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We've driven the Golf R Estate abroad and thought it was top drawer, but we need a UK drive to be sure.

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Golf R

Billed the 'Ultimate Golf' and given more power, but can this facelifted Volkswagen Golf R knock the imperious Ford Focus RS from its perch?

  • First Drive

    Volkswagen Golf R 2017 review

    A facelift for the fantastically capable all-rounder delivers more power and new tech to the cabin, improving on an already exceptional formula
  • First Drive

    2015 Volkswagen Golf R Estate UK review

    We've driven the Golf R Estate abroad and thought it was top drawer, but we need a UK drive to be sure.
2 October 2015

What is it?

There’s a good chance Jeremy Corbyn would drive this Golf R Estate, and not because this one happens to be scarlet red. No, it would be for what it represents. As we know, Volkswagen translates as ‘people’s car’, and the original Beetle brought freedom to the masses. 

As the Golf is the Beetle’s spiritual successor, surely it stands to reason that one equipped with a gargantuan 296bhp and a useful 605-litre boot must be the ultimate expression of ‘power to the people’. At £33,585 it’s relatively affordable, too, meaning all that power really is in the hands of the proletariat.

However, you could argue that the sharp-looking R-design bumpers, side skirts and quad tailpipes are more reminiscent of shiny-suited New Labour than Mr Corbyn’s traditional blue-collar brand. Anyway, enough of the spurious blend of cars and politics, let’s talk nuts and bolts.

 

What's it like?

Other than the extra length over the Golf R hatch – which allows the estate version to swallow loads of 1.8m in length with the back seats down - and a slightly stiffer rear end, the spec sheet is largely unchanged.

The estate uses the same 2.0-litre turbocharged engine as the hatch, complete with dual-injection (both direct and indirect) plus variable valve timing and lift to help deliver that mighty power along with oodles of torque – all 280lb ft of it, from 1800 to 5500rpm. For a car that does 0-62mph in 5.1sec, the emissions and fuel consumption are relatively decent, too.

Bar a momentary wait for the turbo to energise, it feels brutally quick and sounds terrific. And, according to Volkswagen, this is not petrolhead-muzak piped into the cabin via the stereo; no folks, this is all real.

Select Race mode on the Driver Profile Select button and it opens up butterfly valves to bring the two outer exhausts into play. On top of this, a flap in the bulkhead opens to allow induction roar into the cabin.

This all results in a symphony that has echoes of a Subaru WRX, punctuated by some characterful angry barks of automotive flatulence between gears. If you get everything really hot there’s even a few crackles on the overrun.

Unlike the R hatch, there’s no manual option, and the standard six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox has its foibles. Imagine you’re stopped at a red light, next to some chap in a spruced-up Focus who’s clearly eager to see what you’ve got.

Unfortunately, by the time the engine stop-start system has woken up and fired the motor, and the gearbox has finished organising first and engaged a clutch, matey in the Ford will be long gone when the light has gone green.

The gearbox also has a habit of chasing high gears to have the fewest revs possible when you’re pottering along - no doubt to help those emissions. That’s fine, but the minute you want a little splurge of acceleration, it rushes back down the box in a panic and sends the revs stratospheric.

There is a fix, though: stick it in manual and use the paddles. Then it’s excellent, with crisp, millisecond-quick changes. I do wish it stopped changing up for you as you approach the red line though - for me, manual should mean manual.

The four-wheel drive system uses a hydraulically operated Haldex 5 centre differential, which most of the time sends all the torque to the front wheels. Importantly though, it can send nearly all of it to the back wheels, and in doing so makes this R Estate as playful and entertaining as the hatch version on the limit. And it’s a high limit too, with tonnes of grip helped by the XDS+ system, which brakes the inside wheels in a corner to tame the four-wheel-drive bogeyman of understeer.

You also get an adaptive steering rack with the R. Often these can defile a helm, but with the Golf R it works pretty well. There’s a welcome urgency as you turn in but without any nervousness around the straight-ahead. And if you select Individual mode, you can tune the weighting to suit your preferences.

If you opt for the (£830) adaptive dampers that our car had, you can calibrate the ride to your liking, too. Even in Comfort it can still thud over sharp ruts and you get a little float off crests, but never to the extent that would jar in everyday use.

Switch to Race mode and the body control is much tighter and the car follows the road with a steely focus, but still with enough compliance to avoid a slipped disc.

Inside you get all the usual Golf functionality, so it simply works as a car should. That said, VW have jazzed it up a bit, with a gloss-black fascia, swanky dials with blue needles and neon blue lighting on the doors and the sill treadplates. The part-Alcantara R sports seats are spectacularly comfortable, too.

Should I buy one?

The Golf R Estate, like the hatchback version, isn’t a track-day purist’s delight in the same vein as a Renault Mégane 275 Trophy, but it’s an awesomely quick everyday weapon of a wagon.

