£34,570 Price range
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.
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 296hp, 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.
Don’t forget to check out our handy colours guide to see what shades are available on the Golf R estate.
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 5.8-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 eight-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 almost 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 296hp 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 road tax payments 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.
It should come as little shock even to those with little interest in motoring, that the VW Golf R estate is backed by a Euro NCAP five-star safety rating – even with the introduction of higher standards prior to testing.
On-road safety is provided by high-spec tyres, with power carefully distributed to all four wheels depending on road-holding and surface. Begin to loose control and the ultra-clever 4Motion system, together with electronic stability control, will do its utmost to restore calm and avoid an incident.
The above is complimented by comprehensive ABS and brake-pad wear detection software, which ensures you’re never short on stopping power. And, should the worst happen, there is a full set of airbags ready to provide safety during a collision.
The VW Golf R estate also features a full-compliment of parking sensors, to help to keep the paintwork as intended and an electronic immobiliser, to keep it where you intended it to be.
Well, the notable absence from the standard kit-list a sat-nav. This model costs more than £33,000 and most would expect that to include at least a basic system but Volkswagen demands an additional £750 from buyers for the privilege of a Discover Navigation System. Likewise the R estate doesn’t offer voice activation as standard, while this isn’t so much the norm, it would be nice if VW didn’t charge £185 for it.
Voice activation wasn’t fitted to our test car but the button for the system was left on the steering wheel – each time we pressed it a message flashed up on the infotainment screen telling us to visit a dealer to have it activated. Not a great read after spending a huge sum on the car in the first place.
On the plus side, the Golf offers an incredible driving experience, relatively impressive mileage, great looks and enough room for the whole family and even the dog.
Volkswagen isn’t a brand known for being cheap – it’s known for offering A-grade safety and first-rate build-quality and the manufacturer delivers both of these things by the truckload with the Golf R estate. Further the value of this car is sure to be borne out in its eventual resale value, which, as with all Volkswagens, will be hirer than average.
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?
It’s not going to be for everyone but then Volkswagen won’t make millions of the things, so owners will join a relatively exclusive club and are sure to start waving at each other, with a knowing smile. Golf R Estate – we salute you. What a brilliant all-rounder.
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