Time and time again, Volkswagen has shown us that size doesn’t matter. Especially not when you hammer in a powerful engine under the bonnet, shove tech that makes petrolhead salivate and let it fly. The Golf R is a perfect example of this, continually punching above its weight to make sure that bragging rights are always yours. With the R badge now in its fifth iteration, the Mk8 Golf R is now more powerful than ever before and packs some clever powertrain hardware to ensure that it drives as good as it looks.

Visually, the new Golf R looks similar to the regular Golf. Though some may have expected the Golf R to stand out, it is handsomely understated with an air of sophistication. Ditching the DRL cluster from the Golf GTI, the Golf R has gone for aggressive air intakes akin to those found on the Golf GTI Clubsport. The Golf R now sits 20mm lower than the standard Golf, and comes as standard with 18-inch alloy wheels, with the optional R-Performance package adding bigger 19-inch wheels.

Over on the rear, the Golf R features an extended roof-mounted spoiler and a much more angular LED taillight cluster. Tell-tale features that this isn’t your regular Golf are the subtle ‘R’ emblem beneath the Volkswagen badge and the quad-tipped Akrapovic exhaust flanking the diffuser which has been a staple on the Golf R in the past.

What makes a true Golf R is, of course, its performance. The Mk8 Golf R is still powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine but tuned to produce 320hp and 420Nm of torque. Mated to a seven-speed DSG transmission, power is sent to all wheels via Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system. Straight-line performance is undeniably rapid, completing the century sprint in just 4.7 seconds. While the Golf R’s top speed is limited to 250kph, the R-Performance package increases that to 270kph.

While it is fast in a straight line, it is around the bends where the Golf R earns respect. The 4Motion system has been integrated with the R-Performance Torque Vectoring to intelligently distribute the engine’s output to all four wheels. This torque vectoring system can now shuffle power not just between the front and rear axle, but between the rear wheels as well, allowing the all-new ‘Drift Mode’ to take centre stage.

Moreover, the boffins at Volkswagen have also networked the all-wheel drive system with the Vehicle Dynamics Manager (VDM), electronic differential locks (XDS) and its adaptive chassis control (DCC) to enhance the driving dynamics of the Golf R. This upgrade to the hardware is abundantly evident when taking into consideration the Mk8 Golf R lapped the Nürburgring Nordschleife in an incredible seven minutes 51 seconds, 19 seconds faster than its predecessor.

The interior, while smartly designed, doesn’t seem to feature much in the way of making the occupants feel extra special. While there are a flat-bottom steering wheel, sports seats and black and blue trim around the cabin, it isn’t as flashy or even sporty as some of its rivals. It is all business in here, and it might seem that the Golf R prefers to impress with what it can do instead of what it has.