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Revised 2025 Volkswagen Golf R MK8.5 unveiled

Updated: Jun 27

2025 MK8 Volkswagen Golf R

VW is aiming to re-establish the Golf R as the benchmark family super hatch. Will the revisions to the 2025 MK8.5 model sharpen up the oft criticised fun factor? And will the updated infotainment make the Golf easier to live with?

Completing the high-performance Golf offering, the new Volkswagen Golf R returns to its perch at the top of the model range. The reworked hatch and estate have been through a raft of updates above and below the skin, with the headline tweaks being found under the bonnet.

2025 Volkswagen Golf R: Performance, Powertrain and Handling Improvements

The 2024 Mk 8.5 facelift continues to use the powertrain that has set the template for the modern hot hatch: a 2.0 litre engine driving all four wheels through a twin-clutch automatic transmission. Never to be left behind, the well known EA888 engine has received a 14 bhp increase, with outputs now at 328 bhp and 310 lb ft (420 Nm), matching the recently revised Audi S3 and outperforming the new BMW M135

2025 Golf R MK8

The long serving engine gains a new coolant regulator which allows for reduced warm-up times, and benefits from a reworked throttle map and updated wastegate that holds on to boost pressure for longer after you’ve lifted off. The resting boost pressure has also been raised, which will mean quicker responses at low revs and under gentle loads. The result of these changes isn’t quite an anti-lag system, but it will make the car easier to drive when traffic is heavy and quicker to respond when you’ve got the road all to yourself.

Acceleration has been improved too, with the hatch taking 4.6 seconds to reach 62 mph, and the estate needing an extra 0.2 seconds. Both cars have a limited top speed of 155 mph as standard, although this can be raised to 168 mph with the optional R-Performance package. The option includes a GPS lap timer and G-force metre, along with an extra pair of driving modes: Drift and Special. Drift mode does what it says on the tin, allowing for the famously planted hot hatch to break traction, while Special mode is a setup tuned for the mixture of elevation changes and cambers found on the Nurburgring, which sounds like it’d be perfect for a British B-road.

2025 Golf R estate

The standard passive suspension setup features MacPherson struts at the front with a four-link rear axle. DCC adaptive suspension is available once more, but now it works in conjunction with a new Vehicle Dynamics Manager system that can continuously vary the damping, brake-based torque vectoring, and electronic differential lock in line with the selected driving mode. Volkswagen says that understeer should be a thing of the past, and that the car will be able to find a good middle ground  between being comfortable and engaging in everyday use, but quick to react and able to stay well composed when pressing on. Changing from sensible to swift driving modes can be done quickly with a dedicated button on the steering wheel marked with a blue R.

2025 Volkswagen Golf R: Styling Tweaks and Infotainment Upgrades

Those are the key changes to the chassis and drivetrain, but no facelift would be complete without some styling tweaks. The Mk 8.5 Golf R certainly looks purposeful with its large, almost full-width open grille dominating the front end. Would I call it particularly pretty though? No. That said, it is nice to see a fully functional grille, with radiators visible at either side of the bumper. The upturned body coloured trim returns, but moves towards the centre of the grille, giving a clear visual separation from the GTI and GTI Clubsport models. At the rear, four exhaust tips flank the four-strake diffuser. The standard exhaust system contains controllable flaps to increase or decrease the amount of noise on offer, however I expect the optional Akrapovic titanium exhaust to be incredibly popular in the UK.

2025 Golf R MK8
2025 Golf R MK8

Both the hatch and estate get a subtle tailgate-mounted spoiler as standard, but this can be enlarged to a higher-standing wraparound wing as part of the R-Performance package. I’m still not the biggest fan of wings on hatchbacks, but the one on offer for the Golf R looks like it was actually designed to be there. The new Golf R wears 18” wheels as standard, with two flavours of 19” rims available as options. The Estoril 5-Y-spoke wheels can be selected, along with Vermenau forged wheels that double the spoke-count and look great in the standard silver/grey finish, but they are also available in black.

It may take a keen eye to spot the final R-specific touches of the R badges on the front doors and wheel hubs, blue brake callipers, modified side skirts and mirror caps, but the new rear light design and standard-fit illuminated badge on the nose will be impossible to miss.

2025 Golf R

The updated infotainment that has been moving across the Volkswagen range is something of a known quantity now, so it’s the details of the cabin - aside from the enlarged 12.9” central display with updated hardware, new software and illuminated trackpads as opposed to physical buttons for controlling the volume and air conditioning at the base of the screen - that I’m interested in here. Performance Golfs all get checked fabrics in designs that I would happily see on trousers in my wardrobe and the new Golf R is no different.

The blue colour seen on the brake callipers is the hue of choice for the trim, upholstery, stitching and ambient lighting, as opposed to the red-fest found in the GTI Clubsport. The two-piece seats are clad in a mixture of grey suede, checked fabric and black velour in addition to the R logo, contrasting strips and piping in blue, of course.

2025 Golf R MK8
2025 Golf R MK8

The flat-bottomed steering wheel looks like a wonderful item to hold, especially with the huge gearshift paddles attached to them; when the transmission is locked into its manual mode, kickdown and automatic change-ups are deactivated, putting the task of nailing the perfect shift squarely on the driver. Behind the wheel is a 10.2” driver’s display that has R-specific digital dials.

With the Performance package equipped, more display styles including a horizontal rev counter and gearshift recommendations can appear on screen, along with a timer that can record 0-62 mph, 50-75 mph and standing quarter mile times. We know what the 0-62 mph times are for the new Golf R, but to find out the other stats, we’ll have to get ourselves behind the wheel!

2025 Volkswagen Golf R: Estate, Pricing and Deliveries

Naturally, a huge part of the Golf R’s appeal in hatch or estate form is the practicality on offer. The pair of five-door models have room for five people, ISOFIX points for child seats available and enough room for a large greyhound to fit in the boot of the hatch, so I’m told. Naturally, the estate has room for two greyhounds, with a maximum capacity of 1,642 litres with the rear seats folded. For the first time, the hatchback is available with a tow bar and both models can pull up to 1,900 kg braked, if you’d like the quickest B-road tow car available.

2025 Golf R estate

The new 2024 Volkswagen Golf R will be going on sale soon and we can expect a near £50,000 list price, with top-spec models getting closer to £60,000. Also likely to come to the UK is the Black Edition which turns the Golf R into the average UK-spec with black trim, wheels, brake callipers, badges and exhaust pipes.

Over 250,000 Golfs carrying the R-badge have been sold since the original R32 of 2002, and Volkswagen will be hoping that the Mk 8.5 can return the model to the benchmark position that the Mk 7 and 7.5 enjoyed. 

With strong competition from Audi, BMW, CUPRA and Mercedes-AMG I think it has a tough task on its hands, but the driver-focussed tweaks to the facelifted Golf R may give it an edge.

Key stats: 2025 Volkswagen Golf R

Engine: EA888 2.0 litre turbocharged in-line 4

Drivetrain: front engine, all-wheel drive

Transmission: 7-speed DSG twin-clutch auto

Power: 328 bhp at 5,600 - 6,500 rpm

Torque: 310 lb ft (420 Nm) at 2,100 - 5,500 rpm

Hatch 0 - 62 mph: 4.6 seconds

Estate 0 - 62 mph: 4.8 seconds

Top speed: 155 mph (168 mph with Performance package) - limited

On sale: soon

2025 Golf R MK8
2025 Golf R MK8
2025 Golf R
2025 Golf R


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