SAN FRANCISCO, California — With time running out on our Four Seasons evaluation of the 2016 Volkswagen Golf R, we figured we’d get in one last extended fun run before we reluctantly had to hand the keys back to VW. Conveniently, I had an overdue visit to the Bay Area on my schedule, so I was more than happy to hop into the R and head north.
While there are several routes connecting Los Angeles with San Francisco, the most direct one is a straight-line shot through California’s Central Valley on The Five (that’s the I-5 or Interstate 5 for you non-Californians). Its long, flat stretches were favorable to the Golf R’s fuel economy, which approached 24 mpg instead of the low 20s we’ve been more commonly recording in and around L.A. That’s still a far cry from its EPA rating of 30 mpg highway, but when you’re trying to get a boring, six-hour-plus drive over with as quickly as possible, you’re not worrying about maximizing mileage.
Much of the traffic through the Central Valley consists of semi trucks, which often semi-block both lanes of traffic as one attempts to pass another with a 2-3 mph speed difference. Though brief slowdowns were often unavoidable, I was able to slip into the slightest of gaps thanks to the Golf R’s compact size, nimble chassis, and punchy 292-horse 2.0-liter turbo four. I made short work of the big rigs, as well as dawdling minivans, snoozing sedans, and texting pickups. I’ve often leveraged the R’s agile attributes on my regular commute as well, though the effort vs. return on SoCal’s packed I-405 is nowhere near as good. But the bottom line is no matter how or where you commute, the Golf R is a great car for impatient daily drivers.
Entertaining myself while the cruise control kept things at a steady, rapid pace was easy thanks to Apple CarPlay, which seamlessly let me stream from my iPhone while charging it at the same time. And thanks to The Five’s status as the main route between the state’s major population centers, the cell towers necessary to provide end-to-end coverage were built years ago, meaning I only lost signal a handful of times and for short periods — all due to unfavorable topography.
The long drive did change one of my opinions about the Golf R, bringing me in agreement with associate editor Jonathon Klein regarding the lack of the optional-for-2016 adjustable suspension. The ability to switch to a softer setting would have definitely been appreciated on the freeways rougher stretches. Fortunately, as I pointed out in my last update, the Dynamic Chassis Control package that includes the adjustable suspension is standard for 2017 — rendering any actual gripes about its absence moot.
My parting thought is not directly related to my roughly 1,000-mile weekend, though the subject of it certainly made the trip a lot more bearable: Volkswagen’s hot hatch has held up quite well despite the abuse it’s taken. Even with over 20,000 miles sitting on the odometer, the interior remains solid and rattle-free — when you’ve got a six-hour drive on your hands, the last thing you want to hear the whole time is some annoying squeak. Maybe it’s just built well, or maybe it’s the superior German adhesives (to use a years-old meme that pre-dates the coining of the term). Regardless, the cabin still looks, feels, and sounds good as new.
This was the last opportunity for us to really stretch the legs of our long-term VW hot hatch. I was glad to be the one behind the wheel for it and I remain as impressed as ever by it after my journey. Stay tuned four our Four Seasons verdict, where we’ll package a year’s worth of thoughts into one concise package. Based on my time with the car, Golf R fans will probably like what they read.
Our 2016 Volkswagen Golf R
|MILES TO DATE||21,610|
|ENGINE||2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4/292 hp @ 5,400 rpm, 280 lb-ft @ 1,800 rpm|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|LAYOUT||4-door, 5-passenger, front-engine AWD hatchback|
|EPA MILEAGE||23/30 mpg (city/hwy)|
|L x W x H||168.4 x 70×8. 56.5 in|
|0-60 MPH||4.5 sec|
|TOP SPEED||155 mph|