For more than a decade, VW enthusiasts have clamored for an all-wheel drive, turbocharged hatchback, but when it finally arrives in the form of the Golf R it’s greeted with some disappointment.

Unlike other carmakers that might under-rate a vehicles’ power to appease insurance companies, the 2.0T FSI engine produces the same 256hp and 243 lb-ft as advertised, as you can see from our baseline runs. And while on paper, the Golf R sounds spectacular (and for $33k you certainly expect spectacular) the first drive can be rather underwhelming.

Fortunately, the Golf R is a great platform for tuners, who have many components to create the performance car you expected. So we decided to look at what can be gained from flashing the ECU with Neuspeed’s latest P-chip software.

Vehicle Data

2012 Golf R

Engine:
four-cylinder TFSI in-line turbocharged with intercooler and direct fuel injection
Drivetrain:
six-speed manual, AWD
Mileage:
348

Dyno Data

Dyno Type:
Clayton Mustang dynamometer
Temperature:
78-81°F
Transmission Test Gear:
Third
Dyno Set Weight:
3300 lb
Test Octane:
91
Tested in 2WD mode

Baseline

To begin the day, we ran the car on a Mustang dyno to see what this low-mileage model was putting down. Inevitably, with more miles on the clock you could expect to see more, but we had a starting number to begin the comparison.
Temperature:
78°F
Humidity:
22%
Peak wheel power:
216whp at 6226rpm
Peak wheel torque:
212 lb-ft at 3414rpm
Adjusted peak engine power:
254hp at 6226rpm
Adjusted peak engine torque:
250 lb-ft at 3414rpm

Test Notes

The baseline dyno runs (and all the subsequent testing) was performed on the same day, with the same 91-octane gasoline. A properly calibrated Mustang dyno produces accurate real-world figures that may appear slightly low in comparison to those from a Dynojet or Dynapack. However, it’s the differences between our dyno runs that is important. These differences verify the validity of the manufacturer’s and tuner’s claims. All horsepower and torque numbers are shown at the front wheels. The vehicle was tested in two-wheel drive mode by disconnecting the Haldex control unit. Some manufacturers don’t offer wheel numbers, so we calculated these figures for comparison.

Neuspeed Flash

Having got our baseline dyno numbers, we proceeded to flash the ECU using the Neuspeed OptiCan Programmer. It’s a rapid process that’s minimally invasive and reversible, so that should remove any anxiety from the purchasing process.

To get the P-Chip program, either visit a Neuspeed dealer or ship your ECU to the company itself, where it will be turned around in a few days and returned to you to be refitted.

Installation

The install is a bench flash that takes about 45 minutes, the MSRP is $499.95. For your money, you get a reversible modification without any physical alterations. It also retains all the engine’s factory safety protocols and includes free lifetime upgrades as well as a free re-flash to the stock program if required.

Conclusion

The stock Golf R feels special compared to your average GTI. The power delivery is smooth, the six-speed manual is precise, and when you enter a corner, the seat bolsters keeps you in place. All seems well until you’re passed by a 135i, Mazdaspeed3, or even just a chipped GTI – a sad experience for a car costing north of $33k.

To make things worse, in the canyons where its all-wheel drive should dominate, VW decided to fit training wheels and not allow the traction control to be fully disabled.

After the Neuspeed P-Chip flash, the increased power was instantly noticeable. Throttle response was enhanced but we’re happy to say it wasn’t jerky. It felt as if the 2.0T FSI engine had been given an adrenalin shot.

While the P-Chip fixed the power issue, there is more that can be done to the engine to enhance it further and we hope to address some of these in later issues.

The only disadvantage is that the power increase makes more demands on the traction control system, causing it to interrupt more often when driven hard in tight corners. Neuspeed did wonders providing the Golf R with more grunt but now somebody needs to develop a solution for the electronic interference.

Peak Wheel TorquePeak Wheel Power
260 lb-ft256whp
3996 rpm6389rpm
Adjusted Peak Engine TorqueAdjusted Peak Engine Power
307 lb-ft302hp
3996rpm6389rpm
Max Torque QueenMax Power Gain
56 lb-ft47hp
4190rpm5776rpm
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