It’s no secret that we’re big fans of Volkswagen’s latest Golf R.   The high-output 2.0TSI engine, while not exactly a spiritual successor to the R32’s 24 valve VR6, can easily keep drivers entertained with nearly 300hp on tap and a 0-60mph sprint of less than 5 seconds straight off the showroom floor.   As an added bonus, the third-generation EA888 has proven itself to respond extremely well to modification, meaning that firms like APR will be devoting a great deal of time and effort to the platform.

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Recently APR had us down to their Opelika, Alabama headquarters in order to drive a Mk7 Volkswagen Golf R equipped with Stage I software, as well as an APR Intake, APR Boost Tap, vent-mounted APR Boost Gauge, and prototype APR wheels and a 6-piston big brake kit. While the wheels weigh a bit less than the stockers and the intake does add a small amount of power, we can all agree that the key piece to this puzzle is APR’s Stage I software file.

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For about $800 and about an hour of your time, APR claims that their software will add 74 hp and 98 ft-lbs of torque when used with 93 octane fuel. More impressively, the firm measured a new 0-60 time of just 3.8 seconds (nearly a second off the stock time and just as quick as the new ‘vette) and an improvement of nearly ten seconds when going from 0-140mph. But as with each generation of R before it, numbers only tell so much of the story. Sliding behind the wheel is the only way to truly experience it.

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It’s hard to place an exact time on when you first grasp how special this Golf R is with just a simple software upgrade. Perhaps it’s the first time that you observe the boost gauge climb past an indicated 21psi. Or maybe it’s in watching the digital speedometer readout jump by multiples of seven on the way to 60mph, and five until it’s no longer safe to keep tabs. The strength of longitudinal g forces pushing occupants firmly into their seats under hard acceleration would also be an acceptable answer.

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On the street the APR-tuned Golf R retains all the manners of a stock example, happily plodding along with the posted limits in mind. When it’s time to spice things up a bit, depress the right pedal and power will come on strong around 2500rpm, building steadily to just over 5000rpm- just like it does from the factory. Due to this mirrored yet enhanced power curve, keeping the turbo spooled is not entirely necessary, although it is still quite rewarding.

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And it’s not just the OEM-style drivability that will be appealing to many potential customers. APR claims that gains to be had from an aftermarket cat-back exhaust are minimal, meaning that a nearly 400hp Golf that still flies under the radar is entirely possible. We were told that there is room to improve on the stock downpipe, but based on the Stage III GTI we drove with a prototype unit mated to a stock exhaust (more on that later), volume will still be kept to an extremely tolerable level.

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There is still some room for improvement on APR’s Golf R though. Like all Golf Rs and R32s before it, tuned examples could benefit from more aggressive haldex programming. The stock software seems too eager to push a disproportionate amount of this newfound power to the front wheels while neglecting the rears, making the car feel a bit timid on corner exit. Luckily, the aftermarket always seems to come up with a fix, solving one the only faults we have with the car upon release. That said, 99% of the time you'd be hard pressed to find fault with where power is being sent.

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As with all APR Software files, programs are available for 91 octane, 93 octane and 100 octane race fuel. Each program comes with its own power level, with 91 coming in at just 334hp, and 100 octane upping power levels to 360hp. While not available just yet, we’re told that APR is working on a higher output Stage II file as well for those who simply need more. If our time with APR’s Stage I is any indication of things to come, then their upcoming Stage II file should be an absolute riot.

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APR’s Stage I Golf R file can be had for $799 plus installation, and is currently available at APR Dealers around the world.