At first glance, you probably wouldn’t give it a second look – just another one of those ubiquitous VW Golfs – only even more boring in wagon guise with a fridge-white paintjob.
But, on closer study, you’ll soon realise the chassis has been lowered, while out back, the can-size quad-pipes hint at something a bit special. This, folks, is the Volkswagen Golf R Wagon Wolfsburg Edition – and, it’s definitely not boring.
In fact, it could well be the best value and most practical high-performance wagon on the planet today, not that your neighbour would ever know it. For the Golf R, especially in wagon form, is the quintessential sleeper. That is to say, punters won’t have a clue what lurks under the bonnet, or the kind of neck-snapping performance it’s truly capable of.
Now, while the Wolfsburg ‘thing’ might sound more sinister than the regular Golf R moniker – like next-level-tuning-kind-of-thing – it’s not. Like all Golf R models, it gets the uprated 2.0-litre turbo-four petrol with 213kW of power and 380Nm of torque, which is sent to all four wheels via Volkswagen’s 4MOTION all-wheel drive, through the latest seven-speed high-torque gearbox with paddle-shifters.
There’s no manual ’box, it’s DSG only for the Wolfsburg Editions. Call that the price of exclusivity – only 300 of each body style (hatch and wagon) will be imported to Australia.
But, mainly, your extra 2500 bucks over and above the regular Golf R wagon adds a few cosmetic treats like carbon mirror caps and some extra bits and bobs including the all-important Wolfsburg badge itself and some finer-looking 19-inch ‘Pretoria’ wheels.
You’ll also find a few more goodies in the cabin, like the tasty ‘Carbon’ Nappa leather-appointed upholstery, a quality eight-speaker 400W Dynaudio sound system, as well as VW’s ‘Driver Assistance’ package that bundles adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assistant, rear traffic alert and high-beam assist.
I suppose, it’s not a lot more coin in the scheme of things, because if you were to add up the individual prices for the all the extra kit, it would surely amount to more than the Wolfsburg’s asking price of $59,990 ($57990 for the hatch).
It might be a sleeper on the outside, but the moment you climb aboard a Golf R and drop into some of the best bolstered (and most comfortable) sports seats in the business, you’ll realise this is a wagon with more serious intentions. There are deeper bolstered pews (like the Ford Focus RS and Honda Civic Type-R) but neither are as comfortable or as easy to live with on a daily basis, as those in the Golf.
You sit deep into the car, and while I’m not big into flat-bottom steering wheels, this version seems to work. The twin-stitched leather wrap is tactile, and the rim feels good to the touch.
There’s still a lot of grey in the cockpit, despite the various metallic accents and piano black trim bits, but we like the super-size digital instrument display with 1440 x 540 pixels and a bunch of different display modes to toggle through.
There’s also a 9.2-inch swipe-able centre-screen (it’s got gesture control, too, but I can never get it to work, at least, consistently) – it’s a high-res unit with strong colour and very intuitive and easy to use. You get the feeling that Volkswagen has future-proofed the car, at least for a few years, but get your screen-cleaning ready, because the surface is like your smartphone in that regard.
There’s also a vast array of standard kit on board including heated front seats (though odd that the passenger seat is manually adjustable), LED headlamps for low and high beam with dynamic cornering lights, auto lights and wipers, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, proximity key and push-button start, and front and rear parking sensors with rear-view camera. And that’s not the half of it.
But where the value-for-money equation really stacks up with the Golf R Wagon, is the backend of the car – namely, boot space. Fold the rear seats, and you’ll open up more room than many mid-size SUVs (1620 litres). But even with the second row in place, you still have enough room to cart large boxes and other bulky goods.
That’s all good, but it’s probably not the number one reason you’re looking to stump up nearly 60 grand for a Golf R Wagon in Wolfsburg guise. That decision is more likely based on the sheer speed you can carry through corners (rain, hail or shine) and how easily you can dust off pretty-much anything in the hot-hatch class bar the ballistic Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG – but that’s nearly $20K more.
And, quick it is. The Golf R hatch can crush the 0-100km/h sprint in just 4.8 seconds, while the wagon gives up two-tenths for a 5.0 second-flat run. Put that down to the extra 70kg it’s hauling around, because the drivetrain is exactly the same.
Not sure why anyone would bother with Eco mode, which lowers the car’s pulse rate, dramatically, by dialling back the engine response, softening the dampers and cutting the exhaust noise – everything that’s enjoyable about this car.
Thankfully, there’s a few other settings available, like Comfort, Normal and Race mode – more than usable on the street, and especially fun when you’re banging through the gears using the steering wheel-mounted paddles.
Sure, the ride becomes noticeably firmer the moment you tap the button on the centre console, but never enough to impede daily ride comfort in any way, shape or form. That’s the thing with these performance Golf versions (or any Golf for that matter), the ride/handling balance is just about perfect for a car that’s going to spend 99.9 per cent of its life on the street.
But, for the daily commute, Comfort provides the softest damper settings and a level of ride comfort unparalleled in this class. Crater-size potholes and sharp-edges are utterly anesthetised and the car holds its intended line, even over mid-corner bumps. It’s incredibly reassuring. If ever there was performance car for idiots, this is it. It’s all so easy and uncomplicated – and always rewarding.
Even the steering has real feedback. It’s an electro-mechanical steering system that’s both quick, accurate and meaty, but not too manic like some. On-centre weighting is perfect too, which makes high-speed travel on freeways a breeze. In some ways, it’s also the perfect family express. A fast performance car with loads of space and comfort for long-haul trips.
And, don’t think for one moment, that choosing the wagon will somehow leave you short when it comes to dynamics. It doesn’t drive that way. In fact, you’ll soon forget you’re driving an entirely practical wagon – even when you’re having a good crack. It’s a very well-sorted chassis underneath its unassuming body.
S-bends and fast-flowing sweepers are to be savoured in the Golf R Wagon. There’s some initial lean on turn-in, but its minimal and feels right, as the car settles, and then, you’re encouraged to drill it on exit, such is the prodigious level grip available at all four corners.
Despite the acceleration claims, power actually feels slightly retarded from the outset, at least, if left to its own devices in auto, as the transmission likes to kick off in second, swapping an aggressive launch for a more measured and smoother getaway. Switching to manual, allows you to start in first and then a short shift to second for properly quick getaways at the lights.
Not sure about the noise though. There's plenty of it, mind, but that engine note seems to have more in common with a WRX than any other hot hatch. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind it, but it needs a more unique character.
More fun, though, can be had in the mid-range, where the torque curve is most exploitable. This is when the Golf R feels properly fast. It’s good to know you’ve got all 380Nm on tap from 1850 through 5300rpm, so, you’ll run out of road long before this thing runs out of steam.
Best of all, there’s nothing to fear – you can keep on attacking, corner after corner, and there are no nasty surprises, just more fun to be had. Everything works in perfect harmony. No one area shines over another, just good wholesome balance is what make this Golf R Wagon Wolfsburg Edition one of the most accomplished performance cars and such a great daily.
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