2015 Volkswagen Golf R

2015 Volkswagen Golf R

Episode 3449
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

The MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Award for best small car for 2015 was awarded to the new Volkswagen Golf family. Primarily because with the TSI, TDI, GTI, SportWagen, and even an e-Golf, they cover all of the bases like no other small car series. Well, it turns out they’re not done yet, as they’ve now unleashed Wolfsburg’s latest pocket rocket on the US, the Golf R.

Regular viewers of MotorWeek are no doubt a little weary of our incessant praise of the new Volkswagen Golf and GTI. If that’s the case, you might want to change the channel for about the next 5-minutes, as we’re about to go all “fan-boy” once again about this 2015 Volkswagen Golf R. 

All-wheel-drive is part of the Golf R’s platform of course, a Haldex system that stays front-biased, but can send up to 50% of corner carving grip to the back tires. But, that extra hardware does push weight to a hefty 3,340-lbs.

Under hood, is a familiar VW and Audi mechanical; a 2.0-liter I4 turbo. And while that’s not a lot of motor in size, it cranks out a sizable 292-horsepower. Plus, a seemingly continuous delivery of 280 lb-ft. of torque throughout the rev band, makes it feel like even more.

This time around, just the DSG automatic transmission is available at launch, and a 6-speed manual won’t arrive until next year. But as you may already know, we’re very fond of the DSG. Driving Mode Selection gets a new Race mode, and you can further upgrade to optional Dynamic Chassis Control that lets you dial in an ultra-stiff ride, should you so choose.

Regardless, the Golf R is an absolute blast to drive. And really, it doesn’t feel much different than the GTI that we love so much until you go heavy on the throttle and let it spin up to glory. 

The interior finish is great! This car looks and feel like it’s worth every penny you spend on it; think more Audi than base VW. 

There’s plenty of room, a simple and effective layout, with logically placed controls. The upgraded sport seats are awesome at holding you tight, but comfortably so; in a Teutonic snuggle sort of way. 

The GTI is certainly no slouch when it comes to the handling department, but here on the Shenandoah Circuit at Summit Point Motorsports Park near Charlestown, West Virginia, the Golf R hunkers down and scoots through corners even better than your wildest expectations. 

Despite a soft overall feel, there’s plenty of grip to be had; as no matter how much throttle you’re carrying, this chassis, can put power in its place, and of course that’s on the pavement. 

ESC can now be fully turned off, but Sport Mode is absolutely great, letting you have quite a bit of fun, before the electronics step in to keep you pointed where you should be. 

As for complaints, this course’s tighter turns and many shifting opportunities had us wishing for bigger shift paddles, as with all of the constant shuffling they were sometimes hard to find. 

But of course in a straight line, leaving the DSG in full auto is really where it’s at. Mash the gas, hold on, and 4.9-seconds later, we’re at 60 miles-per-hour.

The Golf R launches off the line smartly with its all-wheel-drive grip, with a snappy and raspy exhaust note all the way down the track for a quick quarter at 13.7–seconds at 103 miles-per-hour. While a short 115-feet is all it took to stop from 60 miles-per-hour.

On the street, the Golf R is even more impressive. It feels very substantial for its size, with a dialed-in solidity like no other small car. It’s agile and wanting to be thrown around, and is the very definition of confidence inspiring.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 23-City, 30-Highway, and 26–Combined; we averaged a very good 28.3 miles-per-gallon of Premium. The Energy Impact Score is 12.7-barrels of oil used and 5.7 tons of CO2 emitted yearly. 

Alas, perfection never comes cheap. In this case it starts at $37,415, and is available in 4-door only. Those numbers may scare away a few, but in this world, it’s the unafraid that are truly rewarded.

So, don’t think of the 2015 Volkswagen Golf R as just a sportier GTI, think of it as everything you’d ever want a Golf to be and a bit more. And really everything you’d want in a sensible sport-hatch as well. If you’re perfectly happy with your GTI, do yourself a favor and don’t test drive the “R”, so you don’t know what you’re missing.


  • Engine: 2.0 liter
  • Horsepower: 292
  • Torque: 280 lb-ft.
  • 0-60 mph: 4.9 seconds
  • 1/4 mile: 13.7 seconds @ 103 mph
  • EPA: 23 mpg city/ 30 mpg highway
  • Energy Impact: 12.7 barrels of oil/yr
  • CO2 Emissions: 5.7 tons/yr
2023 Mazda3

2023 Mazda3

Still The Same Mazda3, Just A Bit Better

Episode 4304
Auto Value and Bumper to BumperTire Rack "The Way Tire Buying Should Be"

When the fourth-gen Mazda3 arrived for 2019, it grew a little more stylish, a lot more upscale; and loads more practical too, adding all-wheel drive into the mix for the first time. How does it get better than that? Well, for ’23 the 3 adds an engine update that promises to deliver more power and better efficiency. Time to speak truth to this power.

