2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen First Drive
All About That Bass: A Trunk Full of Junk is a Beautiful Thing
I'm convinced there's no more blatant sign that you've aged out of the "hip" crowd than when you have to ask someone to explain some bit of lingo the kids are using these days. It seems like not that long ago I was DJ-ing high school dances and up on the latest songs and pop culture. Peers and elders used to ask me what the new slang terms meant. Then the song "All About That Bass" came out, and having heard only the ultra-repetitive chorus, I assumed it was about bass. I felt very old when it was explained to me it was a euphemism for booty. I would've known that if I'd listened to the rest of the song, but I was too busy yelling at kids to get off my lawn. Thankfully, the song isn't another crass objectification of women but rather a positive message about ignoring unrealistic beauty standards and loving yourself as you are.
Also now tragically unhip, like me, are station wagons. Sure, there are die-hard fans, particularly in the automotive media. For most people, though, they're SUVs without the ability to see over traffic and therefore pointless. If wagons had feelings, they might have body image problems. But as the song says, "Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top." Yes, I had to Google the lyrics.
The defining characteristic of a wagon, of course, is a large trunk with ample space for junk. By modern automotive beauty standards, that big booty isn't sexy. Sure, there are shooting brakes that look slick, but they sacrifice the wagon's key feature (space) in the name of image. Fortunately for the wagon lovers out there, the all-new Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is having none of that fat-shaming. It's unapologetically a wagon, and there's plenty to love about it.
Forget sheetmetal-deep beauty for a moment, and appreciate the SportWagen's inner beauty. Underneath, it's a Golf, and the new Golf is a very good car. So good we named it Car of the Year. The Golf is well-designed, it's well-built, it drives nicely, it handles well, and it gets good fuel economy. And the SportWagen is a Golf with a big rear end, which is a sincere compliment.
You may rightly assume, being a Golf with a big rear end, it drives like a Golf with a big rear end. More accurately, it drives like a slightly heavier Golf. The fact that the extra weight is in the back makes little difference. The Golf SportWagen rides just as well as the standard Golf, which rides quite nicely with a touch of sporty firmness. Taking a corner, the SportWagen feels like it's carrying a bit more weight up top -- because it is -- but the body is well-controlled and leans confidently on its tires. Like the Golf, it's not easily upset by bumps or dips and can be driven surprisingly aggressively without complaint.
If there's one place you might notice a difference, it's in acceleration. We haven't tested the SportWagen yet, but subjectively, it feels a bit more sluggish getting up to speed than the lighter Golf. As it runs the same 170-hp, 1.8-liter turbo-four and 150-hp, 2.0-liter turbo-diesel four as the standard Golf, we expect the slightly heavier SportWagen to realize 60 mph in just more than 8 seconds with the gasoline engine and just more than 9 seconds with the diesel.
When it comes to controlling the power delivery, you've got options. On the gas car, choose from a five-speed manual or six-speed auto. On the diesel, a six-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch auto. Regardless of total gear count, the manuals both have somewhat long but accurate shifter throws and go into gear with a satisfactory click. Just like in a Golf. Also like a Golf, the two autos return smooth and snappy gear changes, with the dual-clutch being just a bit snappier. As with the Golf again (and other VW diesel products), the manual transmission's clutch isn't as grabby as you'd expect, and the uninitiated might stall it. More throttle cures all. On the plus side, none of this criticism applies to the brakes, which work just as nicely as the Golf's.
You'll find the rest of the cabin equally Golf-like. The seats are just as comfortable, the information and entertainment system is the same, it's just as quiet (for the class), and it's even as easy to see out of, as they've just moved the rear window back a bit. As you'd expect, there's a lot more room for cargo than in the standard Golf—30.4-66.5 cubic feet versus 22.8-52.7—that tops some compact crossovers (like VW's Tiguan). Stealing another trick from those crossovers, the SportWagen now has rear seat release levers in the cargo area for easy seat folding and cargo loading. The load floor is also slightly lower and wider than before, and the tailgate opens nearly vertically. Don't let its Golf-ness fool you. This car is made to haul.
Thankfully, crossover-like cargo capacity doesn't mean crossover-like fuel economy. City fuel economy is actually slightly better than the Golf with the TDI automatic, and highway fuel economy slips slightly for all but the TDI manual. Still, with the diesel pulling 43 mpg on the highway (owners have historically done better than EPA estimates, too), there isn't a non-hybrid crossover that can touch it.
The new Golf SportWagen might not singlehandedly convince the majority of the buying public that wagons are cool or that a bigger booty is as beautiful as a smaller one. It will continue to be an excellent car and give owners continued reason to boast incessantly to their friends about their great station wagon. And if you're all about that literal bass, there's a Fender stereo package (optional on lower models, standard on higher ones) that bumps pretty well, too.
|2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door wagon|
|ENGINES||1.8L/170-hp/184-199-lb-ft turbocharged DOHC 16-valve I-4; 2.0L/150-hp/236-lb-ft turbodiesel DOHC 16-valve I-4|
|TRANSMISSIONS||5-speed manual, 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, 6-speed twin-clutch auto|
|CURB WEIGHT||3,100-3,250 lb (mfr)|
|LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT||179.6 x 70.8 x 58.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||8.1-9.2 sec (MT est)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||25-31/35-43/29-35 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY/HWY||109-135/78-96 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.63-0.68 lb/mile|
|ON SALE IN U.S.||Currently|