of space inside for the family, much more so than its German rivals. Dual zone climate control and everything you’d expect from a mid segment saloon is standard in here, including a fatigue detection system, that tells you to take a break when it notices you’re nodding off. One thing none of the rivals can compete on, is the carnivorous boot. You could easily fit 3 dead hookers and a shovel and some lemons in there, with space to spare. (

There’s a host of optional equipment on the VW that bring it up to technological spec level of its German rivals – rear view camera, parking assist, dynamic headlights, keyless entry, climate controlled seats and high-beam assist. All optional of course, and bring a kid to trade in on those options.

Overall, it’s a worth competitor in my books, and the best part is it has the newest look of them all. Let’s hope the Passat nameplate doesn’t deter buyers, as it really does everything so well. Interior space and that massive boot make it a serious contender for those with families, and I’d suggest giving it a drive if you need the space, more so than the Jetta.
Pricing? We’re talking R325 000 starting for the 2.0TDI DSG and R294 000 for the 1.8TSI. Genuinely good value (careful with the options list) considering the size of the interior, and great engines on offer.

* As a side note, I’d like to thank VW for another great Ride & Drive event, extremely well organized with exceptional presentation – check out a short clip on the presentation here –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zy-D9T2gbKU

VW Polo Vivo – 2010

It’s always sad when a legend dies. Michael Jackson, Ronnie James Dio, Gordon Brown…no wait. Well close enough.

Another legend that made its way to the light was the VW Citi Golf. It had a good run though, 25 years of raking in the cash over there at VW. It gave wheels to few who could afford cars, and many that could easily afford , but wanted cheap running costs, good fuel consumption, and some fair reliability. Go to any university in the country and the parking lot will undoubtedly have em lined up, in all versions, colours and after-market rim sizes around. However, recently, it came under much scrutiny from the motoring fraternity over the high running costs, general pricing, and most of all…safety. The latest eastern imports were beating it on all fronts.

And so VW decided to pull this legend from the roads. Great call I say, as it really was starting to wear thin. One can only do SO many iterations of nomenclature, colours, rim sizes and sound system offers. More importantly, it just wasn’t safe. No design from the 80’s can make it in the traffic these days. It’s like having a wood burning oven in your kitchen, at some point, something’s gonna catch on fire.

Thankfully, or not thankfully, VW launched the new polo range, and renamed (a skill they do oh so well) the 2003 polo, the Polo Vivo. (I’m excited already)

Essentially a stripped down version of the 2003 Polo, giving JUST the necessaries.

I recently drove a 2010 1.6l Trendline hatchback and was impressed with one or two things. Much the same as your impressed with the chairs and décor in a restaurant..but not the actual food, which you came for in the first place. The essential kit in the car I drove was good, we’re talking ipod jack, electric windows, central (remote) locking, ABS, aircon and alloy wheels (gasp)

This said, it is the “top of the range” model in the VIVO stable. I owned a 1.6l Comfortline Polo once upon a time (This came with a HOST over other standard equipment), and it cost me R136 000 in 2003. Current price of the model I drove – R144,900 (standard)

We’re talking about a car that replaced a VW Citi Golf here. The Citi golf had you forking out around R70K in base spec (albeit the base spec Vivo goes for R101 000) Are they smoking crack? This has not replaced a model…it has taken that model, dressed it in a pretty red dress, enhanced her tits, gave her an extreme make-over and sent her out to strip only accepting $1000 bills!

It’s by no means a great drive. It gets the job done. Real A-B stuff, and sure, it’ll sell, sell to AVIS and EuropCar as the new defacto standard for rental cars. Yup, you’ll see em in droves in CT in December, with little pink faced Germans driving up one-way streets in the wrong direction with a map covering the window

One plus, is that it offers more safety features than the Citi Golf could wish to offer. There’s ABS (some models), dual airbags, and overall, the car is a lot more solid than the tin can that was the CitiGolf.

Overall, the package is a great idea around the boardroom table, but when you get out in real life, it just doesn’t add up. It’s like a 50year old woman dressed up in tight leather pants and a see-through top…it appeals to some people, but most just see through it, and realize it’s just not worth the money.

So sadly, no VIVA to the VIVO

See Vivo spec and pricing here – http://www.vw.co.za/models/polovivo

Let's not raise our hands all at once