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Volkswagen Golf R: 40 Custom Colors and We Drive the Wagon

Comfortable and fun to drive, the R is great in any form—and almost any color.

I’m not a fan of metallic white paint—it looks too showy and contrived to my eyes. It’s most often seen on luxury cars from the likes of Mercedes, Audi, and BMW, or perhaps on a chrome-clad Cadillac Escalade parked at Bushwood Country Club, but it’s also available on the delightful Volkswagen Golf R, where it’s called Oryx White. Sadly, while you can’t get that car in the classier, motorsports-like non-metallic Pure White available in Europe, VW did recently announce an impressive consolation prize: an additional 40 optional colors for the 2019 model year marketed under the Volkswagen Spektrum Program banner.

A large offering of colors is nothing new in the high-end market but it’s special to find the wide selection on an automobile at the R’s lower price point. In addition, the pricing of the 40 custom colors fits the VW’s station. If you want a special color on a new Porsche, the outlay ranges from $6520 on a Macan to $12,830 on the 700-hp 911 GT2 RS. Over at Ferrari, it costs $12,487 to paint the new 488 Pista in a historic color. Picking a hue from the Volkswagen Spektrum Program only sets you back $2500. Not inexpensive, but pocket change by comparison.

And the majority of the new colors are far more exciting than refrigerator white. The Golf R is limited to five no-charge colors in the U.S.A.: Lapiz Blue, Tornado Red, Deep Black Pearl, Indium Gray, and, yes, Oryx White. The Spektrum Program includes Viper Green from the Lamborghini Huracàn and Euro Mk III Scirocco; Deep Blue Pearl from the Mk IV and Mk V R32s; and Mars Red from the Mk I Golf GTI. VW dealers have a color binder with paint samples and an online configurator featuring all 40 is live on vw.com.

Volkswagen’s press release notes that it will take two to four months for a car with one of the 40 colors to be built and delivered after an order is submitted. Mark Gillies, senior manager of product and technology communications at Volkswagen of America, said that the noted timeline is based upon Canada’s program (which started for the 2018 model year), but the port setup in the U.S. should improve things. I’m still looking forward to seeing a Golf R on the streets of America sprayed one of these special colors.

While we’re on the topic of the Golf R, I recently got to drive the not-for-the-USA wagon version in England. The Tornado Red example featured a non-U.S. Golf R option in the R Performance Pack. This £2300 (approximately $3000) package adds 19-inch wheels (the same “Englishtown” wheels that are standard on the Golf R here, although they’re called “Spielberg” there); upgraded, lighter brakes with silver-painted calipers; and a derestricted top speed. Hatchback versions of the Golf R carrying this package also get a larger rear hatch spoiler for increased downforce, although the wagon’s longer roof precludes that. Maximum speed of the Performance Pack hatch is 166 mph, but the wagon will carry on to 168 mph, according to VW. Buyers of the hatchback are also able to stack on an Akrapovic titanium exhaust for a pricey £2975 ($3895). The busy roads and lack of an autobahn in the U.K. didn’t allow me to test the top speed, but I did get plenty of time to exploit the the Golf R wagon’s other performance virtues.

Like the hatch, it’s a fast, comfortable, and versatile performance car that runs under the radar. Well, it would run under the radar if painted a subtler color than Tornado Red. (So forget about Viper Green.) The wagon version adds nearly a foot of length and 33 percent more cargo room, as well as 194 additional pounds at the curb. While it’s true that I’m a wagon nut, the hatchback is the better looking and more proportional design. The Golf R just doesn’t carry the same pretty proportions in wagon form as do, say, the BMW 3 Series or the new Volvo V60. Plus, if you don’t need the extra cargo space then the wagon doesn’t really make sense, as the shorter car is still plenty practical. The rest of the interior is pretty much identical. Most important, VW doesn’t offer the Golf R wagon with a manual gearbox, forcing buyers into the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, which has wicked-quick shifts but can be frustratingly clumsy when pulling away from a stop.

None of that kills my love of the Golf R in any form. The breadth of capability and overall performance given the outlay of cash is fantastic. It’s as happy to be thrashed on twisting, challenging English roads as it is at cruising effortlessly on an American freeway at 80 mph with four people and luggage. As long as you respect the throttle, it returns pretty impressive fuel economy, too. The Golf R is one of my top picks for a car that I’d buy with my own money for year-around use in Michigan. Of course, I’d get the manual gearbox. And I’d petition VW to add Pure White to the standard color palette here in the States, because I’d rather put $2500 toward importing that sweet titanium Akropovic exhaust.

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2019 Volkswagen Golf

MSRP $21,845 S (Manual) Hatchback