2022 Volkswagen Golf R Estate review – still the high-performance, do-it-all family car?

It’s fair to say we’ve had a somewhat frosty relationship with the current eighth-generation Golf R.evolution 284 and 286), but when the competition got tougher in last year’s hot crash against the Honda Civic Type R and Mercedes-AMG A45 S (evolution 288), well, he was positively crushed, running out of ideas on admittedly very difficult roads and facing the toughest competition. Now, however, an excellent leveler has come to the aid of the Golf R, and it’s not another performance package, or even a silent technical update from Germany, but rather something altogether more powerful: the context.

While a Golf R hatchback isn’t any more practical than a Civic Type R, when fitted with a more versatile station wagon body, it’s impossible to make that comparison, making rivals more likely to be high-performance compact SUVs than a precision hot sedan. So how does the Golf R Estate translate into a high-performance family car then? Alright, first impression. Find any square start button and the Golf R instinctively starts in Sport mode, giving the powertrain good initial response and the steering significant weight. This can, of course, be recalled immediately, and when combined with the (always) optional adaptive dampers.

Performance between the hatchback and wagon looks nearly identical in the real world, though on paper the 0-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds is a 0.2-second disadvantage due to its speed penalty. weight of 76 kg. Both share the same 316 hp/310 lb-ft variant of the EA888 turbocharged four-cylinder engine, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and a torque-vectoring rear differential. It’s the latter of these components that differentiates the Golf R Estate from the closely related Cupra Leon ST.

The saloon’s R-Performance Pack is also available for the estate for an extra £2160, bundled together a high top speed of 167mph, those two extra drive mode options (Drift and Special), a rear wing and 19 inch wheels and tires. Surprisingly, the adaptive dampers still cost an extra £840 and are badly needed, because although they’re unnecessarily difficult to access, their 15-step configurability gives them impressive breadth.

Starting off, the Golf R Estate looks pretty much like any other Golf R, except this time the rear window is still 350mm further behind you. There’s good grip on the front axle, and with some weight on the rack it gives you a certain level of confidence when entering a bend, even if the front wheels still don’t dig in as much in surface as you would like. Push a little harder, though, and the Golf R’s handling feels slightly wiser than the hatch’s, losing some oomph and agility – unsurprising given its weight gain.

Despite the longer rear overhang and its effective change to the car’s overall weight balance, there’s still not much adjustability when entering a corner under braking, and although you can get the body moving if you start to really push, the Golf R’s stability program never completely relinquishes control, as it will nibble the brakes ever so slightly when slippage is detected. The torque-vectoring rear differential isn’t much more effective in dry conditions, because – and the same goes with the hatch – it just doesn’t feel like there’s enough power to overdrive the rear outer wheel enough to encourage any significant yaw.

On wet or cold tires things are easier, but in most cases the Golf will dissolve into understeer before the rear axle has a chance to make any significant impact. Worse, start really working the chassis in dry conditions and you’ll experience the same side hop as the tailgate. Again, this is a car that seems to perform better in less than ideal conditions.

But that’s where the family car comes in, because really it’s not really a car that would be used on track days or taken to your favorite roads on a whim. Seen in this context, the Golf R Estate is much more impressive as a fast, spacious and even quite efficient hauler. The cabin, while still infuriating to interact with in many ways, is well built and quite refined. Drive calmly and you can cross 40 mpg. It also has a very impressive boot capacity, and while a VW Tiguan or BMW 3 Series has more room in the back, it’s a physically smaller car, which has its own advantages.

We’d hesitate to say the Golf R Estate is a better car than its flawed hatchback sibling, but with the added versatility that comes with its wagon body, it makes for a desirable package in a way the standard sedan doesn’t quite seem. manage it. .

Prices and competitors

It’s not cheap, however. At £44,535 base, that’s £3,000 more than a BMW 330i M Sport, which isn’t just one size bigger, but these days also comes with more standard equipment. Tick ​​more boxes, such as the R-Performance Package, glass roof, leather seats and an upgraded stereo and the R is knocking on the silver M340i Touring’s door which is just too much for something with a Golf badge on the back. Actually, he doesn’t have a Golf badge, but you understand.

The Golf R Estate is a step ahead of the Cupra Leon ST, which looks underdeveloped and boring to drive in comparison, while VW’s own Tiguan and T-Roc R are equally disappointing to drive.

Michael C. Ford