There’s something inherently right about a 2.0-litre petrol turbo driving all four corners, and the Golf R wagon Wolfsburg Edition finesses the formula better than most.
WHAT IS IT?
A well-equipped wagon version of the multitalented Volkswagen Golf R, for those who don’t pack light and need an all-weather heavy hitter.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
We’ve previously sampled the Golf R wagon at its international launch. Now we get to drive the full-fruit version that Volkswagen Australia hopes will separate us from $59 grand of hard-earned.
Audi S4 Avant, Mercedes-Benz CLA 45 AMG Shooting Brake, Skoda Octavia RS wagon
THE WHEELS VERDICT
The extravagantly talented Golf R wagon Wolfsburg Edition could easily carry an $80,000 sticker price if it wore Audi rings. So at less than $60k with no real need to add options, this 206kW light load lugger emphatically delivers. Capability, desirability, and charisma? Yep, yep and yep.
PLUS: Soundtrack, composure, torque, build quality
MINUS: DSG software calibration, we don't get as much power as the Euros
THE WHEELS REVIEW
IT'S the sound. That ought to be your key reason for buying the Volkswagen Golf R estate. Unlike its five-door hatch sibling, the wagon brings the bass. The extra space at the back of the car acts like a huge bass bin, amping up the woofles and booms on downshifts so that they resonate through your diaphragm. Which is all the excuse you need, really.
Naturally, Volkswagen will attempt to sell you the benefits of the wagon's 605 litres of luggage space with the seats in place and 1620 with them folded, but that's the secondary attraction here. Enthusiasts will enjoy the added emotional capital that's built into the Golf R wagon. Its 74kg weight penalty tacks two tenths to the sprint through 100km/h, but 5.2 seconds isn't exactly the response of a darted sloth.
A beefy six-speed wet-clutch DSG gearbox is the only transmission option, but even with the drive mode selector in Race mode, the software often selects a gear too high while braking into corners, then raucously snatches a lower gear just as you balance the car on turn in. Better to take control yourself, snicking up and down the box manually with the world's most discreet pair of paddle shifters – an almost apologetic looking set of wheel-mounted plastic ears.
The progressive steering system is one of the more natural-feeling examples of its ilk, but a little more heft when it's loaded up mid-corner wouldn't go amiss. The ride, however, is perfectly judged: firm enough to instil confidence yet never lapsing into harshness. The body control of a tectonic plate allows you to dial up the pace without terrifying your passengers.
The Golf R wagon is being offered here solely in unashamedly high-end Wolfsburg Edition guise, which brings with it a higher grade of Nappa leather, black 19-inch wheels, black mirror cappings and roof rails, adaptive cruise, blind spot monitoring, city emergency braking, and a Wolfsburg crest badge on the tailgate. That's on top of gear like App Connect, a touch screen interface that includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink to unlock the functionality of your smartphone. The wagon carries a $2,000 premium over the hatch, but $58,990 doesn't seem an unreasonable ask for a 206kW all-wheel drive performance wagon. The only option is an $1850 panoramic glass sunroof.
Building the perfect one-size-fits-all car is an exercise in the elegant management of compromise. The Volkswagen Golf R wagon comes as close as anything to answering that virtually impossible brief, ceding ground in some areas for the sake of liveability while still retaining genuine bite and edge should you go looking for it. There may be tough times ahead for Volkswagen, but if the product stands up, customers will keep the faith. The Golf R wagon does, and then some.
Model: Volkswagen Golf R wagon Wolfsburg Edition
Engine: 1984cc, 4cyl turbo, dohc 16v
Max power: 206kW @ 5100rpm
Max torque: 380Nm @ 1800-5100rpm
Transmission: 6-speed dual clutch
On sale: Now
Click here to read the full range review of the Volkswagen Golf