Driven: Volkswagens of The Caribbean

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What do pirates and VW have in common? Not all that much unless you’re talking about the German automaker’s R performance derivatives. Climb aboard the new TIGUAN R and GOLF R and get ready for some fireworks and adventure. ARRR! 

By Steve Smith

Just like you get real pirates and then Johnny Depp, so too are there real Volkswagen Rs and those that are merely pretending. The latter are VW’s R-line models and, here, the R refers merely to a trim spec – in other words, some eyeliner and a bandana. The real deal, however, is what you see in these photos… vehicles wearing a large R on their grilles that indicate their king of high seas status as the performance pinnacle of VW’s range. 

Volkswagen Tiguan R  

Leading their vast T-monikered SUV fleet in South Africa – the T-Cross, Taigo, T-Roc, Tiguan, Tiguan Allspace and Touareg – the Tiguan R is Volkswagen’s most powerful SUV. It’s an honour bestowed thanks to a 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine that puts out 235kW and 400Nm.

This power is distributed to the four wheels by a new 4MOTION all-wheel drive system with R-Performance Torque Vectoring – basically meaning all that ARRR! is cleverly distributed among all four wheels for exceptional traction and grip.

And that means the Tiguan R accelerates to 100km/h in just 5.1 seconds, has a top speed of 250km/h, and has superb handling characteristics for the kind of high-speed manoeuvres needed to hunt down a merchant ship bulging with Spanish gold. 

Best of all, you get to raise the skull and cross bones by pressing the blue R button on the new multi-function sports steering wheel. With this sports mode selected among the various driving profiles, everything gets primed to attack from the DCC chassis with its adaptively controlled shock absorbers, to the engine and gearbox mapping courtesy of a paddle-shift on the 7-speed DSG gearbox. Throwing out the anchors to bring all this action to a halt is a powerful 18- inch brake system with blue brake calipers. 

And because the captain’s cabin must always be a comfortable and well stocked refuge as is befitting its occupant’s hard-fought status, so the Tiguan R’s interior sets itself apart from others that ply these seas.

You’ll be ensconced in premium Nappa leather seats with an ‘R’ logo, a customised digital cockpit with an integrated lap timer, as well as carbon grey decorative trim that – because sometimes a captain likes to entertain a lady – illuminates with some mood lighting.

Volkswagen Golf R

The latest installment of the popular R franchise first launched in SA back in 2007, and the new Golf R ups the production value in every area. The flagship of the eighth Golf generation range is more powerful, more dynamic, more efficient and more digital. 

It boasts the same set of sails as the Tiguan R – the 235kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo petrol – but because it’s a smaller, more compact vessel and therefore sails closer to the wind, it boasts a marginally faster 0-100km/h time of 4.8 seconds. Top speed is the same though at 250km/h and a 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox (DSG) is also part of the package.  

Like the Tiguan R, this Golf also has a new 4MOTION system with R-Performance Torque Vectoring all-wheel drive that distributes the engine’s output to the four wheels. As a world first, the all-wheel drive is also networked via a Vehicle Dynamics Manager (VDM) to other running gear systems such as the electronic differential locks (XDS) and adaptive chassis control DCC.

All this means the new Golf 8 R offers optimum traction control and brilliant handling that is assuringly neutral, impressively precise, and surprisingly comfortable thanks to a choice of drive modes – comfort, race and sport. 

Appropriately, the Golf R’s cabin has less emphasis on entertaining the ladies and a little more on terrorising the high seas. There’s a helmsman-focused, fully digital cockpit that borders on the minimalist, and frankly takes something of an apprenticeship to become familiar with.

Standard interior features include mobile inductive charging, the Discover Pro system with satellite navigation, wireless app-connect and voice control, a panoramic sunroof, an electric tailgate, and Nappa leather seats. 

The Gold R comes in three exterior colours – Pure White, Lapiz Blue Metallic, and, of course, Black Pearl. 

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