The 2015 Golf R is the most powerful, fastest, best-handling production Golf that Volkswagen has ever made. And for its first model-year of production, the latest generation of VW's souped-up hatchback is only available with an automatic transmission. But before the enthusiasts out there -- many of them fans of three-pedal driving -- begin to riot, know two things: 1) The automatic in this compact performance car is very good. 2) If even the best automatic in the world isn't good enough for you, a manual transmission Golf R is already slated to join the lineup. 

Regarding the former point, we were more than pleased in our first exposure to the 2015 Golf R with an automatic transmission. With "only" six speeds, the DSG dual-clutch automatic used in the new Golf R may already seem dated in an era of 8- and 9-speed automatic transmissions, but everything worked in synergy and the Golf R never felt like it needed more gears. 

Also: 2015 Volkswagen Golf R -- Worth the wait

Over a route that took us hundreds of miles and spanned freeways, city streets and mountain roads in the San Diego area, the Golf R's DSG automatic transmission felt well-matched to this hot hatch's 292-horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. In fact, the DSG was key to the Golf R's wider approach to what we'll call "hot harmony" -- a balance of power, handling, practicality and efficiency. 

All-wheel-drive traction

This ultra Golf makes the most of its hefty horsepower thanks to its standard 4Motion all-wheel-drive system that enables 0-60 mph blasts in just 4.9 seconds. That Haldex-coupled system also translates to stuck-to-the-pavement handling, while a selectable drive mode feature that lets you to toggle between "normal," "individual" and "race" settings optimizes the car's overall dynamics for a variety of roads and situations. (Models with the optional DCC adaptive damping system include a "comfort" mode, but we didn't feel a night-and-day difference when switching between it and normal mode.)  

But the best thing about the Golf R is that it's practical, too. VW's performance halo car is still a 4-door hatchback that's small on the outside, roomy within. This versatile performer can haul to the store and then haul back weeks' worth of groceries. And it's fuel-efficient. Rated at 23 mpg city/30 highway, the VW Golf R's 26 mpg combined rating is welcome given the performance you can wring out of this thing.

The Manual Cometh

We also had another chance to sample a European version of the Golf R with a 6-speed manual transmission, and again left impressed. Its clutch and transmission are light, engaging and rewarding. A similar U.S. version with the manual transmission will be available in the 2016 Golf R, arriving early next year. And if you hold out for it, you'll get a bonus: the latest version of VW's infotainment system. The current system in the 2015 VW Golf R already feels a bit tired, and its 5.8-inch screen isn't super-crisp. That changes with the 2016 model, when the Golf R will come with VW's "modular infotainment platform" MIB II. Larger and crisper, it feels like the final piece to the VW Golf R's otherwise impressive leather-appointed cabin.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2015

Starting at $37,415 and set to arrive in dealerships in March, the 2015 Golf R packs an impressive amount of power and practicality. And if you do hold out for a manual transmission or a DSG 2016 model, your patience will further pay off with the freshest of VW touchscreen infotainment system.

See full review and pricing information for the 2015 Volkswagen Golf R or build and price your own to unlock its Fair Purchase Price, 5-Year Cost to Own, and more.



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