For two years before we started seeing the Mk8 Volkwagen Golf R out testing, we couldn't get a handle on what to expect from the hottest trim in the Golf lineup. In 2018, VW sales and marketing chief Jurgen Stackmann told AutoExpress, "The R brand is going extreme. The role of R is that it can go beyond the rational; nobody needs a compact car with 400bhp, but is there a place (for it)? Certainly, and that's the turf of R." What followed was more than a year of will-they-won't-they and will-it-be-hybrid, before R division chief Jost Capito declared a 400-hp Golf dead because customers wouldn't want to pay for it, and Stackmann saying the Golf R wouldn't be hybrid because, "A hybrid needs to be affordable, and have an ecological reasoning." But VW Group head Herbert Diess was said to be in favor of a monster Golf, so the same month Capito put it down, Autocar reported that the brand was working a so-called Golf R Plus that would blend gestures from the 2014 Golf R400 concept and Golf TCR race car.
A new report in Australia's Wheels magazine claims the Golf R Plus hasn't received official sign-off yet, but it's still in the works as the capstone to a four-strong performance lineup that also includes the Golf GTI, Golf GTI TCR, and Golf R. Starting at the bottom, the incoming GTI gets 241 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, up 13 hp and 15 lb-ft compared to the outgoing model. This effectively copies the GTI Performance model on sale in Europe during the runout of the Mk7.5 Golf, which made 242 hp. The incoming GTI TCR model is said to take output up to 296 hp, a 10-hp bump over the Mk7.5 GTI TCR that also produced 280 lb-ft. As before, the GTI TCR will wear cosmetic pieces to tie it to Volkswagen's entry in the TCR race series.
The Mk8 Golf R crests the triple-ton, it's 2.0-liter turbo expected to make 328 hp, which would add 36 horses to the outgoing Golf R's corral — depending on market, since our Golf R is listed at 288 hp. This is where VW adds the improved, sixth-generation of 4Motion all-wheel drive, but power will only be routed through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, with no manual gearbox option said to be on the menu.
Then would come the Golf R Plus, finally realizing the potential of the Golf R 400 concept. That 2014 showcase at the Beijing Motor Show worked a WRC-derived 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder up to 394 hp (400 metric horsepower) and 332 lb-ft, its production plans ended by Dieselgate. Apparently, VW asked Audi if it could borrow Audi's 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, the request thought to be in service to the Golf R, but it could have been for the Golf R Plus. Audi declined immediately, citing competition with Audi Sport and the difficulty of increasing manufacturing output. An Audi rep told Dutch outlet Autovisie (via Google translate), “The Golf R is simply a direct competitor to Audi Sport. We will not let that happen that it will have the same power source."
That has sent VW back to the same 2.0-liter EA888 in the other trims, modified to make from 380 to as much as 402 horses according to Wheels. The dash to 62 miles per hour would take 3.9 seconds with a DSG transmission, top speed would be 174 mph — figures copied straight from the Golf R 400 concept — and an even more specialized 4Motion system with fully variable torque control and a drift mode could send all torque to the rear axle.
As for how to to develop the 2.0-liter, Audi showed a 414-hp version of the EA888 in the TT Quattro Sport Concept also from 2014, before killing that engine two years later. We're told engineers have researched powertrain choices with an eye on performance and emissions regulations. Wheels suspects VW could beef up the internals and the turbo, a la Audi, or reverse its hybrid stance and add an electric motor to fill in the power band between the Golf R's 328 hp and the Golf R Plus' 400 hp or thereabouts. The Touareg R has already taken the division hybrid, swiping the PHEV powertrain from the Cayenne E-Hybrid.
Whatever happens, without having been given the go-ahead yet, a Golf R Plus won't show before 2023 at the earliest. And based on what's being rumored, it won't be cheap, either.
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