Tools and Jobs
At Everyday Driver, you’ll often hear about finding the right tool for the job. The right car is different for everyone, and it’s a moving target.
Sitting on my porch one evening, I reflected on what that meant for me. I had whiplashed from daily driving a Dodge Ram to a Fiat 500 Abarth, and subsequently found myself experiencing a bout of all-wheel drive attraction. That made sense, because I am a skier. I am a New Hampshire guy. I want to hoon, whether the pavement is dry, under a foot of snow, or not even pavement at all.
For those reasons, and because I am a product of the 1990s, my list was short. It seemed the day had finally come for me to realize my childhood dream, choose between Team STI and Team Evo, and heroically tackle the snowy mountain roads.
Enter the problem: I currently live in Texas, with a long, straight, crowded commute.
I know enthusiasts are supposed to put performance above all else. There is a spectrum of sacrifice, and we feel like there’s a correct end to be on; however, the more drive homework I did, the harder I was pressed to be honest with myself. No matter how much fun a homologation rally car is–and they are tremendously fun–they aren’t necessarily Texas commute material, especially if the driver has a penchant for modifications that result in lightswitch turbos and highway drone.
Time after time, test drive thrill gave way to creeping doubt. Cars that fell in my budget were borderline high-mileage, modified to an unknown extent, and showing undeniable signs of wear. I found myself distracted by fear of ringland failure and all-wheel drive clutches. Half the searches in my browser history contained either “EJ25” or “4G63T” and some combination of reliability, problems and cost.
Yes, these rally-bred Subarus and Mitsubishis are fantastic tools, but are they right for the job? In the absence of loose road surfaces and winding country roads, would their merits still outweigh creaky plastics and utilitarian interiors? Would my boring commute lead me to resent a heavy clutch and stiff suspension?
This brings us back to me sitting on the porch. In that moment, I kept coming back to something I’d heard on Everyday Driver–and from my wife, who also heard it on Everyday Driver.
“What about a Golf R?”
While it probably isn’t cross-shopped with winged Subarus and Mitsubishis all that often, the Golf R ticked a lot of my boxes. Better yet, it would also be a delightful place to spend an otherwise painful commute.
Sure, the Volkwagen’s Haldex all-wheel drive system doesn’t have center differential control or active yaw control. In most around-town or highway scenarios, though, I don’t think a driver of my ability would feel the difference. It still packs plenty of performance, it just requires a driver who knows how to draw it out.
Just as test drives of the other cars revealed sticking points I didn't anticipate, test driving a Golf R introduced me to German fit and finish for the first time. It’s hard to describe, but the controls are intuitive in a way that can only come from making the same car for decades without reinventing it, but refining and updating with every iteration. Compared to the new Volkswagen GTI I tested, the older Golf R had just enough analog touches and subtle hot-rodding to make it an intriguing alternative to Japanese rally legends.
My budget meant I’d be shopping for a mark six. Within a few weeks, I found a compelling car exactly on-budget. I had it shipped into town and drove off the lot feeling a little self-conscious of my new place on the spectrum of sacrifice, but there was a boost gauge. So there’s that.
Two years into ownership, I’ve developed a new appreciation for finding the right tool for the job. A car I once viewed as a pragmatic solution has grown into something that adds joy to my life, teaches me to be a better driver, and makes me look back every time I park it.
Long commutes are a breeze; I have supportive seats, bluetooth, a sunroof, and a quiet cabin to insulate me from rush hour unpleasantries. Distant skiing is a perfectly reasonable prospect; I have all-wheel drive and ample storage space. When the opportunity presents itself, I can still fire myself through a corner with authority; the Golf R is a capable backroad companion and aftermarket support can give these mature hot hatches a surprisingly youthful sense of humor.
At this point in my life, it's the right tool for the job. It’s the right car.
Scott is a lover of motorized fun, whether on four wheels or two. A child of the 90’s, he has a particular soft spot for hatchbacks and believes all aging cars deserve a second chance at life. Scott works as a freelance marketer for Dingo Productions in Fort Worth, Texas. If he’s not behind a camera or a computer, he’s probably chasing down new coffee shops with his wife or throwing a frisbee for his dog.
The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.