Volkswagen Golf R, Tiguan R drive in NZ for the first time: What will Wookies think? – News
What will Wookies think of Volkswagen New Zealand’s significantly expanded R model range? In addition to the new $77,990 high-performance Golf 8, there’s now an $80,990 Tiguan (the first-ever true R iteration of the popular SUV), which is set to be followed by a facelifted T-Roc R mid-year.
Then there will be a Touareg R plug-in hybrid in 2023, which will be the most powerful production VW in history. So SUVs are everywhere.
But wait Wookies? In case you didn’t know, VW R enthusiasts call themselves Wookies (you know, Chewbacca from Star Wars), after the sound an R engine makes in anger. At least certain R engines.
The original American Wookies in the Woods Club was a purist affair only open to owners of the Golf R32 (the V6-powered Mk4 and 5 models), although it has since been softened and the post-Mk6 Turbo Four versions contained. There is also a Kiwi chapter: Wookies in the Wild.
Will Wookies welcome all these SUVs? To be honest, you shouldn’t be too surprised. VW R has dabbled with wider models in the past, including the Passat R36 and Touareg R50, both launched in late 2007. And Europe already has T-Roc R and Arteon R models.
Not to be confused with the “R-Line” trim used on mainstream VWs, the R Division produces serious stuff for serious people. The Golf 8 R packs 235 kW/400 Nm from a 2.0-liter turbo petrol engine with four-wheel drive, all-wheel drive with R torque vectoring at the rear and in 1St Edition form (which accounted for over 80 percent of early orders), a custom rear spoiler, 170 mph top speed, and two additional driving modes: the standard model offers Comfort, Sport, Race, and Individual, but the $82,990 1St Edition also brings special and drift modes.
The special setting optimizes the steering and transmission for the Nürburgring-Nordschleife (seriously); Quite practical, VW R claims it’s also ideal for the kind of twisty, hilly country roads we get in New Zealand, particularly the way the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission holds ratios to the last breath and downshifts early on braking. Equipped in this way, the Golf 8 R is a whopping 19 seconds faster around the Nordschleife than the Generation 7 model; that’s a lifetime in motorsport.
Drift does what it says on the tin by locking the rear for skids. Of course only track usage (sic). In both Special and Drift, stability control is locked in a sportier setting, but you can also turn it off entirely.
On paper, the Tiguan is only slightly less serious. Same powertrain, same R Torque Vectoring rear axle, although you can’t have the additional drive modes; You also can’t have them as options for non-1St-Edition Golfs btw, although they’re part of a performance pack in Europe that’s sure to be added to the NZ options list in the future. At the moment the 1st edition for New Zealand is “limited” but there is no set timeframe or number; just stand in line.
Both are fast vehicles. The Golf R accelerates to 100 km/h in 4.8 seconds, the Tiguan, which weighs 188 kg, in 5.1 seconds. The Tiguan is still significantly more assertive than the upcoming T-Roc, which is perhaps up to 100 km/h faster (at the same time as the Golf R), but has 14 kW less power and misses the torque vectoring trick at the rear.
The big question is whether the Tiguan is truly a Wookie pleaser, especially considering the SUV was the early favorite among Kiwi buyers: 164 orders versus 107 for the Golf R. Can a family SUV still get the furry R -People liked?
We have now taken samples both on the road and on the track. We also spoke to VW R bigwigs Jan Schiedek-Jacht (head of technical development) and Peter Jost (head of sales and marketing), who came to us via video link from Germany for the local R launch.
Make no mistake, the Golf is still the hero model and the focus for VW R. “Basically, the Golf R is the heart – it is 100 percent our DNA,” says Jost. “With all the new cars [Tiguan and Touareg]we have adjusted as much as possible as we know that this is a different segment and that customers who buy these cars have a slightly different mindset.
“But we have successfully tried to put as much of the Golf as possible into the other models. The principle is exactly the same.”
This can be seen on the road and the race track. It’s a given that the lower, lighter Golf will be the more rewarding driver’s car. But the Golf’s greater attention to detail is also evident, from the nuances of the chassis to the more sophisticated gearbox tuning, considering the Golf 8 is still a newer model than the facelifted Tiguan. The Golf R transitioned seamlessly from the country lanes of South Auckland to the circuit at Pukekohe Park during our day’s driving: surprisingly smooth and docile on the former, loud as you like it on the latter.
The Tiguan is still an incredible feat of engineering considering it’s based on a popular mid-size family SUV. In terms of size and performance, there is little else on the market that compares; The closest relative is the $69,500 Cupra Ateca VZ: faster to 100 km/h, but less aggression in the powertrain and less refinement in the chassis. This R Torque Vectoring setup does amazing things in the Tiguan under duress.
It’s natural to compare Golf and Tiguan, but in reality they are for different people. Together they mark the beginning of a new era for R that will develop in all directions.
“The DNA of an R model is always the same,” says Jan Schiedek-Jacht. “Take a very good vehicle and add a performance tune. The differences between regular models and R models are very similar across the range.”
Going forward, R is committed to following VW’s example, including EV technology. The Touareg R will be its first electric car next year, but battery electric vehicles will also follow in the years to come. Don’t expect standalone R models, however; This company has no plans to emulate Mercedes-AMG by making its own clean-sheet performance cars.
“In the next two to three years we will concentrate on combustion engines,” says Jost. “Of course we are working on electric cars; But in my opinion, in this decade we will see three types of cars on the roads around the world: internal combustion engines, plug-in hybrids and electric cars. VW will offer everything; Now we have to focus on the ICE, but of course we are working flat out on the future and will be going in the same direction as VW.
“We are part of VW,” says Schiedek-Jacht. “That’s why an R model was and will probably always be a VW product. The recipe is to take a VW product and put the icing on the cake – add the performance bit. We are very successful with this, so we are well advised to continue this success story.”
For what it’s worth, if you’re a Wookie with youngsters in tow, we reckon the Tiguan R delivers the R goods. And of course the idea of the new SUV range is to introduce the brand to a whole new non-furry audience; The Tiguan’s talents are broad enough to achieve that, too.