Self-reflection is an important part of being human. Mulling over decisions made, we ponder over past actions to see if we are truly happy or can improve our ways. And it is a process that 2018 Volkswagen Golf R Wolfsburg Wagon buyers may partake in.
This limited-edition Golf is the crème de la crème of the Volkswagen small car range, costing $60K plus on-road costs. For families that buys a flagship mainstream medium SUV, or an entry-level premium medium SUV. It can buy a Kia Stinger GT twin-turbo V6, or for much less, a Holden Commodore RS-V Sportwagon.
What it doesn’t buy, however, is any other pumped-up small wagon that starts life as a sub-$30K model grade, as this Golf wagon does. Yes, out on its own little island among more popular rivals, some bold, brutal self-reflection may be required here.
Conversely, however, every human being wants to grow in confidence and find out who they really are. Let’s quit the philosophy right now, but maybe, just maybe, a Golf R Wolfsburg Wagon buyer could be smart and smug about this unique buy.
Vehicle Style: Sports wagon
Price: $59,990 (plus on-road costs)
Engine/trans: 213kW/380Nm 2.0 four-cylinder turbo petrol | seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Fuel Economy Claimed: 7.3 l/100km | Tested: 10.9 l/100km
Available with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission only, the $51,990 plus on-road costs Golf R Grid Edition Wagon sits $2500 above its hatchback sibling, near-doubling its 343-litre boot volume to 605 litres of luggage-swallowing room.
In the middle of the range is the Golf R Wagon at $57,990 (plus orc). For $6000 more than the Grid Edition, the standard R adds leather seat trim with heated front seats, an electrically adjustable driver’s seat, and a larger centre screen and driver display.
And finally, this 300-unit Golf R Wolfsburg Wagon costs $59,990 (plus orc). Making that final $2500 leap buys unique 19-inch alloy wheels and carbonfibre mirror caps, plus features that are usually on the R options list.
These include both a premium Dynaudio sound system (normally $1000 extra) and a Driver Assistance Package (usually another $1300) incorporating adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot monitor, lane-keep assistance, auto up/down high-beam and swivelling LED headlights.
- Standard Equipment: Multi-function trip computer, dual-zone climate control, power windows and mirrors, adaptive cruise control, leather seats and trim, heated front seats, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, auto up/down high-beam, and on/off headlights and wipers.
- Infotainment: 12.3-inch colour driver display and 9.2in touchscreen with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, single USB and twin-SD card inputs, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring, gesture control, voice control, 10Gb music storage, satellite navigation and eight speakers.
- Options Fitted: None.
- Cargo Volume: 605 litres.
It may seem as though the Golf R Wolfsburg – the name denoting Volkswagen’s German home town – is loaded with equipment, and to a certain degree it is. But especially for the pricetag, and given its compact dimensions, there are omissions.
An electric sunroof, for example, remains a $1900 option. There’s no automatic reverse-park assistance on any R despite being available on other Golfs, while a 360-degree camera is also absent (only rear-view is standard). Even an electric tailgate and electrically adjustable passenger’s seat are missing, let alone a head-up display or ventilated front seats, a digital radio or wireless smartphone charging.
It should be noted that every single one of the above omissions are featured on the identically priced Kia Stinger GT, which may not be a direct competitor but is especially a value benchmark given its larger interior (if not boot) size and virtually identical performance (if not with all-wheel drive).
Viewed another way, though, you could save $10,900 and buy a Mazda CX-5 Akera diesel with all of this Golf R Wolfsburg Wagon’s kit plus a 360-deg cam, digital radio, head-up display, sunroof, electric tailgate and electrically adjustable passenger seat.
Thankfully, however, all is not lost. With the standard Golf’s high-quality soft-touch plastics complemented by supple Nappa leather (although the carbon inserts are naff), superb bucket seats, an ideal driving position, a lovely thin-rimmed steering wheel and blue mood lighting, the R Wolfsburg feels like a semi-premium offering.
Only some scratchy lower plastics and the single USB port (buried in the dashboard) betray this design’s five-year vintage. The high-resolution touchscreen – with easy swipe-and-pinch navigation, swipe-and-click menus, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring – also outguns the lower resolution driver display.
Further rearward and the Golf Wagon cannot escape its size deficit compared with rivals. The bench itself is deep and supportive, and there are rear air vents, but there’s also less legroom than Stinger GT, CX-5 Akera, and the like. If your offspring are very young, however, then there is enough room to keep ‘em separated.
