Cross-Shopping the F56 JCW with the MkVII Golf R

As discussed in the last episode of White Roof Radio, Todd spent most of last week driving a 2015 4-door Golf GTI. His impression was rather positive, so positive in fact, that we dedicated almost half of the show talking about his experience and how it compares to the F56. While Gabe has also praised the GTI in the past, this weekend was our turn to test-drive Volkswagen’s Hot Hatch.

We can all agree that the 1976 Golf GTI MkI created the Hot Hatch segment. Subsequent versions of the GTI refined the model over the years, with more or less success. The GTI MkVII, especially equipped with the Performance Package, has received good reviews from the press, and most recently from someone on our team. And to get a better sense of Todd’s positive feedback, we decided to test-drive the car ourselves last weekend. However, upon arriving at the dealer, we noticed a Golf R sitting on the lot so we couldn’t pass the opportunity to drive that instead.

Here are our initial takeaways, but bear in mind that a dealer test-drive is restricted in time and driving style:

  • At a $39,090, the Golf R comes fully loaded with 292-hp, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo engine, and all-wheel drive. An equally equipped F56 JCW comes at $40,700
  • It’s really fast but well balanced and it sounds amazing, though some of that sound is probably synthesized like in the MINI
  • It’s bigger than the F56 but we couldn’t feel the difference during our short drive
  • We are all manual transmission fanboys, but Volkswagen’s DSG on the R is simply perfect
  • The interior cabin is of excellent quality and on par with the F56, but not as exciting (or as distracting depending on how you look at it)
  • The Nav system is slow and does not look as good as MINI’s, but buyers will be able to option Apple CarPlay and Android Auto starting this summer. That’s a big plus in our book
  • It’s a Golf, which means it almost looks like any other Golf on the road and it’s kind of sad
  • It’s not an Audi, which means it’s not a cheap VW – it’s actually a high-end VW – and that’s a very good thing (sorry Audi drivers)
  • Did we say how perfect the DSG was?

All in all, we came away very impressed with this car. It says a lot coming from a BMW/MINI enthusiast and it’s no wonder that Chris Harris and Motor Trend among others (i.e. Clarkson was supposed to test it on the last episode of Top Gear) gave the Golf R a thumbs up.

As some of you may know, we will be on the on the hunt for a new car in the coming months. Although the F56 JCW is one of our top choices, the Golf R represents a viable alternative that we will strongly consider before signing a check. How about other prospective JCW buyers? What cars are you cross-shopping the JCW against?

One more thing. We wish we have had more time behind the wheel of the 2015 Golf R and we’re wondering if an in-depth review would be of interest to any of you. Let us know by voting below.