2014 Volkswagen Golf R Cabriolet – First Drive

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This will likely come like a bitter pill for American enthusiasts to swallow, but while they’re enjoying the new Mk7 VW Golf, European enthusiasts are complaining that they must endure the GTI and Cabriolet in Mk6 guise for a while longer. In fact, their GTI arrives this year while the Cabrio has another year to work. But to rub salt into our sensitive wound, they will be able to drive a brand new Golf R Cabriolet to help relieve their pain.

We spoke to Volkswagen of America and a spokesman claimed they were very interested in the drop-top hot-hatch but couldn’t confirm it would arrive and, adding that ever since the Mk7 GTI isn’t expected until Summer 2014, we shouldn’t hold our breath for an R Cabriolet in the near futureSo within a perverse type of masochism, we decided to find out exactly what we had been missing. And who is able to deny the attraction of the R styling on the Cabriolet platform?

There’s an elephant in the room though, and it’s not the R Cabriolet’s 200 lb weight increase. Instead it’s the sizeable (near 30%) rise in the sticker price. In Europe, that pushes this R into entry-level Porsche Boxster territory, which is beyond ambitious.

Adjust the price for specification as well as the VW looks more favorable, factor in the rear seats plus it starts to make more sense. Yet the fact remains that in case you’re seeking open-topped fun, the Boxster is impossible to ignore.

If the R Cabriolet brought the hatchback’s performance credentials for the table it could make a convincing case for itself. In the transformation from hatchback to fabric-roofed convertible, the R’s four-wheel drive system continues to be ditched. And that’s a difficulty, particularly when the 2.-liter TSI turbo engine offers the full European-spec 265hp.

Make use of all that power and the front wheels struggle to contain the forces, creating havoc for the writhing steering wheel since the tires wrestle for available grip. This inevitably robs the R Cabriolet from theOf course, too much power can be fun, in a tempestuous, unruly way, although the R Cabriolet is otherwise a bit too civilized and anodyne for its own good.

The conventional DSG six-speed goes some way to robbing the R of enjoyment. Not very engaging; the sole sign it’s shifting gear is the improvement in engine tone, even though it’s undoubtedly clever. In fairness, the engine punches with conviction and sounds great, delivering a bass-rich note more akin to a six than a blown four. It’s quick too, reaching 62mph in 6.4sec on the way to 155mph. But in reality, it feels no more special than its drop-top GTI relation – which will leave you with a much bigger grin because you have a sizeable chunk of change left in your pocket.

The steering wheel itself, covered in contrast- stitched leather, doesn’t deliver much in the way of feel. There’s heft: its weighting is on the heavier end of the scale, although there’s little information about what the front wheels are actually doing. And that’s exacerbated under power, where you control the squirm not by steering into it, but by backing off. This diminishes the R’s power to utilize its power advantage on its lesser Golf Cabriolet brethren, and the firmer, 25mm lower suspension also upsets its composure.

Comfort mode failed to deliver an especially supple ride, although three settings are available on the variable damping system. Normal and Sport only increased the discomfort and, on the road a minimum of, pounded anyone tofeaturing its sales target, anticipating the Golf R Cabriolet to offer in the hundreds rather than thousands. On looks alone it would undoubtedly conquer some few deep-pocketed Golf fans – the R’s gloss-black grille, unique front bumper, deep side skirts and rear diffuser work extremely well with the edginess of the open-topped Golf. The 19 wheels also help, as does the lowered ride height in terms of look and feel.

Inside, you’re unlikely to want for much, save the optional sat nav. VW has thrown equipment in the range-topping R Cabriolet to warrant and partially create the ambitious price tag.

Sadly, no amount of standard equipment can overcome the Golf R Cabriolet’s high price and front-wheel drive layout that makes it more of a miss than a hit.

Santa Paula Chevrolet