Volkswagen Golf R Cabriolet

Looks good on paper, but feels rather less so on the road

Factfile
Price: £38,770
Engine: 2.0 litres, four cylinders
Power: 261bhp @6000rpm
Torque: 258lb @2500-5000rpm
Transmission: six-speed twin-clutch automatic
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0-62mph: 6.4sec
Top Speed: 155mph
Economy: 34.4mpg
CO2: 190g/km

Finally, after years of searching, I've found a Volkswagen Golf I don't like. At all. Usually there is a mindnumbing inevitability about any assessment of a new Golf.

While some cars may be better looking (the Alfa Giulietta, to name but one), or technically more capable when flung across the landscape (some versions of the Ford Focus), when you make your final deliberations and bring all factors into account, it's always the bloody Golf that ends up topping the class. There is probably no phrase more commonly uttered or muttered by car journalists when asked what a punter should buy. "Get a Golf" is almost always the answer.

But not this time. The Golf R Cabriolet is what happens when two reasonably good ideas come together and end up defeating each other's purpose so completely you wonder who could have conceived such a plan. Pour custard on your roast beef next Sunday and you'll see what I mean.

The idea of a high-performance Golf that also allows the wind to ruffle what's left of your hair might sound like the ideal synthesis of style, practicality and performance. But it's not. And the car is not just unpleasant, but expensive.

The first point to make is that this is not based on the current, seventh generation Golf that recently and rightly won the Car of the Year Award. As with previous Golf convertibles, the old model has been allowed to keep going long after the hatchback upon which it is based has departed. It is powered by VW's ubiquitous 2-litre turbo motor, boosted up to 261bhp and equipped with four-wheel drive to keep control of the torque steer.

But even with all that power and traction, it can only reach 62mph in 6.4sec, which is but one miserable tenth of a second faster than a common-orgarden front-drive Golf GTI. But the GTI is based on the most up-to-date chassis and costs £25,845. The R Cabriolet is based on obsolete engineering and costs, wait for it, no less than £38,770.

So it has nothing to offer in a straight line and even less through the corners. To my considerable surprise, and unlike any convertible I can remember the VW Group producing in many years, this car feels structurally compromised. Hit a pothole and the chassis shakes a little; point it at a decent road and it fails to hit its marks. It's imprecise and very little fun to drive.

It didn't help that a brand-new Porsche Boxster turned up outside my house while the Golf was here: a state-of-the-art, structurally sound, six-cylinder, mid-engined roadster with the shield of Stuttgart on its nose. And it costs less than this Golf. Figure that out, if you can. I've given up.

Andrew Frankel