New Volkswagen Golf R Estate Review

High-performance with room for the dog and the shopping

8/10
wowscore
This score is awarded by our team of expert reviewers after extensive testing of the car
  • VW build quality
  • Plenty of space
  • Awesomely fast
  • DSG automatic gearbox only
  • Quite conservatively styled
  • Sat-nav costs extra

£36,125 Price range

5 Seats

39 MPG

Review

Occasionally Volkswagen likes to pretend it isn’t a purveyor of sensible family hatchbacks, and releases a real curveball. The latest to emerge from the German manufacturer is this, the mad Golf R estate.

It offers all the practicality of a small estate car, the comfort of a family car and a roar from the quad-tailpipes to rival anything in the rapid-estate-car class. Oh, and don’t forget the Porsche-beating 0-62mph time of 5.1 seconds (4.6 with the DSG automatic).

The Golf R estate has a sense of refinement that far outweighs its station in life. Looks-wise the R may not set the world alight. Without the 18-inch wheels, the touches of chrome detail and, of course, the slightly menacing quad exhausts, it would be quite tricky to be sure there was anything remotely special about the fast Golf.

But there is something quite special about it – quite special indeed. And that special something is neatly hidden under the unassuming bonnet. It’s a 310hp, 2.0-litre, four-wheel-drive, six-speed powerhouse – that doesn’t suffer huge running costs.

The major competition for the Golf R estate comes from other Volkswagen Group brands, with it squaring up well to the SEAT Leon ST Cupra and the Skoda Octavia vRS estate offering a significantly faster 0-62 mph time, though a slightly lower mpg.

This car fills a slightly odd niche in the market, but you should seriously consider the Golf R estate if you want a single car that can quite literally do a bit of everything – including showing a clean pair of heels to numerous more exclusive (and expensive) sports cars.

The firm ‘clunk’ upon slamming the door closed on your new Golf R estate will set the tone perfectly for what is to be found inside. Being a Golf it should come as little surprise that the interior isn’t exactly wacky, rather, it’s a near-perfect display of Germanic cool and calm.

Nothing is overstated; it is left to the entrant to notice the embroidered R on the seats and the hawk-eyed might notice the blue needles on the dashboard’s instrumentation. For the average passenger the interior won’t scream ‘boy-racer’, so much as whisper ‘comfort and security’.

The driver is treated to a well-bolstered, comfy seat, with just a hint of sporting spirit and he or she will look out over some of VW’s finest technology. The centre console is taken over by a 6.5-inch display from which the Composition Media System is controlled. The system has a DAB radio and iPod connectivity and can be upgraded to an 9.2-inch display, with Discover Pro sat-nav.

Volkswagen Golf R estate passenger space

Rear passengers in the Golf R estate enjoy a little additional headroom, compared to the car’s hatchback counterpart. This improved access makes it much easier to fit child seats. The rear is great for two adults, with body-hugging rear seats, although a third passenger can feel perched a little high in the middle. When we tested the Golf R Estate in 2016 we found that 6’3″ passengers could happily sit behind an equally lanky driver.

The car’s rear seats are equipped with two Isofix child safety fitments. Other practical measures include a well-sized glove box and door bins that will swallow a bottle of water.

Volkswagen Golf R estate boot space

For a car of this speed, poise and sporty handling the boot space is miraculous to say the least. The relatively low and wide opening offers users easy access to the 605-litre space. Folding the split rear seats down turns the already large space into a 1,620-litre, cave-like chamber. That’s 150 litres more than its rival, the SEAT Leon Cupra ST, meaning it is capable of swallowing the fruits of a comprehensive spending spree at B&Q.

As mentioned, this Golf is designed to be fast – with a capital F. With more than 300hp, an advanced four-wheel-drive system and a host of other features, it really is a car for those that love to drive.

The first thing you’ll notice behind the wheel is the way the Golf R estate will pin you to the seat as you accelerate hard from a standstill. Put the stability control into sport mode, pull the gearstick back into sport mode and put your left foot on the brake while pinning the accelerator with your right and you’ll set up the Golf’s launch control mode. Slip your left foot sideways off the brake pedal and you’ll be rocketed to 62mph in just 5.1 seconds. That’s faster than a Porsche Boxster.

Thanks to a four-wheel-drive system it’ll corner far faster than your mind will think possible. Get it on a racetrack and it’ll keep surprising you with how well it holds a line through fast corners without the front tyres pushing wide. On the road you’re just left in awe at how rapidly you can take attack corners in any conditions.

If that makes it sound like the Golf R is an insatiable car that goes fast everywhere, fear not. A tap on the eco-mode button on the centre console will see power drop slightly, the suspension soften and the noise from the exhaust abate, leaving the driver with a calm machine capable of fuel economy of around 40mpg. There is also a comfort mode and a race setting to set the car up to match your mood.

Sitting as low as it does and boasting 18 inch wheels, it may not offer quite the soft comfort-based ride of some of its less powerful brothers and sisters lower down the Golf range, but the trade-off really isn’t that bad. You could easily order a Golf R and take it on a long-haul family holiday.

A potential sticking-point for some owners is that you can’t have a manual gearbox in the Golf R Estate – you can only have a DSG automatic box, with gear-change paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. The one in the R is a feat of engineering, offering lightning-fast gear-changes and amusing exhaust crackles on upshifts, as well as the fuss-free operation of an automatic when you don’t.

Volkswagen offers the Golf R estate with just one choice of engine: a 2.0-litre, turbocharged, four-wheel drive, mated to a six-speed DSG gearbox. The engine offers up a generous 305hp and a pulling power of some 280lb ft, meaning 0-62 mph is covered in 5.1 seconds, while the simple-to-use launch control system makes it easy to replicate the feat, time and time again. 

The engine feels powerful at any point in the rev-range, and it will happily stay in top gear when you want to accelerate between lanes on a motorway, with no over-eager downshifts from the auto ‘box.

While, in isolation, fuel economy of 40mpg isn’t anything to write home about for the average modern estate car, it’s downright impressive in a car this fast. It is however, one of the only significant trade-offs, when compared more practically minded units such as the frugal 1.6 TDI Golf estate, which delivers up 72.4 mpg.

So maybe the Golf R Estate is not for the high-mileage driver or those wanting to lower their running costs but then that’s not really what Volkswagen had in mind when they built this car. Instead, they were actually seeking to offer what one of their directors called a ‘real SUV’, a sports utility vehicle, that actually feels and is sporty. Limited to a 155 mph and going around corners like a supercar, it’s fair to say they’ve done what they set out to do.

Conclusion

The Golf R Estate is not cheap. This much we know. But for those more concerned by what a car can achieve then this A-grade student is for you.

It’s incredibly quick, incredibly fun to drive and it’s built to last – and it has room for the family, the shopping and the dog. Oh, and did we mention it’s fast? Golf R Estate – we salute you. What a brilliant all-rounder.

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