A fine every day smoke. Amazingly competent with phenomenal traction and devastating down a B road, wet or dry. What you get from a 4 pot these days is also pretty amazing as is the engineering in a front driven axle devoid of torque steer or washout on exit. It lacks feel though, is quite VAG like and that means you tend to drive it pretty hard to get something back from it.
The real fun is to drive it on the electronics (esp. in the wet) and generally take ludicrous liberties with it both into the corner and out the other side. Shift the torque to the rear axle and it is more than eager to move around either with a lift or a dab of left foot brake. In the wet you barely need to reduce your pace such is the ingenuity of the drivetrain and electronic systems.
As the well rounded, middle of the road luxury hatch that it is, the R can be a little boring and one dimensional from time to time. Impressive and effective though it undoubtedly is, the engine's 'boosty' character can feel a little contrived and the uninspiring manual change is a missed opportunity. The cynic in me also dislikes the fake quad pipes, the engine soundbox under the front dash and that awful clutch delay on the power when changing up (although there are modifications to alleviate this somewhat). The switch that prevents throttle application when the brake pedal is depressed is also equally annoying.
Sometimes you yearn for some more personality, some more feel or a few flaws even but all in all it's fair to say that the R will always impress you at some point or other and both the build quality and classy cabin will always make for a fine piece of everyday transport.
If only the steering was as good as an ST170.
Trip to Spa
The Golf was surprisingly competent around Spa. Understeery and imprecise when pushed to the max but still very capable for a family hatch. It certainly gave a few track cars/lightweights a few surprises.