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2016 VW Golf R Wolfsburg Edition – Car Review – The Ultimate Golf?

2016 VW Golf R Wolfsburg Edition – Car Review – The Ultimate Golf?

The Mk7 R is VW’s top performing Golf, with its 2 litre TSI turbo engine producing 221kW, or a shade under 300bhp. It has been rather well received by the motoring press and online video channels, even Clarkson said it was a great car. When the wagon version was announced I was itching to test it. I’ve driven my Mk4 Golf-based Skoda Octavia vRS wagon for the last 12 years, upgrading the performance significantly on the way. I was excited to see how much the platform and performance have improved over three more generations. Our test car, the Wolfsburg edition is one of only 70 coming to New Zealand, and is the only Golf R wagon coming here. And it appears the Wolfsburg edition is exclusive to New Zealand.

Apart from the impressive power output, the Golf R has 4Motion four wheel drive, a six speed DSG transmission and an electronic diff lock to reduce understeer and improve grip and steering feel. The R suspension is 20mm lower than the standard Golf and includes DCC adaptive chassis control. This continually adapts the dampers according to both road conditions, and the selected driving mode. Other features include bi-xenon headlights, auto lights and wipers, rear view camera, rear privacy glass, electronic parking brake with Hill Hold Assist, tyre pressure monitoring, Engine start / stop, brake energy recuperation system, dual-zone climate control and a heat insulating windscreen. Added to this are all of the usual safety features – ABS, EBD, ESP, front, side, curtain and driver’s knee airbags, parking radar all round to name just a few.

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First Impressions

Our test car came in Lapiz Blue Metallic, the best colour available in my opinion. The black mirror caps, wheels and details go well with the blue, creating a subtle, almost Q-car look. The 19”x8” Pretoria alloys fill the arches and give the Golf a sporty stance. There are some great little details too, like the front bumper join line, which follows through the headlights and across the grille. And the toned-down (compared to the GTI) silver highlights on the bumpers and front wings.

At the back are the most obvious sign that this isn’t your usual Golf wagon – some rather shiny quad tailpipes. Though on closer inspection it turns out that only the outer ones are functional. Disappointing, VW. There are also small R and Wolfsburg badges.

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I like the way VW have integrated the rear-view camera and boot handle into the VW badge, making it a functional piece. When reversing it flips up, revealing the camera below, or to open the boot you push in the top and it becomes the handle. It is a bit confusing the first time you want to open the boot though. People who have owned Mk5 and Mk6 Golfs will be familiar with this feature, but it was new to me. It also protects the camera from getting rain drops on the lens.

The boot is massive – 605 litres to be exact – wide and deep, with loops for tying down cargo, and several hooks along the edges. There’s a power socket at one side, and the R includes the variable boot floor which can be lifted to put items underneath. The section closest to the seats can be removed, revealing a hidden storage area. There’s also a neat little slot underneath for storing the load cover if you need to. The load cover has a two step lock, stopping halfway so you don’t have to lean in right to the back to close the cover. At the sides, there are levers to drop the rear seats, which fold flat to make an even bigger load area if you need it, 1620 litres to be exact.

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One thing that became clear when unloading the boot in the dark is that the boot light is in the roof, meaning the load cover blocks it from actually lighting the boot unless you open it right up. A light or two in the sides would be useful.

The Inside

Opening the driver’s door, the first thing I noticed was that it felt solid, not heavy but well engineered, with a nice muted thunk as the lock opened, and that’s something that continues throughout the car. VW certainly know how to make a car feel like it will last. The second thing is that the sill cover and the door trim have a thin blue LED illuminated strip along them. I really like this little touch. For some reason the rear doors don’t have it, which is a shame. But the whole interior has a good quality feel, it’s dark, with chrome trims and glossy “carbon touch” inserts.

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The seats are excellent. Sporty looking with deep side bolsters, but comfortable, and not too narrow like some sports seats can be. There’s a carbon-fibre like texture in the edge sections which I think looks great. On a day trip of just under 300km, the seats proved comfortable throughout. They’re heated too, with three settings, but I was a little surprised to see that they’re manually adjusted. Underneath the front seats there are pull-out storage bins, which I first discovered when I wanted to move my seat forward and pulled the wrong handle!

