ONTARIO – Canada – It would appear that most car buying consumers have not allowed themselves to get bogged down in the apparent minutia of what has become known as “Dieselgate”.
Say what? That’s my point. Just to refresh your memory, on September 18, 2015, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act to German automaker the Volkswagen Group after it was found that Volkswagen had intentionally programmed turbocharged direct injection (TDI) diesel engines to activate certain emissions controls only during laboratory emissions testing.
In other words, they were not necessarily as green or eco-minded as was thought.
The brouhaha, righteous indignation and initial fall out from this was great, and, to a limited extent, continues to this day. But it’s likely not “fuelled” by consumers who had purchased VWs or even Audis with the affected engines. Like many things, it appears to be a media driven phenomenon.
Yes, Volkswagen Group, did deceive – but it’s not as if this was the very first time a major auto manufacturer has been caught with their hand surreptitiously under the hood. In 1973, Chrysler, Ford, Toyota and GM were caught. GM again in 1996 – even Honda in 1998. There is an extensive list which continues to this day where manufacturers have deceived and even knowingly fudged results.
The thing is, VW were caught. Not denied. They fessed up and will take full responsibility.
Chances are, others will find themselves in situations where they, too are hauled up on the carpet.
But now it’s time to move on.
A few weeks after the EPA announcement, the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada held its annual Car of the Year competition in and around Clarington, Ontario. On November 24, at the preliminary awards ceremony, Volkswagen, specifically the Golf R, was announced as the winner in the category of Best New Sports/Performance vehicle under $50K.
Many of Canada’s top automotive writers had tested this vehicle, back to back against the entered competition and considered this car to be the winner.
Now more than six months later, we decided to take the 2016 Golf R for a week-long test and see how it fares. Will it still stack up? Is it relevant?
The quick answers to both questions are, “Yes!”
After a week and some 800 plus kilometres, the Golf R in red – Tornado Red, that is, acquitted itself admirably. Gas (premium) consumption in a combination of city and highway driving was a more than respectable 7.1L/100km – not bad at all considering the 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine generates 292hp and 280lb.-ft of torque. Further, our test vehicle was equipped with a highly-commendable 6-speed automatic transmission – Direkt Schalt Getriebe in German, however the acceptable acronym, DSG defines this terrific dual clutch, six-speed automatic transmission and VW’s 4Motion (all-wheel-drive system). Interesting note, the DSG transmission yields marginally better fuel economy than the sports enthusiast manual transmission and believe me, shifts up and down at speed with the DSG system are smooth, flawless and intuitive.
Acceleration off a highway on (or off) ramp elicited more than a few smiles as this grounded hatchback held the blacktop as if it was a slot car: the 19” alloy wheels shoed with performance rubber handled cambered, long slow turns left or right with deft precision.
Not only at speed was this car pleasing. In every situation I found myself, such us picking up groceries; running errands, zipping along country roads, this vehicle performed very well, did everything asked of it – and always gave the impression that it can and will do better; particularly as the driver becomes more attuned to this performance auto.
COMPETITION: Preview: Ford Focus RS a wicked hot hatch
Is this car a chameleon? Can it be a family vehicle? A performance auto? A daily commuter. The easy answer is yes, of course. But you can say this with confidence without any winking to an audience. Seriously. The car is that good as an all-round car.
Did I mention what happens when you take the R out of Normal driving mode and place it into Race mode? Dr. Jekyll, meet Mr. Hyde. The overall difference is huge. Everything is tighter. Shifts while still quick-as-a-flash, occur at higher revs. The engine noise is quite lovely, thank you, further enhanced by augmented sounds coming through the vehicle’s Fender-powered audio system. Is it really necessary? Of course not and likely it will become tiresome.
Same thing with the interior: black has never been better represented. Everything is cold, stark and black – until you drive around at night and then there are some cool interior subtle lighting accents in blue that add additional vibrancy to an otherwise delightful ride.
Everything is in easy reach: the 12-way power adjustable driver’s seat well-upholstered and clad in Vienna leather; multiple “nanny” systems; connectivity; navigation, entertainment system; dual zone auto climate control; and, dynamic chassis and electronic stability control. However, it‘s the price tag that sends this car, this Volkswagen into unfamiliar territory – for some. As tested, with the optional Technology Package, this car had an MSRP of $43,410 – before freight, PDI and all applicable taxes. Then the tale of the money tape is a little different.
On the face of it, justifying the price tag for a Volkswagen is a challenge. Until you slide behind the wheel. At night. Your favourite music streaming flawlessly from your Android or Apple device. Then, engage Race mode and pull away from the curb.
It comes down to personal preference, plain and simple. If you enjoy the experience of driving, be my guest.
You’re quite welcome.
2016 Volkswagen Golf R – with DSG and the Technology package
BODY STYLE: Five-door hatchback.
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, with VW 4Motion (all-wheel-drive).
ENGINE: 2.0-litre turbocharged four cylinder engine (292 horsepower, 280 lb.-ft. of torque).
CARGO CAPACITY: A total of 343 litres (13.7 cu ft.)
FUEL ECONOMY: 91-octane fuel is recommended (premium) 10.7/7.8L/100 km (city/highway).
PRICE: $43,410. Freight and PDI – $ 1,605; Excise tax on A/C – $100. HST extra.