Owning a 2012 VW Passat has ruined my recent Golf R experience and I will tell you why. But, first, a bit of background.
Lately, since I’ve sold my IS-F, I’ve been crying myself to sleep every night. Of course not! Good riddance to a rubbish ride. The lowered suspension was so stiff that I’m still in physical therapy trying to get rid of the deep bone pain. So I’m glad I don’t have to deal with that anymore although while I owned the car, I thoroughly enjoyed the IS-F’s 5.0L V8 power under full throttle and lightning quick shifts.
Now that the car is gone, I’m out and about looking for the next car that I’m going to “subscribe” to. If you’re wondering what the hell I mean by “subscribing to a car”, I talked about what I’m doing here. It’s fun to look for other cars to own temporarily, but it’s also stressful negotiating the right deal for a car that I’ll only own for a few months. My family and friends think I’m a maniac and are wondering why I would rather hang out with used car salesmen and craigslist strangers instead of them.
Anyway, the 2013 Golf R randomly appeared in my daily searches one day and I decided to take it for a spin. It was listed at over $29,000 with 13,000 miles on it which is pricey for a Golf! But it was an all-wheel drive with a 6-speed manual and so it was worth checking out.
As soon as I got into the car, I felt like I had gotten into a smaller version of the Passat. Things looked and felt remarkably similar. The interior was the same nice, high quality that I’m used to but it also had the Passat’s complicated electronics management and confusing touch screen interface. All the good and the bad stuff that’s in the Passat are also in the Golf.
But, as soon as I started driving the car, the difference between the Golf R and the Passat became clear. The buttery smooth standard transmission was easy to shift, and the turbo engine combined with the AWD was amazing. It could stand to be a bit more powerful but 256 hp wasn’t bad for a small, light car like the Golf. But then again I always want more power in any car I’m driving, so you can ignore me here.
The Golf R was nimble and agile, and fun to drive, but things still felt all too familiar. It was essentially a shrunken down, sportier version of the Passat. And much stiffer too. The Passat’s ride is like that of a luxurious Lexus compared to the Golf R.
That’s not to say the Golf was a bad car. I enjoyed driving it but I wondered if the Golf R was really almost twice the car as the Passat for which I only paid $16K.
The better question to ask here is if the Golf R is worth $10K more than a 2013 Golf GTI? Visually the GTI and the R are very similar with the most significant difference being the the look of the rear tailpipes and the R badges. A $10K premium for a little more power and all wheel drive?
This is probably odd coming from someone who believes that more horsepower is the key to solving all the world’s problems but it’s tough for me to recommend a used $30K Golf R when there are so many other options in that price range: notably a used M3 or C63 AMG. Or better yet, save yourself $10K and go with the GTI—I think you’ll be with the financially prudent decisions, all well as the car.