The leather trimmed, flat bottomed steering wheel is a lovely shape and has quite a few buttons to control the cruise, trip computer, audio and phone. They’re all intuitive to use and easy to find with your thumbs. The wheel is adjustable in all the usual directions.

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In between the two main dials there’s an information display which can be set up to show a variety of information including road speed, navigation info, music track info, and the usual trip computer and fuel consumption. It’s all illuminated in a muted white, with blue needles, and is very clear.

The central 6.5” touchscreen is used for everything else – satnav, music track display, vehicle setup etc. There’s a proximity sensor built in which sees your hand moving towards the screen and reacts by popping up the touch buttons at the bottom. The satnav is nice and clear, and helpfully shows the current road speed limit in the corner. Inside the ventilated glove box is a series of input slots for the stereo for CDs, SD cards etc. There’s also USB and Aux connections, Bluetooth, and VW’s App Connect system, so there’s no shortage of ways of getting your media played. Talking of the glove box, it’s the most solid-feeling car glovebox I’ve ever felt! And it’s even coated inside with a flocked finish to cut down on rattles, as are the door pockets.

A nice little feature is that there’s a separate interior light in the back with its own own-off switch in the front. Great for when the kids need to see but you don’t want to be blinded in the front.

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The Drive

To start the Golf you have to use the key. I’m surprised that VW’s KESSY keyless entry isn’t included in a car at this level, especially as it is standard on the hatch version of the R. Given that this is a special edition it’s doubly surprising.

There are three main driving modes – Comfort, Normal and Race, which can be selected by pressing a button next to the gear shifter. There’s also a Custom mode where you can select from several variables such as acceleration, steering, damping and in-cabin noise. In-cabin noise you say? Well, yes the Golf R has a device called a Soundaktor, which can transmit extra engine noise and vibrations into the cabin for a more racy sound. It actually works really well, and helps VW to solve the problem of external noise vs. driver enjoyment.

The other big advantage of this is that if you want to cruise quietly and comfortably, you can. This car makes a great family tourer. Driving in traffic or just cruising along it’s very quiet, with the main noise coming from the 235/35 tyres. In fact with the cruise control set at 50kph is feels like you’re hardly moving. The R has radar cruise as standard, and it works very well, keeping a safe distance (you can alter the following distance if you want), and coming to a complete stop if the car in front does, then when setting off all you need to do is tap the accelerator and off it goes. It’s freaky at first, especially as it brakes later than I normally would. The set speed is shown on the display and can easily be altered up and down in steps of 10kph. Using the RES and SET buttons you can also go up and down 1kph at a time.

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Combined with this is Front Assist, which will detect if the car is likely to be involved in a frontal collision, and will sound a warning and flash a light to alert the driver. If there’s no response the car will get the brakes to a ready state, close the windows and tighten the seatbelts, as well as jolting the brakes. If this doesn’t wake up the driver it will automatically apply maximum braking force.

I decided to take the family in the Golf R for a trip over the Rimutaka Hill Road to Pukaha Mt Bruce – a motorway cruise followed by a blast over a winding hill road. Perfect. The ride quality is excellent, despite those fat 19” tyres, the Golf has real composure, especially in the twists and turns. It has a solid, planted feel which gives the driver confidence that it can handle whatever road you throw at it.

However carefully I drive, my family tend to get car sick on roads like this so I was having a bit of an internal battle – risk having to clean those nice seats or give in to the fun of a fast climb up the hill. Switching the R into Race mode changes its personality – it hold gears longer, the steering is more sporty, there’s more feedback from the road, and most noticeably the engine and exhaust noise increases. Use the paddles to downshift, and the car blips the throttle for you, making a lovely growl. Accelerate hard and you get an almost V8-like burble, with pops from the exhaust on every upshift. Lift off and there’s a muted woofling noise. It’s addictive and grin-inducing.

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The noises soon won out, and shortly I was making pretty rapid progress up the hill, overtaking cars, and grinning at the sounds. The hill was dispatched in good time, and soon we were back on level roads in Comfort mode, cruise control engaged, nice and relaxed. And not a hint of sickness from the passenger or back seats. Result.

On an empty, straight section of road the opportunity arose to test the 0-100 acceleration. The claimed figure is 5.1 seconds and I can certainly believe it. Switch to Race mode, nail the throttle and the R leaps off the line, no wheelspin, no drama, just grrr, pop, grrrr, pop, grr, 100. Impressive. The DSG shifts in a fraction of a second, the pops when it shifts are addictive, and it’s hard not to indulge at every set of traffic lights.