The Mazda3 has always been a great compact car, big on both fun and value, and has earned numerous MotorWeek Drivers’ Choice Awards over the years. This current-gen has been on the road for 4-years now, and it gets even better for 2023.

Starting with the powertrain, the base 2.0-liter I4 has been eliminated leaving just 2 versions of the 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, turbo and non-turbo. Base versions get a 5-horsepower bump to 191-horsepower, along with updates for its cylinder deactivation system. The 2.5 Turbo fits standard all-wheel drive and outputs the same 250-horsepower and 320 lb-ft. of torque as last year; provided you use Premium gas. Max ratings drop to 227-horsepower and 310 lb-ft. with Regular.

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A 6-speed manual transmission remains available in front-wheel drive 3s, but AWDs come exclusively with a sport-tuned 6-speed automatic. We found it well-sorted and seemingly always on the same page as us whether we were shuffling through back roads or sitting in traffic. There is a softer overall feel compared to Mazda3s of old, which you’ll appreciate when encountering harsh pavement, but it still feels plenty agile when called upon.

That softer feel certainly carries over inside, where it has gotten much quieter, and quite nicely finished, consistent with Mazda’s Audi-like premium intentions. All 3s get an 8.8-inch center display, and all of the fingerprints on our test car’s screen signifies most people assume it’s a touchscreen. It’s not, however, as inputs are made with a rotary controller on the console. It’s not the most intuitive system, but once you’re past the learning curve, it’s tolerable.

The rear seat room doesn’t have the roomy feel of the Subaru Impreza, but space is certainly more than adequate compared to the rest of the compact set. Rear cargo space for this hatchback rates a good 20.1 cubic-ft. with trunk space in the sedan coming in at 13.2 cubic-ft. So yes, the Mazda3 remains available in both sedan and hatchback, but we still prefer the 5-door hatch both for its practicality and for its sporty looks. Top Turbo Premium Plus gets gloss black aero treatments including a roof spoiler and front air dam.

At the test track, power from the 2.5-turbo felt more than adequate off the line, using all-wheel-drive grip to bite into the pavement and get up and go to 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. There was virtually no turbo lag, and the engine felt nicely refined with its power delivery. Transmission operation was equally as smooth and kept the power flowing quite effectively throughout the ¼-mile, which ended in 14.5-seconds at 95 miles-per-hour. We really appreciate a well-tuned 6-speed in this world of overactive 8 and 10 speed automatics.

2023 Mazda3 1

While there was definitely some understeer to manage in our handling course, the 3 turned in quickly and provided real, sporting feedback through our cone course. I-Activ AWD features G-Vectoring Control Plus, which uses both engine torque vectoring as well as selective braking to minimize body roll, and preserve the lively feel we’ve come to expect from Mazda. In panic braking runs, the pedal was soft, but that kept ABS pulsing to a minimum; and the results were great, as we averaged a very short 106-feet from 60, with minimal nose dive and stable, straight stops.

Government Fuel Economy Ratings for an all-wheel drive Turbo are 23-City, 31-Highway, and 26-Combined; we averaged a good 28.4 miles-per-gallon of Regular.

Obviously by eliminating the previous base engine, prices have taken a jump for ’23, but so has everything else. Still they remain more than reasonable. The base S now starts at $26,855, with the top Turbo Premium Plus at $37,815, with many options in between. And sedan prices are even more sensible, starting at $23,715.

Like most brands, Mazda seems to be going all-in on SUVs; as the 3 is the last family sedan and hatchback in their lineup. And it would be a real shame if that were to change. As the 2023 Mazda3, the hatchback in particular, is just about the perfect car, offering utility vehicles levels of practicality along with better than average luxury, plus handling performance that few crossovers can match. So, long live the Mazda3!


As Tested

  • Engine: 2.5-liter Turbo-4
  • Horsepower: 227 | 250
  • 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
  • 60-0 Braking: 106 feet (avg)
  • MW Fuel Economy: 28.4 MPG (Regular)
  • Transmission: 6-speed auto
  • Torque: 310 lb-ft. | 320 lb-ft
  • 1/4 Mile: 14.5-seconds at 95 mph
  • EPA: 23-City / 31-Highway / 26-Combined