Drifting on frozen lakes in VW’;s hottest new hatch
What is it?
Where is it may possibly be the much better question. Arvidsjaur (pronounce it “our-vids-yower”), Sweden, has a name which is easier to pronounce when your jaw is just a tiny bit numb from the cold. So it functions out that the town of 4,635 sits about 70 miles south of the Arctic Circle. Its place also makes it a breathtakingly stunning, frigid backdrop for our introduction to Volkswagen’;s newest minor efficiency monster: the 2015 Golf R.
Every winter, European automakers descend upon the spot all around Arvidsjaur for cold-climate testing. Lake grooming has become a booming regional market rivaling even reindeer husbandry. They will not mess all around in Lapland: When shifting plates of ice collide and form glacial walls that are miles extended, track-makers get hectic with chainsaws and shave them flat.
The lake is blessedly free of charge of ice walls when we arrive, however the ambient temperature sits someplace south of zero degrees Fahrenheit. Groomed, but not quite Zamboni smooth, the lake’;s surface is, at 30 inches thick, far more than sturdy sufficient to assistance a Golf R.
Or rather, a little fleet of Golf Rs — what need to be a important portion of the upcoming all-wheel-drive hot hatches VW has constructed so far. Manufacturing does not start in earnest right up until the end of 2014 the Wolfsburg-manufactured cars won’;t arrive on our shores until finally the beginning of 2015.
Like the rest of the 6th-generation Golfs, the R grows by nearly every single measure except excess w7 Despite being more substantial inside and out, however, we’;re advised it will come in at 3,254 pounds — 25 pounds significantly less than the Mk6. Excess weight is distributed virtually flawlessly from front to back, and the car enjoys a stiff chassis thanks to its MQB underpinnings.
Performance will get a wonderful bump, too. The R’;s 2.-liter turbocharged inline-4 — a edition of the EA888 engine located in the Mk6 Golf GTI and the upcoming Audi S1 — will place out 290 hp when it reaches North America. Its 280 lb-ft of torque is channeled to a quickly-reacting Haldex all-wheel-drive technique by means of both a 6-velocity dual-clutch or a 6-velocity guide.
The testers get the latter gearbox along with metal-studded snow tires that — tragically — are not legal on several U.S. roadways.
VW will supply an optional dynamic chassis-control technique for the R, which enables you to adjust suspension stiffness on the fly and in conjunction with the driving-profile-assortment program.
Much more enticing, although, is the adjustable electronic-stability manage. Depart the ESC on and try out to perform on the ice—you can feel the car’;s personal computers killing power to the wheels in a desperate attempt to preserve you pointed straight. Switch to sport mode, and the auto gives you a healthful sum of leeway, letting you get relatively far out of line before reeling you back in, gently. Shut down ESC completely and you’;re a lot more or less left to your very own products.
This privilege of driving with out a safety net will be granted solely to Golf R purchasers — a paternalistic move on VW’;s part. As brand spokesman Christian Buhlmann explained, “our fear is that the standard driver has gotten so utilized to ESC as the helper in the background that [its absence] may well overwhelm folks.”
What’;s it like to drive?
If there is any place to investigate what takes place when you switch off the electronic nannies, it really is a frozen lake where a reduce fascia complete of powdery snow represents the worst-case scenario. Still, the ESC’;s sport mode will be far more self-confidence-inspiring — and faster — for the common driver who does not have a respectable volume of track time below his belt. We switch amongst sport and “off” during the day, constantly retreating to sport’;s relative safety when our enthusiasm outpaces our ability. You can’;t really go wrong both way. The eager motor’;s broad and available electrical power band and that really versatile all-wheel-drive method conspire to make you come to feel heroic in short purchase.
The day’;s plan is easy: We warm up by drifting all around in circles — picture the most wicked parking whole lot donut you have ever accomplished multiplied by 2 or 3. Then, following a handful of simple drifting and acceleration/braking exercises and some runs by way of a slalom program, we get what passes for classroom instruction. Our instructor, an upbeat German named Benni makes use of the snow-covered hatch of the nearest Golf R as a whiteboard to present us how to seek out a corner’;s apex and carve the excellent racing line. We’;re then directed to discover a set of increasingly difficult ice courses right up until Lapland’;s early winter sunset.
When driven aggressively, the Golf R’;s properly-bolstered seats instantaneously relay shifts in bodyweight and momentum straight to your decrease back when you get utilized to the sensation, your butt realizes where the car’;s about to go just before your head does. The ice amplifies driver input and automobile suggestions. It truly is an invaluable expertise for any person just getting acquainted with the dynamics of efficiency driving.
From the sidelines, Benni barks encouragement and instruction through the walkie-talkie. And, ultimately, he laughs, “That lead automobile is drifting like crazy!”
We are that lead auto, and we aren’;t ashamed to be maximizing our time invested sideways. Sliding via a corner isn’;t always quickly, but it sure is entertaining which is doubly correct when straying a couple of inches off the icy circuit kicks up thick, stunning clouds of white powder.
With the 2015 Golf R, VW says it really is gunning for the Subaru WRX STI, a preferred amid would-be rally drivers throughout the world.
Do I want it?
A frozen lake ready expressly for our driving enjoyment isn’;t the ideal place to form an unbiased, practical opinion of a car’;s street-going talents or day-to-day livability. So far as we can tell, although, the Golf R is an absolute blast — and our experience in Arvidsjaur has left us eager to check its mettle in warmer surroundings now that the air is finally commencing to lose its winter edge.
If it truly is as properly-balanced, self-confidence-inspiring and flat-out entertaining on a twisty gravel trail as it is on ice, the Golf R should not have any trouble chasing down its somewhat heavier and a lot more effective mark.
On Sale: Early 2015
Base Value: $ 35,000 (est)
Drivetrain: 2.-liter, 290-hp, 280-lb-ft turbocharged I4 AWD, 6-speed guide
Curb Excess weight: 3,254
-60 MPH: 5.1 sec (mfr)
Fuel economy (epa city/hwy/combined): 23/31/26 mpg (est)
A version of this story appeared in the March 17 – 31 issue of Autoweek. Click right here to subscribe.
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