Used Guide: 2015-2021 VW Golf R

Buying a second-hand MK7 Golf R? Shop smart with these 5 tips

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The Volkswagen Golf R is a hell of a thing to drive in the snow. There’s power galore, the AWD system knows what it’s doing, the sound effects are lovely, and it feels smooth, balanced, and well behaved — even when you’re chucking it sideways though a foot of powder behind the Sears parking lot.

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Also, the Golf R is well-equipped, easy to live with, flexible, safe, and perhaps ideal for the driving enthusiast after an upscale and high-performing driving machine that’s got the flexibility and space to adapt to a busy or growing family.

Heck, this might be the ultimate car for the Canadian driving enthusiast — especially given its wide availability with a six-speed manual transmission. Under the hood, it’s a 2-litre straight-four turbo, running direct injection for 288 horses and nearly as much torque, at 280 lb.-ft.

Below, let’s hook you up with plenty more information on the Golf R, including specs, reviews, news, features, and below, 5 tips to help you find the best Golf R you can for the dollar.

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Tip Number 1: Understand Modifications

Some Golf R owners have modified their vehicles with non-factory parts or software designed to increase performance and enjoyment. Many have not. Remember that the use of non-factory parts or software can cause wear and damage that’s not anticipated by VW’s engineers or covered by the vehicle’s warranty. Translation? The average shopper is best to stick to stock for maximum peace of mind, and minimized trouble with warranty coverage.

Volkswagen Golf R
Volkswagen Golf R Photo by Justin Pritchard

Tip 2: Don’t Skip the Diagnostics

Some owners have experienced engine trouble and turbocharger failure, particularly towards earlier units from 2015. Most have not.

The owner’s community has made note of turbocharger failure and replacement experienced by some owners. In many cases, the first sign of trouble was limited or sporadic power delivery, as well one or more warning lights or error messages illuminated in the instrument cluster.

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These errors may store trouble codes that indicate serious trouble — including trouble with the engine’s turbocharger system. Having a diagnostic scan performed before you buy can reveal these codes, and the problems that caused them, and save you money. Conversely, the diagnostic scan may reveal no trouble at all, adding confidence to your purchase decision.

Volkswagen Golf R
Volkswagen Golf R Photo by Justin Pritchard

Tip 3: Windows

Open and close all windows, several times, using both the manual and automatic portion of the window switches. Ensure each window responds as expected, without any sudden reversal in direction, slamming, or unwanted noise. Some owners have reported trouble with inconsistent response from the power window switches, which can cause frustrating problems.

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The thing is, it’s not really a problem at all: it might just be user error.

According to this conversation, drivers may accidentally engage and disengage the auto up/down mode accidentally by holding the switch down for too long. See the owner’s manual for the full scoop.

If the windows remain wonky, have the vehicle seen by a professional before you buy.

Volkswagen Golf R
Volkswagen Golf R Photo by Justin Pritchard

Tip 4: Infotainment

Some Golf R owners have complained of failed or failing infotainment head units, even at just a year old. Others have complained of head units that crash, lag, or show dead pixel lines across parts of their screens. Most have not.

Replacing an infotainment system head unit outside of warranty can cost you a lot of money. On your test drive, be sure to work the unit through all menus and functions, confirming proper connectivity with your mobile devices, acceptable Bluetooth audio quality, and smooth, consistent operation as you move from one screen to the next.

Engage the backup camera to check for proper operation and adequate image quality. A garbled or off-colour image can be an early sign of camera module failure.

Open the Golf R’s hatchback, and engage the reverse camera, which will be pointing at the blue sky overhead. Looking at the on-screen display, it’ll now be easy to see any dead pixels or distortion in the screen if present.

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Tip 5: Test Drive with your Ears

Quiet the Golf R’s cabin as you cruise at moderate to highway speed, and listen closely for two more issues.

The first is a rattle, possibly from beneath the lower edge of the windshield. Some owners have experienced this rattle, which might relate to a piece of hardware designed to pump up the Golf R’s sound, called the soundaktor.

The other is wind noise. Listen closely for any unwanted wind noise interrupting the cabin’s quiet ride. Some owners have reported that bad door seals or misaligned doors lead to a bad fit, which can allow air (and in some cases, water) to get past.

If you hear wind noise on your test drive, a dealer may be able to adjust the door, or the weather seal, to fix it.

Volkswagen Golf R
Volkswagen Golf R Photo by Justin Pritchard

Final Thought

These tips are designed to help test-driving shoppers more easily identify possible trouble areas reported by some owners. An attentive test-drive and shopping process that focuses on the areas above can help you find a first-class example of a second-hand Volkswagen Golf R.

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