But if the kids aren’t alright – every parent who grew up in the 1990s should be down with these references – then at least prams, luggage and shopping will be. The Golf Wagon’s boot is among the largest of any price rival, being bigger than that in a Stinger and CX-5, if not others such as a Commodore Sportwagon.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 213kW/380Nm 2.0 4cyl turbo petrol
- Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, AWD
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front and independent rear
- Brake: Ventilated front and rear disc brakes
- Steering: Electrically assisted mechanical steering
Is that Golf R Wolfsburg Wagon or wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing wagon? From the impressive grip of its 19-inch tyres, to the traction of all-wheel drive, the broad three-mode adaptive suspension plus turbocharged torque, it ticks every box on paper.
Yet this Volkswagen also executes each one of those on-paper virtues with on-road aplomb … and in the process it executes most family cars for driver appeal.
The Wagon weighs 70kg more than the hatchback, with a tare weight of 1520kg, yet it remains demonstrably slimmer than any other medium SUV or large liftback.
That enables the 2.0-litre turbo and seven-speed dual-clutch auto – dubbed Direct Shift Gearbox, or DSG – to do their best with the 213kW of power at 6500rpm and 380Nm of torque from just 1850rpm until 5300rpm. The claimed 5.0-second 0-100km/h may be two-tenths off the hatch, but it’s bang-on the Stinger GT, which wastes away its 272kW/510Nm in excess weight (and fuel).
The fact is that this R does more – or at least as much as others – with less, and that’s how it feels in other ways as well.
In its standard Normal mode the suspension strikes a terrific balance between comfort and control, with the alternate Comfort being too flabby and Race being very firm. The latter does improve wheel control, however, pulling the 19-inch wheels tighter into the vehicle and not allowing them to drop and clunk into potholes.
Thankfully there is an Individual mode that allows a driver to set the suspension to Normal, and the steering to Comfort, which all but entirely erases the slight muddy resistance through the driver’s hands that becomes increasingly present in sportier modes. The steering is quick and accurate, but hardly the last word in creaminess.
What did become creamier with this press car, which had 4200km showing on-test, is its DSG. Having tested a Golf GTI Edition 1 with this new seven-speed only months earlier, which had only 1200km on the clock, this Wolfsburg displayed slick-shifting and smartly intuitive characteristics clumsily absent from that fresher hatch.
Maybe the extra power of the R helps, but either way the performance is strong and there’s even a bit of extra rasp from the exhaust feeding in through the unladen, open rear compartment area of the Wagon compared with the hatch.
Similarly, the bigger booty seems to feed in extra dynamic involvement, given its propensity to shift its back-end subtly while the suspension still keeps superb control of the body in Race mode. All-wheel drive and a fantastic Sport electronic stability control (ESC) then enables the driver to simply mash the throttle out of corners.
It is huge, yet hugely sophisticated, fun.
ANCAP rating: 5-Stars – the Volkswagen Golf scored 35.92 out of 37 possible points when tested by ANCAP in 2013.
Safety Features: Dual front, front-side, full-length curtain and driver’s knee airbags, ABS and ESC, front and rear parking sensors, rear-view camera, forward collision alert with autonomous emergency braking (AEB), blind-spot monitor, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and lane-keep assistance.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Three years/unlimited kilometres.
Servicing: Annual or 15,000km servicing comes at an above-average capped-price cost of $377/$572/$624/$804/$377 for the first five scheduled checks respectively.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
Beyond the aforementioned Stinger GT and CX-5 Akera, a new Commodore RS-V Sportwagon is $10K cheaper and roomier, but slower and far less finessed. The same could be said for the Octavia RS245, though it more closely matches this R for much less – and with a much narrower, front-wheel drive dynamic envelope, for sure.
The Levorg STI Sport is old inside and a dynamic dud, frankly, while the Volkswagen’s Passat 206TSI sibling is similarly priced and roomier, but far less light on its feet and dynamically involving.
- Holden Commodore RS-V Sportwagon
- Skoda Octavia RS245 Wagon
- Subaru Levorg STI Sport
- Volkswagen Passat 206TSI R-Line Wagon
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Had this test featured a Golf R Grid Edition Wagon then another half-star could be added to the score here. Meanwhile this Golf R Wolfsburg Wagon is expensive but still compelling.
While the interior starts to lose its sheen and space advantage at lofty $60K heights, the R Wagon’s combination of enormous boot space and esteemed performance and dynamics hands it a unique set of virtues that virtually nothing else can match.
Even Volkswagen’s own Passat 206TSI seems dull to drive after experiencing this model, while any medium SUV or performance liftback feels bulky.
If your brood is big, then perhaps look at other options. But if small kids and prams are part of the deal, then rest assured – only positive reinforcement, and not pause and self-reflection, should come from a family car decision this decidedly unique.
- Interested in buying Volkswagen Golf? Visit our Volkswagen showroom for more information.