The skinny: Volkswagen’s Golf R Wagon is available in just one configuration - the ‘unique to Australia’ Wolfsburg Edition, and with only one option available, an $1850 panoramic sunroof.
It also comes with only one engine and transmission configuration – a full-house 2.0 litre turbo petrol producing 206kW and a thumping, humping 380Nm of torque, mated to a six-speed twin-clutch automatic .
It tickles the till at $58,990, mid-sixties by the time you get it on road, but, with premium features throughout, it feels every inch the $60k performance car.
And performance, loads of it, waiting to be unleashed, is what this wagon is all about.
Vehicle Style: Small performance wagon
Price: $58,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 206kW/380Nm 2.0 4cyl TSI turbo petrol | 6sp DSG sports automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 7.2 l/100km | tested: 12.1 l/100km
Volkswagen is not enjoying itself right now. In fact, things could barely be worse - what a bunch of fools.
But, with this review, we’re not here to judge the integrity of the company and the astonishing betrayal of the trust of its customers (and the trust of its franchised dealers) with this diesel emissions scandal.
At this moment, we’re here to judge the integrity, capability, and relative value of just one of its products - the Golf R Wagon.
And this, Volkswagen’s Golf R Wagon, is one hell of a car.
It looks sensational, it goes like a scalded cat, it is beautifully trimmed and finished, and it sounds like heaven.
At $58,990 for the ‘Wolfsburg Edition’, it’s not cheap. But, for performance and features, neither is it expensive.
We put Volkswagen’s new wild-child on a rapid looping run through the ACT, then up to Wakefield Park Raceway to sort out its performance credentials.
Key interior features:
- Nappa leather-appointed sports seats and upholstery
- Heated front seats
- Bluetooth phone connectivity and audio streaming
- 6.5-inch colour touch-screen
- Satellite navigation with 2D and 3D (bird’s-eye) map views,
- App-Connect interface, Apple CarPlay, Android Audio and MirrorLink
- Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
Well, yes, sounding a bit like a cracked record, but a classy interior inside this Wagon R. It’s beautifully styled, comfortable, very nice to be in, and with an unmistakeable air of quality everywhere you look.
The textured soft-touch surfaces, piano-black centre-stack, brushed metal and chrome highlights – and the tight fit and perfect alignment of the component parts – all add to that impression of quality.
So too the deep, comfortable, monogrammed bucket seats with slate-grey inserts and fine-grained Nappa leather bolsters (and elsewhere in the cabin).
If you were never to turn a wheel in anger, nor ever discover the performance capability nestled seductively under the toe, you would still not feel short-changed for quality nor the higher-end features inside these doors.
The Golf R Wagon looks, and “is”, premium transport.
In typical German fashion, there is a machined look to the gear-shift and switchgear and a practical, Teutonic understatement of style to the way it all comes together.
The touchscreen – organised into selectable functions and menus – and with a fuzzy-logic ‘proximity’ operation, is delightfully easy to use, the navigation likewise.
And, being a wagon, interior accommodation is generous.
It will carry five in comfort, there is ample leg and headroom in the back, and a storage capacity of 605 litres in that wagon back (and a luggage partition net and cargo cover to keep things out of sight).
If opening up the back (for the trip to Ikea), the rear seats can be folded (60/40) via a remote latch in the pillars, offering 1620 litres and a 1.8m flat load area up to the backs of the front seats.
Adding to the practicality are load restraint hooks, shopping bag hooks and a 12V socket.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine/transmission: 2.0 litre TSI dual-injection turbo petrol/6-spd DSG twin-clutch automatic
- Power/torque: [email protected] / [email protected]
- 4Motion AWD (with Haldex 5 coupling)
- Adaptive chassis control and driver profile selection
- Wheels and tyres: 19-inch ‘Pretoria’ black alloys, Continental tyres
Straight off the bat, the Golf R Wagon handles better than the R Hatch. By “better”, we don’t mean better on the racetrack – there, the Hatch takes the cigar.
By “better”, we mean more settled, more liveable day-to-day, and a tad less fierce and uncompromising on the road.
Which is where most Golf R Wagons will spend most of their time.
But it is nonetheless ‘fierce and uncompromising enough’. That wagon back, and with all the additional versatility and capability it allows, adds just 74kg to the R Wagon’s weight.
And if firing off the line in Race mode, it will bolt to 100km/h in just 5.2 seconds; a mere 0.2 seconds shy of the lighter, shorter Golf R Hatch.
So you pay little penalty in those raw figures.
