Here it is, the most powerful Volkswagen Golf R ever built by the German carmaker. Based on the eighth-generation (Mk8) Golf, the new hot hatch takes its place at the top of line-up, above the Golf GTI that made its debut back in February.

Power comes from an EA888 2.0 litre turbocharged four-cylinder that serves up 320 PS (315 hp) and 420 Nm of torque, which is a step up from the previous Golf R Mk7 with just 300 PS (296 hp) and 380 Nm. In terms of performance, the new car takes 4.7 seconds to get from zero to 100 km/h – 0.2 seconds quicker than before – while the top speed remains capped at 250 km/h. The latter can be bumped up to 270 km/h, but you’ll need to pay for the optional R-Performance package.

The engine is paired with a six-speed manual transmission, with the option of a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission. Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive is also standard here, but has been revised to feature a newly developed rear differential that not only distributes the power variably between the front and rear axles, but also between the left and right rear wheels.

Where the previous system is capable of splitting power in a 50:50 ratio via a multi-plate clutch to the left and the right rear wheels, the new one can send up to 100% of torque to the outside wheel for increased agility – Volkswagen calls this R-Performance Torque Vectoring.

Managing the distribution of torque is the Golf R’s Vehicle Dynamics Manager, which also works with the electronic differential locks (XDS) and adaptive damping system (DCC) to optimise handling. The system also handles torque vectoring by braking and comes with six drive modes – Comfort, Sport, Race, Individual, Special and Drift.

As you’d expect, each mode changes the characteristics of the car, with Comfort and Individual being pretty much self-explanatory. In Sport mode, the powertrain’s response is increase, while Race mode disables the coasting function, increases the engine sound, and adjusts the DSG, DCC, steering and all-wheel drive system to be even sportier.

The first of the two new modes, Special, sets the car up to take on the fabled Nürburgring Nordschleife, and is similar to Race mode, but with softer damper settings given the very specific track characteristics of The Green Hell. Meanwhile, Drift mode dials back the electronic stability control (ESC) and readjusts the all-wheel drive system’s power distribution to enable the Golf R, to well, drift. Of course, you can switch off ESC completely, if you’re sure you know what you’re doing.

In terms of the chassis, the Golf R has a 20 mm lower ride height compared to a standard Golf, and compared to the previous version, the spring and anti-roll bar rates have been increased by 10%. An aluminium subframe also helps shed three kg from the front suspension, which houses MacPherson struts – the rear uses a multi-link setup.

Other changes include modified transverse link mounts and hub carriers on the rear suspension, while the negative camber has been increased on the front axle (now at -1°20’) to allow for higher cornering speeds and improved stability.

Stopping power comes courtesy of 358-mm front discs, which are 18 mm larger than the previous Golf R. The discs are accompanied by two-piston calipers made of aluminium, which help to reduce unsprung mass by 60% per side.

Visually, the latest Golf is not shy about its aggressive nature, with a specific front bumper that incorporates a motorsport-inspired splitter, R-specific air intake grilles and high-gloss black elements. The slim grille between the headlamps also features a blue crossbar that lights up, stretching all the way into the fenders.

Other cues include 19-inch aluminium-alloy wheels, side skirts, matte chrome side mirror caps with R logo puddle lamps, blue-painted brake calipers, a rear diffuser, a roof spoiler and four chrome-plated Akrapovic exhaust pipes.

On the inside, you get the same layout as a regular Golf, with model-specific touches to mark it out as an R model. These include Nappa leather seats with carbon-look elements, blue accents and R logos sewn into the backrest, as well as a sport steering wheel with a dedicated R button to cycle through the various drive modes.

In other areas, there’s carbon-look and R-specific trimmings, stainless-stell pedal caps, a 30-colour ambient lighting system, ergonomically-shaped shift paddles, a 10-inch Discover Pro touchscreen infotainment system and Volkswagen’s Digital Cockpit.