There’s a lot to like about the 2015 Volkswagen Golf R. The all-wheel-drive hatchback flies around thanks to a reworked version of the GTI’s EA888 turbo four-cylinder that cranks out nearly 300 horsepower. Toe the accelerator, and after a moment of initial lag, the drivetrain unleashes a smooth crescendo of torque as the R builds speed. The suspension balances comfort and sportiness, and the cabin has all the class of the current seventh-gen Golf.
But there’s one thing the Golf R lacks. A center console.
Related: 2015 Volkswagen Golf R Video
It’s perplexing given the Golf and GTI have storage consoles with armrests that are both height- and length-adjustable. Throw a few belongings underneath; then perch your elbow at any of the armrest’s myriad elevations. It’s a VW tradition we’ve come to love through the years.
Not so in the Golf R. The center armrest moves forward, but doesn’t adjust upward or open; there’s no compartment underneath. Instead, gear must be stashed in the glove box or door pockets.
How and why can this be? Volkswagen spokesman Mark Gillies confirmed our sanity: The armrest is, in fact, fixed. And it’s because of federal regulations.
“On the GTI and Golf, we have a different center console design because they have a manual hand brake, while the Golf R has an electronic hand brake,” Gillies said. “On the GTI and Golf, the armrest has a latch to secure the armrest in place to comply with FMVSS [Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards] regulations. The European Golf R armrest does not have this latch, so the decision was taken to lock it to accord with FMVSS regulations.”
The rule in question appears to be FMVSS No. 201, “Occupant Protection in Interior Impact,” which mandates any interior compartment with a door must remain closed in a crash. Specifically, FMVSS 201 states that “each interior compartment door assembly located in an instrument panel, console assembly, seat back, or side panel adjacent to a designated seating position shall remain closed” when subjected to specified tests.
So, there you have it. Various enthusiast forums have devised workarounds, given the console is technically functional, but we hope Volkswagen engineers a factory solution for U.S.-spec models.
Until then, consider the Golf R’s locked console its peskiest annoyance. It fits the name, at least. You can’t spell “argh” without an R.