The American Volkswagen Golf R 20th Anniversary Edition Looks Like A Little Bit Of A Letdown

Golf R 20th Anniversary Topshot

Can you believe that it’s been 20 years since the Mk4 Volkswagen Golf R32 debuted? While the R32 and later Golf R occupied a more mature corner of the hot hatch arena, it’s undeniable that they pushed Golf performance further than the GTI and made a lot of Volkswagen customers very happy. To celebrate this milestone, Volkswagen has given America its own Golf R 20th Anniversary Edition, and it’s a little bit of a letdown.

Let’s start with what the American version gets. Dubbers who could’ve hooped [Editor’s Note: I think this means tall people? Because of the extra headroom? – JT] will likely appreciate the sunroof delete, although almost everything else seems mostly like stuff you could find on eBay. We’re talking about carbon fiber trim, contrasting painted mirror caps, blue emblems, and puddle lights with logos. The sort of tat many 18-year-olds put on their first German cars. Otherwise, the wheels are finished in black like someone popped down to a powdercoating shop, and that’s about it.

Blue emblem

The American Golf R 20th Anniversary Edition doesn’t make the extra power of the European version, and there’s no word on Emotion Start [Editor’s Note: That’s just a little feature that will rev the engine to 2,500 RPM at startup to get your genitals more engorged. – JT] either. While a goofy 2,500 RPM start-up will ensure that owners of 20th Anniversary models in other markets will know their neighbors, I can’t help but love how stupidly fun that feature sounds.

Put simply, the American Golf R 20th Anniversary Edition is a plain Golf R with a bunch of cheap tacked-on cosmetic mods. Aside from the sunroof delete, any owner without great taste could largely replicate this package, and that makes me sad. Volkswagen fans should get more for an extra $650 over a standard car, especially if a sunroof isn’t included.

Volkswagen used to do some really proper special edition Golfs and Jettas, and I’m not just talking about mad models like the Golf Country either. The GTI and GLI Fahrenheit editions of 2007 featured fun Magma Orange and Imola Yellow paint jobs, respectively. The outgoing Golf R was eventually offered in a vast color palette including teals, yellows, and purples. The American GTI 20th Anniversary Edition of 2003 featured a wicked set of OZ wheels, a Votex lip kit, and available Imola Yellow paint. Meanwhile, the Golf R 20th Anniversary Edition gets no such fun.

Carbon trim

I understand that the Golf R is typically the hot hatch for very serious professionals who wouldn’t be caught dead in a Hyundai Elantra N or the old Honda Civic Type R, but there has to be a way to inject a little bit of fun into a sensible package. While homologating a bespoke engine calibration would be prohibitively expensive, how about a little more visual flair? Why not take some of the best bits of past R32 Golfs and blend them into one cohesive package. Here’s what I’m picturing.

Start with a set of silver 20-inch wheels inspired by the OZ Aristo units from the Mk4 Golf R32, then make the interior trim from aluminum in a throwback to the Mk5 Golf R32. Next, whip up a tasteful new front lip to amp up the visuals, then replace all R logos with the old logo found on the Mk4 Golf R32. Now that would be how you do a relatively mild heritage edition without going to the expense of certifying a new tune.

Golf R 20th Anniversary Edition

If you still happen to fancy the new Golf R 20th Anniversary Edition, Volkswagen plans to make around 1,800 units that should roll into American showrooms later this autumn. There’s no word on split between manual and DSG cars, although that’s likely a matter of consumer taste. It’s worth noting that Europe doesn’t get the latest Golf R with a manual gearbox, so at least North Americans still have something exclusive to celebrate.

All photos courtesy of Volkswagen

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19 Responses

  1. hello autopians,
    it is your resident vw enthusiast/apologist and i am late to the article as i was at the unveiling on saturday in pottstown for L’oe show which was a great time. First off, I am not personally a fan of the look of the mk8 and hey, maybe in 20 years it will grow on me in ways the mk4 never has so I have no sword in this particular fight.

