AUSTIN, Texas—It’s a rare thing for a modern-day car to excite me. Don’t get me wrong, most of the cars now on the market are fantastic machines—they do exactly what they aim to do, and they do it well. It’s just rare to find an everyday car that inspires any kind of excitement. The 2016 Volkswagen Golf R, however, is a whole different animal.
I spent a week behind the wheel of the third-generation Golf R here in Austin and couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. Fast, responsive, enjoyable to drive in traffic or on the highway, and even more fun to toss around in the Hill Country, the hot hatch gets VW’s turbocharged, 2.0L, inline four-cylinder engine and puts out 292hp (217kW) at 5,000rpm and 280lb-ft (380Nm) of torque from 1,800 to 5,000 rpm. There’s a choice of transmissions with a six-speed dual-clutch DSG available, but our test Golf R got the new-for-2016 six-speed manual. The EPA rates the manual at 22mpg city and 31mpg highway, but don’t expect to see those numbers if you rag it.