Where the Wagon benefits on road is in having that extra weight over the rear wheels. It ‘quietens’ things down there. It is not quite the nervous ferret over ripples and undulations in the road surface, which adds a little more civility to the drive.
Like the Golf R Hatch, there are various ‘driver selection profiles’ you can choose, from ‘Eco’ (which no-one will use), to ‘Normal’, then ‘Individual’ (which allows a mix-‘n-match), and ‘Race’ – which is mental, but not entirely certifiable.
On road, we chose ‘Individual’ with everything set to Normal, except steering response – it’s better in the sharper setting.
‘Race’ is fun on road, but in short bursts. It holds the revs right where things are most alert – and will absolutely howl around slower moving traffic when overtaking.
Even when on a flat freeway at a steady 100km/h, Race mode will hold the transmission in 4th gear and revs at 4000rpm, just waiting for the signal to bolt. It is also a lot firmer down below in this setting and there is quite a lot of road-roar from the 19-inch black alloys and Continental tyres.
You’d go nuts driving between Melbourne and Sydney in ‘Race’ (and the fuel bill – premium unleaded – would be astronomical).
But fun it is. And that “civility” we mentioned disappears the moment you floor the accelerator.
Gear changes in full Race mode, are accompanied by a whip-crack followed by a rapid clacking fart. It’s not as bonkers as the A45 AMG, but sounds great inside and even better outside.
And it goes like hell. Throttle response is electric, and the gear-shifts whether operated manually via the shift-paddles at the wheel, or left in auto, are completely without hesitation. (The paddles though are too small and you can ‘lose’ them when things get hectic.)
Strangely enough, on the racetrack at Wakefield Park, that ‘Race’ mode doesn’t seem nearly as mental, nor as uncompromising. (Unlike, for instance, the A45 AMG. That car becomes a totally mad ant on the track.)
The Golf R Wagon is certainly quick, and certainly beautifully balanced… but “for a wagon”.
That extra weight over the back that settles it on-road, unsettles it on the track. It’s not bad, and we’re talking the smallest margins, but you can feel it.
At Wakefield park, the kink into the braking area on the end of the main straight has the rear of the R Wagon shifting and squirming, right where you’d want it to settle for the apex.
And the rising sweeper after the tight left-hander lets you know that you’re carrying a pack – the Wagon pushes a little wider and won’t change direction with quite the razor precision of the Golf R Hatch.
But this is being terribly picky. The R Wagon’s 4Motion AWD grip and handling is, in isolation, simply sensational.
That a wagon can perform as this one does, and yet also seat five in comfort, carry all their clobber, and run as hard and with such electric sporting verve – well, it is something special.
On a last note: you won’t get anywhere near the claimed fuel consumption.
You can nurse the R Wagon along, as we did for a while, and it will begin to drop, but give it just one quick stamp, and it gargles like a drunkard, rapidly pushing the average north of 15.0 l/100km (or double the claimed consumption).
ANCAP rating: (not yet tested)
Safety features: The wagon R comes fully equipped with a premium safety feature list including multi-collision brake system, driver fatigue detection system, parking distance sensors, rear-view camera, stability control, driver and passenger front and side airbags including curtain (front and rear), driver’s knee airbags, safety-optimised head restraints (front and back) and three-point seat belts.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
There are a few you might look at. Holden’s SS Sportwagon is a heck of a lot cheaper at $47,690, and goes like firestorm. If you are able to stretch the budget – a long, long way – there’s Audi’s S4 Avant at $123,400.
Perhaps the ‘bargain buy’ can be found over at Renault, if there are any left of the original allocation. Its Megane GT 220 SportWagon offers 162kW and goes nicely hard (but without AWD grip), and costs a mere $41,990 (Premium Pack).
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Whatever the future holds for Volkswagen corporate, it won’t affect the security of buying a Volkswagen car, nor of the service and attention of the dealer sector, nor of the retained value in the purchase.
There will be blood on the Boardroom floor, sure as eggs, and years of litigation ahead. And immense fines for the company.
But that won’t affect you and me, other than adding a bit of sporting interest to the ‘business pages’.
If you’ve read this, and the Golf R Wagon sounds like the car for you, you can buy it with absolute peace of mind.
It is one hell of a performance car. Beautiful to look at, rabidly fast, and beautifully finished inside.
There are a few compromises however that sit it ‘between stools’; it is not as track-ready as the Golf R Hatch, and rides a bit better, but remains perhaps a bit too focussed to not become a chore on-road.