Volkswagen has added an R version to its estate line up, but can it live up to the brilliant hatch or is it just a fast load-lugger?
What do we have here?
This is the latest version of the range-topping Volkswagen Golf R, but for the very first time in estate form.
It uses the same recipe as the hatchback, a high-powered turbocharged 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine with power distributed by VW’s 4motion all-wheel drive system and is connected to a six-speed dual clutch DSG automatic gearbox.
Telling the R apart is easy enough due to its unique 'U-shaped' LED daytime running lights, sporty front and rear spoilers, deep side skirts and 18in alloy wheels.
The Golf R Estate gets Bluetooth, front sports seats, climate control, parking sensors, automatic bi-xenon headlights and auto wipers as standard.
In addition to the four-wheel drive, it also gets stability control, a locking differential and traction control.
How does it drive?
It all depends on your mood. If you want to waft along in silence and comfort, then the Golf R Estate will adhere to your wishes. Should you, however, want to be entertained, then look no further. This Jekyll and Hyde car really does have a split personality.
The R Estate gets 298bhp, which will jettison you from standstill to 62mph in 5.1 seconds. The power delivery is pretty consistent from low revs through to around 5000rpm, where the engine seems to get a second wind and goes again. The maximum power band stretches from 1800 to 5500rpm and will take the R to an electronically limited 155mph.
A six-speed DSG gearbox is fitted as standard, with manual shifting, a sports mode and steering wheel-mounted paddles offering maximum flexibility. Gear changes are smooth, and with manual mode engaged, flicking the steering wheel-mounted paddles, gears are changed in the blink of an eye.
If you fancy a relaxing drive home from work, then by leaving the Driver Select Mode in Economy or Normal, with its softer suspension setup, the R Estate is a comfortable and relaxing companion. For what is a performance car, the ride is simply stunning. It is firmer than a standard golf, but never intrusive, never uncomfortable and never anything other than surprising when you know what else the car can do.
However, if you’re after some fun - a lot of fun - then head straight to Race mode. The damping is increased, the engine has a sharper response, the steering firms up and the DSG ‘box hold gears for longer.
Get onto the twisty stuff and the car grips to the road like a toddler to his mum on the first day of nursery. The R might be aimed at the lifestyle end of the market, but your family bicycles are likely to the thrown from the roof as you nail corner after corner with consummate ease. There’s no discernible body roll and incomprehensible levels of grip.
Forget putting the dog in the boot, poor Rover will be turned inside out before you get to his favourite walking spot.
Engage the steering wheel-mounted paddles and you’ll start to make proper progress, leaving your hands to grip the wheel, acceleration between corners is stunning. With the baffles opened (in sports mode) there is a wonderful engine note when gears are shifted up or down. At full pelt, the surrounding countryside will be treated to a symphony of brrrttts and pops, Spitfire style. In your head, you're imagining flames spitting from the quad exhausts behind you.
What's it like inside?
There’s no denying the Golf is ergonomically well laid out and feels well-made, but it’s all a little dark and bland, a touch too safe.
The dash is angled slightly towards the driver, reminiscent of early BMW 3-series and there’s a 6.5in colour touchscreen for the infotainment system, which adds a dash of pizzazz. The controls and switches feel classy and well-damped, while the dashboard is soft to touch.
The sat-nav system, Bluetooth and Apple’s CarPlay are all excellent and easy to use.
Most drivers should be able to get comfortable behind the wheel as there’s plenty of headroom, a height adjustable seat, lumbar support and a steering wheel that adjusts for reach and tilt.
In the back, head and legroom is no better than average while only two adults will be comfortable for longer journeys. A ski hatch from the boot adds some useful practicality.
The boot opening is cavernous, large and square, as is the boot floor with loading substantially aided by a low boot lip. There’s underfloor storage, where you’ll also find a space saving tyre, as well as side storage compartments.
For extra space, the rear seats fold down 40:60 and are released by a levers in the boot, although they don’t quite lie flat.
The benefits of having a 2.0-litre engine under the hood are realised by the impressive economy claims of 40.4mpg on a combined cycle, with CO2 emissions of 164g/km. That means an annual road tax of £185 while company car drivers face a 29% BIK tax banding. The R sits in insurance group 34E.
It is too early yet with the current car to gauge reliability, however, it is likely to be consistent with the current Golf range, where there are no significant problems being reported.
In the event of an accident, there is an automatic post-collision braking system along with nine airbags.
Golfs historically hold their value well, although ‘dieselgate’ may change this, but it is too early to tell. The Golf R hatchback is forecast to retain nearly 53% of its value after three years, and the estate should be similar.
As with other Volkswagen cars, the Golf R Estate gets a three-year 60,000-mile warranty.
The Golf Estate R is a slightly more grown-up version of the hatchback with breathtaking performance, mesmeric handling and a soundtrack that will run through your mind all night long after a day of spirited driving.
With a big boot, comfortable ride, all the handling and performance you could wish for, it’s the car for every occasion.
Sat-nav is an optional extra worth considering and costs £1,325.