The Volkswagen Golf R wagon will hit the Australian market as a unique performance proposition for buyers wanting extra cargo capacity with little or no compromise to speed, handling and control.
WHAT IS IT
As the wagon version of the Golf R hatch flagship, the R wagon sits in a space all of its own, undercutting larger and far more expensive premium Euro performance equivalents without cutting corners on the stuff that attracts buyers to exciting cars such as this.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
Though not as pure or involving as the GTI, the Golf R hatch is a compelling grand tourer alternative, adding more performance as well as the surety of AWD in a package that nothing can match for the price. Volkswagen is going one step further with a wagon version, making it an even more unique option for hot hatch-style buyers looking for something different… and practical.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
The Volkswagen Golf R wagon will hold a special place in the local affordable performance market when it lands in October, since no other car comes close to matching it on price, performance, space, features and all-wheel-drive security. The German-built uber-estate isn’t perfect, but it certainly is what its label claims: Piping hot family-friendly fun.
PLUS: Golf wagon practicality meets scorching AWD performance and security
MINUS: No manual option, firm ride, some road noise, weight penalty
THE WHEELS REVIEW
QUIZ time: How many wagons can hit 100km/h in 5.1s or under? Answer: Just seven – Audi’s S4, RS4 and RS6 Avants, the Ferrari FF, HSV Clubsport Tourer, Mercedes CLS500 and Volvo V60 Polestar. Of those, only one – the HSV – is priced at less than $100K.
You can soon make that two. Volkswagen is living up to its People’s Car claim with the first-ever Golf R wagon, out in October for an almost proletarian sub-$60,000 ask.
Basically a 140kg-heavier R hatch with a tail stretched by 332mm and a 4mm wheelbase extension, which also happen to yield between 605 and 1620 litres of useful luggage capacity, the newcomer gains the R-specific alloys, a rear bumper with diffuser, four exhaust pipes, D-pillar ‘aero flaps’ and darker tail-lights.
Not to be confused with the Suzuki Wagon R, the R wagon is nevertheless extremely, ahem, swift, courtesy of a 206kW/380Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder EA888-series direct-injection turbo petrol/six-speed DSG combo that’s speed-limited to 250km/h. In Europe it delivers 221kW, but hot-weather market precautions means ours is dialled back. Pity.
Still, given its head, the R is a beguiling all-weather grand tourer with a thrilling, shrilling edge. Calm and cultured for the comatose commute, the rev-hungry load-lugger roars off the line when prodded, the DSG switching ratios seamlessly, piling on speed with unassuming ease. The exhaust’s cackling off-throttle burps add to the sense of urgency.
Just like the R-badged hatch, all four wheels look after driving duties via a Haldex coupling that dishes almost 100 percent of torque to whichever end (using MacPherson struts up front and a multilink independent out back) needs maximum traction.
Electronic diff locks work in concert with mid-cornering braking tech, via electronic stability control system settings, to quell understeer and improve handling.
Dynamic chassis control (DCC) with five modes – Eco, Comfort, Normal, Race and driver-preferred Individual – will be standard on Australian-delivery Rs. Proving DCC’s worth, the Golf carved through the tight bends on a blast around Spain’s tricky Ascari race track with majestic composure, remaining flat and confident throughout. The progressive-ratio steering is nigh-on perfectly tuned, while the unique high-performance ESC threshold can be extinguished for more lairy shenanigans.
The inevitable, but expected, flipside to all this chassis enhancement is increased tyre drone and a punishing ride in all modes apart from the acceptably firm Comfort setting.
Considering you’ll need to spend another $45K to gain matching AWD performance via Sweden’s underrated V60 Polestar, the Golf R wagon is a seriously scintillating alternative. We’d even prefer it over some of those sub-5.1s super wagons.
Model: Volkswagen Golf R wagon
Engine: 1984cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v turbo
Max power: 206kW @ 5100-6500rpm
Max torque: 380Nm @ 1800-5100rpm
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch
Fuel economy: 7.0L/100km
Price: $58,000 (approx)
On sale: October