    To Thomas’s point of this being a meh trim package on the golfr, you might be right. But if the ones I saw this weekend are any indication they are just the blank canvas from which we begin our work to slam, boost and customize to our tastes anyway. I too would appreciate some subtle throwbacks but for me it would be to the true granddaddies that came before .:R was a thing: the golf limited, golf rallye and a59. Maybe some wide boxy metal fender flares to fit ridiculously large bbs rs wheels, an all black package with a light blue trim theme on the grille and touches inside, full silver rounded wide-body with hood scoops and a big wing, get crazy! There have been enthusiasts warring about the sunroof one way or the other so it is proof there is no pleasing everyone.

    I spoke with a number of anonymous sources inside the community this weekend and the uphill battle just to get the cars we want made is ridiculous. My unicorn wagon was chopped from the lineup in 2019 to chase more Atlas dollars, and we (enthusiasts) just aren’t numerous enough to change the music at this point. The spektrum program and all the fun colored golfr options Thomas mentioned in the article only exist because *one* employee fights like hell to make it happen. Getting a manual trans offered here? That was another uphill battle that we just barely won, I don’t know the final count but I was told it was real real close. We all know we are in the last gasps of the ICE enthusiasts’ car and this feels like the last generation of three pedaled ones from VW and maybe even the last ICE powered one.
    Sorry for the novel, but it is unlikely anyone is going to read this anyway.

  2. I saw this yesterday…honestly what a joke. Just another low effort aesthetic package…and yet dealers will charge 60k for it, dopes will pay it, and then they’ll sell for 70k on BAT or *Doug voice* CARSSSS AND BIDSSSSSS a few weeks later. And for what…cooler colored mirrors and a puddle light that no one but you will see?

    I briefly considered getting a MK8 R but I couldn’t find one within several hundred miles for less than 60 grand. It absolutely isn’t worth that much, and frankly I think it’s a stretch even at MSRP given the tech nightmare interior, VW reliability, and the fact that it comes in a whopping 3 colors.

    I’m specifically who this car is for and even I don’t get it…and after my MK7.5 GTI had to make 3 trips to the service bay before it even hit 5,000 miles, I’m not exactly eager to get back in a VW anytime soon. At this price get something else, honestly.

      1. They made two doors up until the MK7s, which are a really nice combination of fun and refinement. They’re often considered to be one of the best GTIs. I owned a 7.5 S and very much liked it…but I’d recommend that you look for an SE or Autobahn trim if possible. I believe they discontinued the two door with the 7.5 update.

        The S’s come with inexcusably bad headlights for the era and a smaller infotainment screen. Also, make sure it comes with the performance package if it’s a Before the LSD was standard that’s how you got it, and it’s a must. You can’t go wrong with either transmission. Mine was a DSG but the manual is good too.

        I don’t have as much experience with the earlier gens, but I will say the MK6 has aged really well. It was a good looking car then and it’s still a good looking car today.

        1. They made 2 door Mk7s in Europe, but I read the global take rate was only about 20%. I would bet that was for all Golfs, and GTI and R buyers would have been more likely to buy the 2 doors, but I get that it’s just not worth making two different bodies. Almost everyone who was going to buy a GTI or R was probably still going to buy one, and the marginal loss wouldn’t have been worth two production lines.

        2. Wow my attempted edit got jumbled. The LSD became standard with the 7.5s in 2018, but I think the 2 doors got the axe that same gen. So if you wind up looking at the 7 coupes make sure it has the sport package.

          1. When I got my MK7 they could not find me at two door manual with the sport package or headlights. Still got my two door manual though and have loved it ever since.

    1. The tech dystopia interior and weird styling did it for me. I’ve seen a few MK8 GTIs and Rs around and honestly…they look pretty weird in person. Im glad they’re at least trying something different but the design just doesn’t hit the mark for me.

  3. I daily a Mk7 Golf R. I specifically bought it because it was NOT a tricked out boy-racer car, with wings and carbon fiber and such, like a Focus RS or a Civic Type R. I suspect I’m not alone in my reasons for that choice, and I’m not sure VW knows who the buyers of this car are.

    1. Counterpoint. 4 doors is what makes these cars special. They are practical, fun, economical and can family. Otherwise just get a BRZ or another true sports car.

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  4. You won’t be able to touch one of these. They are all already promised, I guarantee.
    And they will carry a huge premium. As one time VW fashionista, I understand the market well.

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