FUN FOR LONGER: Quite brilliant Golf R engine and chassis now with extra wagon room. A superb plaything for road and track for under $60k.
FUN FOR LONGER: Quite brilliant Golf R engine and chassis now with extra wagon room. A superb plaything for road and track for under $60k. Mark Bramley

VW Golf R Wagon Wolfsburg Edition review

SO you've probably heard Volkswagen has been a bit naughty.

Clever emissions test dodging, dirty diesels, a share price plunge and the top brass offering grovelling apologies then resigning. Ouch.

But let's put aside VW's misdemeanours and the ramifications for now and focus on a positive. A rather sublime positive actually, as the Golf R Wagon has landed in Australia, making its case as the ultimate performance family car still within the realms of affordability.

The R Wagon is basically a long-tailed version of the brilliant Golf R hatch, meaning 206kW and 380Nm of turbocharged delight, all-wheel-drive, a 0-100kmh time at a whisker over 5 seconds and a mighty 605-litres of boot space (25-litres more than VW's giant Touareg SUV).

It costs just $2000 over the equivalent spec Golf R hatch, and knowing we Aussies love limited edition performance cars, our market's version is called the Wolfsburg Edition - not available anywhere else - bringing exclusive kit and high specification for your $59k.

And it's a belter. Brilliant, usable performance; a chassis that is unflappable in nearly every condition; purposeful yet classy styling and space for the whole family.

VW Golf R Wagon Wolfsburg Edition. Photo: Contributed
VW Golf R Wagon Wolfsburg Edition. Photo: Contributed Mark Bramley

Comfort

Exclusive to these Wolfsburg Editions (we'll call them Wolfies) are sports seats with Nappa leather and cool carbon fibre effect inserts. Seats are hugging, firm and comfy enough, and kept bums in place during a track fling around Wakefield Park.

Despite the Wolfie's high-spec nature front seats are only manually adjustable, but are heated. It's still reassuringly Golf inside - well laid out and soft touch throughout - but aluminium pedals, flat-bottomed steering wheel, R badging and blue ambient lighting add sporting feel.

On the road (and track)

The Golf R hatch has been winning car comparison tests with monotonous regularity; such is the love of its prodigious talents from journos and public alike. The wagon loses nothing with its big bum.

Superbly planted through the turns, brilliantly responsive steering feedback and with its Haldex all-wheel drive underpinnings, so easy to make its driver look good with a very forgiving nature. Carrying frightening speed through the turns at Wakefield, the R Wagon rarely broke traction, even when hammering it into the tighter corners. It's the sort of car that seems to get better - revealing more of its talents - the harder it's pushed.

VW Golf R Wagon Wolfsburg Edition. Photo: Contributed
VW Golf R Wagon Wolfsburg Edition. Photo: Contributed Mark Bramley

And while power delivery isn't split-second instant, once the six-speed DSG helps the 2.0-litre turbo find the sweet spot acceleration is mighty, but never crudely pin-to-the-seat stuff.

The R Wagon makes it all look so easy, meaning the extra involvement of stirring a manual gearbox would have been perfect, but sadly, three pedals is an option only for the Golf R hatchback.

Our track test was with Race mode selected, but with Comfort or Normal on the dial, everyday road driving was never a chore. Throttle response, damping rates and steering control are all softened, and while ride is a tad crashier than your standard Golf, it is never uncomfortably so.

What do you get?

The Wolfie edition's distinguishing features include black 19-inch "Pretoria" alloys, gloss black mirror covers and roof rails, adaptive cruise, front assist with city emergency brake and blind spot monitor.

This is on top of 20mm lowered sport suspension, keyless access and entry, parking sensors, rear camera, dual zone climate and navigation. And like all new VW passenger cars, it features App-Connect interface with Apple CarPlay, Android Audio and MirrorLink through a 6.5-inch touch screen, which is superbly user-friendly.

SIMPLE STYLE: R Wagon's cabin is a dark one and well set up for play. Supportive bucket seats, flat-bottomed steering wheel and aluminium pedals. Manual gear box not possible though
SIMPLE STYLE: R Wagon's cabin is a dark one and well set up for play. Supportive bucket seats, flat-bottomed steering wheel and aluminium pedals. Manual gear box not possible though Mark Bean

Practicality

The R Wagon Wolfie shames many mid-size SUVs with 605-litres in the boot and 1620-litres with the 40/60 split rear bench folded. Being able to partition the boot space (by simply folding the floor) is an excellent way to stop luggage bashing around when punting along.

Rear space is ample for older kids or adults - headroom is superb in the wagon - while all door bins are large and versatile.

Costlier stuff? The R badge brings higher insurance premiums, foot down fun is irresistible so fuel economy suffers, and it only drinks premium unleaded.

Funky factor

I'm not alone in believing wagons are the cooler choice over hatches and sedans these days (refer to any current big-bummed Mercedes as evidence), and the R Wagon is no different.

Sitting 20mm lower than the standard Golf over motorsport-esque black alloys it is a squat, purposeful thing without looking boy racerish. Large front air intakes, plenty of gloss black touches, and R and Wolfsburg badges all do their bit.

VW Golf R Wagon Wolfsburg Edition. Photo: Contributed
VW Golf R Wagon Wolfsburg Edition. Photo: Contributed Mark Bramley

Other options

You won't find another sub-$60k wagon like this, so chief rival is the hatchback Golf R Wolfsburg Edition ($56,990). The Skoda Octavia RS ($39,090) is a brilliant performance wagon but is front-wheel drive and no match for the Volksie, so you need to leave this price point and shop for an Audi S4 Avant ($108,110) or Mercedes CLA45 AMG ($89,510).

The lowdown

VW may be firmly planted on the naughty step for now, but good grief it knows how to make a performance car that can be used every day.

Pre-orders for the R Wagon Wolfie have been very strong so availability may be scarce. It's easy to see why. All the shattering performance abilities of the Golf R with wagon practicality, and arguably better looks to boot.

 

What matters most

What we liked: All the talent and fun of the Golf R hatch but with more practicality, stunning handling abilities and pace, huge boot space.

What we'd like to see: Manual gearbox option, good availability as exact numbers for Australia are unknown, electric seats should be standard for a high-spec model.

Servicing and warranty: Three years, unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is every 15,000km or annually. Capped priced servicing for six years or 90,000km, average price is $482.

 

Vital statistics

Model: VW Golf R Wagon Wolfsburg Edition.

Details: Five-door all-wheel-drive compact wagon.

Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol generating maximum power of 206kW@5100rpm and 380Nm@1800rpm.

Transmission: Six-speed DSG automatic.

Consumption: 7.2-litres/100km (combined average).

CO2: 167g/km.

Bottom line: $58,990 (before on-roads).

VW Golf R Wagon Wolfsburg Edition. Photo: Contributed
VW Golf R Wagon Wolfsburg Edition. Photo: Contributed Mark Bean

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