On the way home, the heavens opened and most of the journey was done in pouring rain. Even over the hill with water running sideways across the road, the R always felt composed, safe and solid. The cornering lights were really useful on tight corners too.

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We got home feeling relaxed and fresh. Fuel usage for the 300km trip was a pretty impressive 8.7l/100km. Considering the enthusiastic hill climb and a couple of acceleration tests this is close enough to the quoted figure of 7.0.

The Competition

Brand / ModelEnginePowerFuel L/100km0-100km/hBoot Capacity Seats up/downPrice Highest to Lowest
Volvo V60 T6 R-Design2.0l 4 cylinder turbo supercharged228kW/430Nm7.05.9s430/1241$84,990
Mercedes Benz CLA250 Shooting Brake2.0l 4 cylinder turbo155kW/350Nm6.96.8s490/1354l$81.900
Audi S3 Sportback20.l 4 cylinder turbo221kW/380Nm6.94.9s340/1220l$81,900
VW Golf R Wagon2.0l 4 cylinder turbo221kW/380Nm7.05.1s605/1620l$79,990
BMW 320i Touring2.0l 4 cylinder turbo135kW/170Nm5.97.5s495/1500l$75,000
Skoda Octavia vRS TSI Wagon2.0l 4 cylinder turbo162kW/350Nm6.47.1s610/1740l$53,490

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The pros and cons

ProsCons
  • Performance
  • Great noises
  • Comfortable
  • Spacious
  • Excellent build quality
  • Stop/start a bit eager to turn off the engine
  • Spec could be higher, especially as the standard Golf R includes keyless entry
  • A lot of money for a Golf
  • Boot light placement
  • No power boot – standard on most cars at this price point

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What we think

The Golf R wagon is a great family touring car, which has the ability to cover ground at an impressive rate. If you didn’t have a 100kph limit to stick to it could be an absolute weapon. It feels solid and well built, it’s comfortable, spacious and reasonable on fuel. If only it had a few more features included as standard it would probably be my perfect car. But as a special edition, compared to the Golf R hatch, is it really that special? It’s missing some of the standard features you get on the hatch, and it’s only available in one spec in New Zealand, you can’t add options. There’s no question that it’s a great car, but it could be even better.

Rating – Chevron rating 4 out of 5

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Vehicle TypePerformance Station Wagon
Starting Price$79,900 + On road costs
Tested Price$79,900 + On road costs
Engine2.0L inline four cylinder, 16V,
turbocharged/intercooled, TSI
Transmission6 speed DSG
0 – 100 kph5.1 seconds
Kerb Weight1574 kg
Length x Width x Height4596 x 1799 x 1467 mm
Cargo Capacity605 Litres seats up

1620 litres seats folded flat

Fuel Tank55 litres
ANCAP Safety Ratings5 stars
Warranty3 year / unlimited km mechanical warranty

12 year anti-corrosion warranty

3 year Volkswagen Roadside Assistance

Volkswagen Scheduled Service Plan for 3 years or up to 45,000km (whichever occurs first)  $1,200

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2 Comments

  1. Keith Morris
    3rd August 2016 at 10:46 pm Reply

    Very much enjoyed reading your write on the R estate. Reflect my ownership experience. Mirrors also my previous ownership experience in my Rmk7 hatch. 17500 of very mixed driving on UK road, mainly Wiltshire country roads where the R experience excels. Over that 17500 miles ,80 % driving in normal mode with about 10% in each of Race and Eco.

    Normal consistently returned 35 mpg with spirited but I believe a smooth driving style.

    Now with 4000 miles in the R Estate, performance and the added fantastic space, what a package .

    Result VW!

  2. McF1
    5th June 2017 at 2:50 am Reply

    Great review.
    I really like the pictures.
    I have seen many reviews of the Golf R Estate, and very interestingly some of them do not pay much attention to the boot, which is surprising because it is the main reason for looking at the Estate over the Hatch.
    The folding floor for the Estate is fantastic, thereby there is no need to remove it when accessing the space saver spare. Ahead of the spare tyre area I notice that there is also a ‘secret’ compartment.
    I very much like the Estate.

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