First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen Golf R

SAN DIEGO – The high-powered, low-volume 2015 Volkswagen Golf R could play a big role in getting the German automaker’s U.S. sales back on the good foot. That would mean more VWs rolling out of showroom doors.

Here’s the deal: the VW Golf recently was named Car of the Year by two very prestigious organizations. Now, the Volkswagen Golf R helps to fill out a lineup that includes the regular Golf, a performance version of that compact car, a diesel powered Golf and an electric Golf. A station wagon is on the way, but we came here to test drive the Golf R. It is the high-powered version of this car.

By the numbers, this Golf R has a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the hood that makes292 horsepower and 280 pound feet of torque. It’s mated to a direct sequential gearing, read six-speed dual clutch, automatic transmission branded (DSG). This version goes on sale in the spring. It will be joined by a six-speed manual Golf R this summer that will be sold as a 2016 model; it will about $1,000 less than the automatic.

With the fast-shifting DSG, the Golf R can get to 60 mph from a standing start in a blistering 4.9 seconds and it has a top track speed of 155 mph. Because of low sales for the two-door Golf R in the past, the 2015 version will only be sold in this market as a four-door. Mileage is expected to be 23 mpg in the city, more than 30 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined.

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