The MK7 Golf R is VW’s best-performing out of the box hot hatchback solution. It draws enthusiasts to its 292hp turbocharged version of the MQB Gen3 engine, all-wheel-drive system, available manual transmission, and practical 5-door hatchback layout. While it is still new, the MK7 R has not posed too many reliability concerns in the first few years of time on the road, but a quick forum search or conversation with an expert shows there are a few drawbacks so far. We dug through forum posts, spoke with our in-house MK7 R expert, and came up with a solid list of problems the MK7 R can experience. If you’re in the market for a second-hand MK7 R, here are a few things to expect.
Just like the Gen1 TSI, the water pump modules on the Gen3 found under the hood of the MK7 R is a known issue. They tend to fail early and fail often. The water pump can be a source of coolant leaks, which is an indicator that it has failed or is about to. Naturally, you don’t want to find coolant leaking from your MK7. If you don’t know when your MK7 R last had its water pump replaced, that should be first on your list. Our Thermostat and Water Pump Replacement kit is just what you need.
The DSG transmission is rather stout, but in the MK7 R, early models tended to leave the factory floor with a DSG gearbox holding less fluid than it should. These have mostly been fixed, but you should check the DSG fluid level of any MK7 R you’re interested in purchasing. If you’re worried, we have DSG service kits available to help you make everything better than new.
Rear Main Seal
The rear main seal, which is not a fun replacement, tends to fail early and leak oil. A telltale sign of the RMS failing is a mysterious dribble of oil under your MK7 after parking it overnight. Even replacing the RMS with an OEM unit won’t be the end of your woes, as that could fail quickly, too. iAbed offers an upgraded RMS unit that we highly suggest you choose when your RMS decides to stop holding oil in the engine.
Though largely fixed, early models of the MK7 R suffered from a PCV issue. If you notice a vacuum leak, then your first guess should be the PCV. There are revised PCV units that are supposed to fix the issue, but there are several iterations, so this might be a persistent failure until a final fix is found.
Whether you’re stock or modified, the IS38 turbocharger featured on the MK7 R’s MQB Gen3 engine tends to fail early. Mostly, this issue affects the 2015/2016 models when they are tuned to run more boost, but it has and can happen at stock power levels. If you are considering a 2015/16 MK7 R, you might want to check if the turbocharger has been replaced or if the car has been driving around on a Stage 2 software upgrade. If so, you’ll likely have to replace the turbocharger at some point. Fortunately, this is not exactly a difficult replacement and we offer IS38 turbo options that are designed for more intense driving.
Stage 3 Big Turbo Upgrades
For those of you who want to upgrade your MK7 R with a bigger turbo, be warned: the stock bottom end doesn’t like to sustain high boost and big turbo power for long. They are upgraded over the GTI bottom end, but they aren’t designed to handle big turbo builds. You should cap your build below Stage 3 unless you’re prepared to upgrade the bottom end.
According to some owners, the MK7 R Navigation Unit and infotainment system can be a tad buggy. Owners report that the screen can sometimes freeze, fail to initialize, or even lose a few pixels. While most of this is intermittent and hard to repeat, some have had their infotainment systems replaced by the dealership. The MK7 R infotainment and nav setup is not what we would call ‘advanced’ in terms of some of the high-dollar options on the market, but it isn’t just some basic radio, either. If you’re buying a MK7 R, the integrated infotainment system is surely something you expect to work properly. Fortunately, as these cars are largely still under warranty, the issues with the NAV/Infotainment systems should all be handled by a dealership. If your particular example is out of warranty now, there are some aftermarket solutions you may want to explore, like Android head units.
Similar to the NAV issues, some owners have stated that they experienced one-off or intermittent issues with the backup camera failing to initialize. The backup cam is located in the VW emblem on the trunk and will flip out when you put the car in reverse. While we haven’t found that the actuation of the backup camera itself is to blame, we have found instances where the infotainment screen didn’t relay the camera’s picture at all, or took some time to load up the image. This seems to be an intermittent issue and one that would likely require a dealership to replicate.
Squeaks n Rattles
Like any new car, many of the interior materials leave something to be desired. VW does a fantastic job making the cabin of all their models a comfortable, quiet, and surprisingly luxurious place to be, but they aren’t without their natural rattles after some time on the road. As these cars age, interior trim pieces can come loose. That causes them to rub against each other when they move as the car drives, which produces some squeaks, rattles, and interior noise. Simply locating the source of the noise, throwing in something to damper it, and moving on with your life seems to be the fix either dealerships or owners have landed on, so that’s what we’d recommend, too. The most specific complaint we found was the passenger seat belt rattling against the B-pillar. This was also fixed with a damper of some sort, though no pictures were provided. All in, we wouldn’t worry about it. Cars make noise. It’s fine.
More important to interior comfort is a set of working window seals. These prevent wind noise and water from entering the cabin while you drive your MK7 R and should be in good condition to function. We found a number of instances where one or more of the seals unseated themselves, which let in wind noise and possibly water. It’s always a good idea to check the condition of door and window seals upon the initial inspection of potential cars, but they aren’t terribly hard to replace. Though, it should be said, as cars age, the amount of road, wind, and exterior noise they let in will likely increase as those seals shrink or are replaced. It’s just inevitable.
Overall, the MK7 R has proven reliable. If the HALDEX AWD system is serviced on time, oil changes happen at the manufacturer’s specified intervals (and with quality oil like LIQUI MOLY), and brake services happen when they need to, your MK7 R should be in good overall mechanical condition. They are stout little hot-hatchbacks with tons of potential, especially if you want to make some performance upgrades. The biggest things to look out for in a MK7 R will be the physical condition of the car, tire tread, maintenance history, and maybe infotainment gremlins. Other than those normal concerns, the MK7 R seems to be a quality car with no telltale Achilles’ Heel as some other European performance cars have suffered.