Not only is the Volkswagen Golf R estate staggeringly fun to drive, it also offers remarkable value. Read on to discover why.
Andrew Brady | April 2015
This is the daddy of Golf estates. It’s the Volkswagen Golf R, unveiled at the 2014 Los Angeles Motor Show in November, hot on the heels of its hatchback twin that went on sale last year.
Like the Golf R hatch, the wagon is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine packing 300hp through a dual-clutch six-speed DSG gearbox, and VW’s clever Haldex 4motion four-wheel drive system.
So what’s different? Well, it’s an estate, meaning it’s now even more practical. Its boot boasts 605 litres, rising to 1,620 litres with the seats down. And the price for that extra practicality? £33,585 – or, £695 more than the Golf R hatch.
What’s the Volkswagen Golf R like to drive?
In a word: awesome. Put to rest any preconceptions you may have about stodgy fast Golfs of the past. Ignore the fact that it’s not as quick to 62mph as Audi RS3 and pretend it’s a got an extra cylinder or two, if it helps.
The 2.0-litre engine is the same as in the Golf GTI (which doesn’t come in estate form, incidentally – and VW says it has no plans to change that). But it features a long list of modifications to make it the remarkably tractable unit we’ve tested here – including a revised cylinder head, exhaust valves, valves seats and springs… you get the idea. Volkswagen’s done a proper job.
Boot it from a standstill and the Golf R’s nifty Haldex coupling will act like a centre diff lock, transferring up to 100% of the power to the rear wheels if it sees fit. With a stamp of the accelerator, the gearbox will happily let you use the entire rev range and exploit its 280 lb/ft torque (which starts to wane at 5,500rpm).
Enter a bend at warp speed (which you can, and will, as the Golf R teases you to push it harder and harder) and the stability control system will transfer power between each wheel to make sure you don’t understeer into a tree.
Even equipped with the standard sports suspension (which sits 20mm lower than a regular Golf), the damping is sublime – it’s rare to drive a performance German car without feeling every single bump in the road, but the Golf R estate takes it in its stride. Even the 19-inch alloys of our test car failed to transmit anything but the most serious jolts into the cabin.
We did what most buyers won’t and took it out on track at the Ascari Race Resort located in southern Spain. Normally cars that feel immensely capable on the road soon start to show their faults when you take to a circuit. Sure, it’s not a weapon in the same way as a Porsche 911, but for a Golf estate it’s beyond competent. Its grip levels are staggering and the way it belts down the straights is laugh-out loud for an estate car.
Is the Volkswagen Golf R estate the best all-rounder you can buy?
It’s a bit of a motoring journalism cliche to say a fast, German estate car is the best all-rounder you can buy, but the Golf R really does do everything you could possibly want, short of carrying six passengers or facing the Sahara Desert.
The interior feels utterly premium. There are few hard plastics, and even if it was sporting Audi badges and a heftier price tag, there’d be little to criticise.
There’s plenty of space – even in the rear, this isn’t going to be a compromise for the family man. And the boot is mammoth.
A car like this is never going to be as efficient as the sensible diesels of the world, but a combined fuel economy of 40.4mpg is respectable compared to rivals. Not that you’ll ever achieve that – the bark of the exhaust is just too addictive.
The only thing it hasn’t got is the premium badge in the way an Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz have. But none of them offer direct rivals. And, going by their hot hatchbacks, they’d be significantly more expensive if they did.
Verdict: Volkswagen Golf R estate (2015)
This is a Golf that will make you giggle like a child, yet capable of carrying all the paraphernalia that goes with having children yourself.
Forget that it’s ‘just a Golf’, the only question is whether you can justify spending over £30,000 on a relatively thirsty estate car. If you can, head straight to your nearest dealer, do not pass go, and buy one of the most enjoyable wagons on the market – and we’re including much more expensive premium estates there.
Rivals: Volkswagen Golf R estate
- SEAT Leon ST Cupra 280
- Audi S3 Sportback
- Vauxhall Insignia VXR Sports Tourer
- Skoda Octavia vRS
- Ford Focus ST estate
Very few rivals successfully match the Golf R estate’s performance and practicality. The 280hp SEAT Leon ST comes the closest, while also being cheaper with prices starting at £29,860. The Audi S3 Sportback comes close on price – starting at £33,040 with the S tronic gearbox – and packs the same amount of power, but isn’t as practical. Many will snub the idea of spending over £33,000 on a Vauxhall, but the Insignia VXR Sports Tourer boasts 325hp and more practicality than anything else here. The 220hp Skoda Octavia vRS is down on power, but offers great value at £26,295 for the estate with a DSG gearbox. Meanwhile, a 250hp Ford Focus ST estate can be picked up from £23,595.
Specification: Volkswagen Golf R estate (2015)
Engine turbocharged 2.0-litre
Gearbox Six-speed DSG
Price from £33,585
0-62mph 5.1 seconds
Top speed 155mph (electronically limited)