For the money, there simply isn’t a quicker, more comfortable way of getting your flat-pack Nordli wardrobe back from Ikea. And being a Golf, whether you’re on the Corbyn left or the Cameron right it doesn’t matter, because it’s both classy, and classless.

Volkswagen Golf R Estate

Price £33,585; Engine 4 cyls, 1984cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 296bhp at 5500-6200rpm; Torque 280lb ft at 1800-5500rpm; Gearbox 6-spd dual-clutch automatic; Kerb weight 1574kg; Top speed 155mph; 0-62mph 5.1sec; Economy 40.4mpg (combined); CO2 rating & BIK tax band 162g/km, 27% 

Join the debate

Comments
24

2 October 2015
That's much better, only a discreet mention of economy in the narrative. @John Howell, the smart driver would not be caught napping at the traffic lights as you describe, they would have deactivated the stop-start, DSG would be in 1, it would be held on "auto hold", and they would be hair-trigger ready for the occasion to go on the green. Hopefully, they won't knock over the late-crossing pedestrian! The experienced driver, however, would allow the other driver to have their fun, and let them go anyway. With my own Golf DSG/stop-start, I find that if you press the accelerator as soon as you see red-amber, by the time green appears, the car is moving perfectly on cue. Some of the quickest away from the lights are ladies in innocuous supermini's anyway, particularly if they go on red-amber.

2 October 2015
AC will have to start putting CO2 rating & BIK tax band: ???

2 October 2015
Jeremy Corbyn, like most on the looney Left want to make sure that the average man is forced to walk or take public transportation. They genuinely despise the freedom of individual movement that the motorcar brings as evidenced by the increasingly burdensome costs and restrictions placed on motorists. However, they are more than happy to be riding around in posh cars themselves.

6 October 2015
Moparman wrote:

Jeremy Corbyn, like most on the looney Left want to make sure that the average man is forced to walk or take public transportation. They genuinely despise the freedom of individual movement that the motorcar brings as evidenced by the increasingly burdensome costs and restrictions placed on motorists. However, they are more than happy to be riding around in posh cars themselves.

Considering Corbyn or the looney left have got nothing to do with current motoring legislation I think you may need to rethink just who's got it in for the motorist?

11 October 2015
pSynrg wrote:
Moparman wrote:

Jeremy Corbyn, like most on the looney Left want to make sure that the average man is forced to walk or take public transportation. They genuinely despise the freedom of individual movement that the motorcar brings as evidenced by the increasingly burdensome costs and restrictions placed on motorists. However, they are more than happy to be riding around in posh cars themselves.

Considering Corbyn or the looney left have got nothing to do with current motoring legislation I think you may need to rethink just who's got it in for the motorist?

Most of the legislation Moparman referred to was instigated by the EU, which is very much under the sway of the left.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

jer

2 October 2015
It still looks a bit underwhelming, well like a golf estate.

3 October 2015
jer wrote:

It still looks a bit underwhelming, well like a golf estate.

I think that is its USP, but as with every other Golf, you need to spend another £3k to get the things that make it practical, look good and have the safety features of its rivals. At that price you are nearly at the price of the CLA shooting brake 4matic. Add in the highly unreliable haldex all wheel drive system and DSG 'box, and you will probably spend more time at the VW dealer than on the open road. At £35K+ you are still driving a Golf. And an estate Golf at that. If you don't mind sending that amour and want something discreet with performance, it could be a choice, but it is not lone in this segment.

2 October 2015
Corbyn would probably drive a 2CV with a big CND badge on it, thinking he was saving the world.

Autocar wrote:

For the money, there simply isn’t a quicker, more comfortable way of getting your flat-pack Nordli wardrobe back from Ikea

Unless of course you save nearly £5k and get the virtually identical, but slightly faster, more economical and better equipped and better looking Seat Leon ST Cupra.

2 October 2015

Hello. The Cupra is cheaper, but it's 1sec slower to 62mph, and only marginally more economical. I should know, I reviewed it not long ago. And while it's good, it's really not as good as the Golf R, so if you've got the extra £5k, buy the Golf.

As I said and you quite rightly highlighted, "For the money, there simply isn’t a quicker, more comfortable way".

4 October 2015
John Howell wrote:

Hello. The Cupra is cheaper, but it's 1sec slower to 62mph, and only marginally more economical. I should know, I reviewed it not long ago. And while it's good, it's really not as good as the Golf R, so if you've got the extra £5k, buy the Golf.

As I said and you quite rightly highlighted, "For the money, there simply isn’t a quicker, more comfortable way".

Funny, Steve Sutcliffe (Autocar: Seat Leon vs Golf R video at Cadwell Park 3rd July 2014) seems to think otherwise.

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