Quick take: Driving the Volkswagen Golf R Wagon

When you travel with Volkswagen, you travel in Volkswagens. A car for every occasion seems to be their motto, but more correctly put, the Golf R Variant is a car for every occasion.

I have, in the past, argued that less is, without exception, in every case, every time, as is clearly being shown here, more. I may have been wrong about that. When making a purpose-built sports car, luxuries, comforts, and weight just get in the way. Less power is okay in a sports car, as long as it comes with added lightness.

The Golf R, though, isn’t really a sports car. It’s a hot hatch. And though that term is subject to interpretation, even then it’s more like a mutant between a hot hatch and a grand tourer (mutant in the cool X-Men sense, not the gross Futurama sense). So adding an extra foot or so of trunk room adds only marginal weight, while adding more utility, and making the whole thing that much cooler.

Volkswagen Golf R Wagon

Part of that, I freely admit, has to do with the fact that the Variant isn’t available in America. The grass is always greener and all that, sure. But some of it just has to do with the fact that it’s every bit the hooligan the Golf R is, with more room for stuff.

From the driver’s seat, you’d be hard pressed to say whether you were in the Variant or not. It accelerates hard, giving you a hilarious boot in the root every time the turbo spools up at about 4,000 rpm. The tires (Michelins) are grippy and give you ample confidence, and the same can be said of the bakes.

Driving up an Alp, the Golf R Variant always has enough power to knock you back in your seat, which is handy, because I’m no Touge specialist, so going up a one-lane, two-way street with blind corners every 100 feet means that being able to accelerate from a dead stop (or out of a ditch) is especially important.

Here’s a fun game for North Americans in Austria: Find a lonely, switch-backy mountain road and wait for a local to start up it. Then try to keep up. For added difficulty, follow a van. For some reason, big, tall vans with exhausted-looking parents at the helm fly up these mountains at speeds no reasonable North Americans, used to roads wide enough for traffic to go by in both directions could ever possibly keep up.

Volkswagen Golf R Wagon

I certainly couldn’t. Especially when they came across someone going the other way. I was all but stopped halfway off the road as they flew past each other at ludicrous speeds (read: 35 mph).

Regardless of my own testicular shortcomings, the Golf R Variant handled the tight roads with shocking nimbleness and grace. It was easy to slow for every blind corner and it was eager to get going again, barking happily as we flew up an Alp and back down again, just as happily as the Golf R (more on that later).

So why buy it over the regular Golf R (not that you can, but hypotheticals are always fun)? Well, here’s the difference. The Golf R is very serious. It’s like a cool dad with perfectly fitting jeans and a leather jacket and rugged good looks who is always, for some strange reason, staring off into the distance. The Golf R Variant, on the other hand is the fun dad. A little less “cool,” but also a little less worried about being a dad and with a bit more of a sense of humor. Of course it’s up to you to decide which you’d rather be, but I know which I’d rather spend time with.

Volkswagen Golf R Wagon