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First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen SEL TDI

2015 VW Golf SportWagen_02

It’s a funny thing, wagons…. they aren’t very widespread amongst consumers. Which is ironic because generally they’re cheaper than a SUV, more fuel conscious than an SUV, and you can haul just about anything out of an IKEA warehouse… just like an SUV. And unlike an SUV, a wagon is a lot more fun to drive.

Changing names from the last-gen Jetta SportWagen, this new Golf SportWagen is now based off the current-gen Golf’s chassis with an extended wheel base. Considering all the who-haw the new Golf is getting across its line-up thru all sorts of global award, we’re expecting this SportWagen to dazzle us with delight and flawlessness.

Lately we’ve been finding Volkswagen current design arrangement to be a bit on the corporate side – not that, that’s a bad thing – just makes their brand less offensive and easier to live with as time moves into the next decade. After 10 years their brand will continue to look youthful while other automakers will be fraught trying to keep the consumer demand.

Much like the Golf, the Golf SportWagen has a humble design. Our sampled top tier SEL coated in Tungsten Silver Metallic paint carries a good approach and 18-inch alloy wheels that fills up the wagons profile nicely. Our optional Lighting Package ($995) illuminated the road with LED daytime running- and adaptive Bi-Xenon HID head-lights. It’s a tasteful style that you can drive anywhere, whether you’re pulling into the parking garage at work or the valet stand outside a five-star resort – it looks no matter where it’s parked.

Inside, the corporate monologue continues offering up a black on black design scheme. One disconcerting item here was that even with our tester hitting 34-grand, we were equipped with leatherette seating surfaces (there is no leather option). While the seats are very much comfortable with a firm setting, decent lateral support, heated feature and a power adjustable driver seat – the leatherette surface feels gummy – something that won’t be nice in the summer. On a base trim, this would be a nice premium feature, but with this price, it starts to feel more cut-rate.

We do like the direction Volkswagen has taken with its interior design layout – the dash follows the exterior with clean lines that will grow over time. Every button, knob, and surface has a decent quality feel. Even though we liked our black/silver trim as it added a nice contrast, we, however, weren’t big of fans on the fully gloss black center stack as it will show every finger print, dust bunny and scratches.

Whether you’re a passenger or the driver, the interior cabin has a satisfying feel. The rear seats provide decent leg- and head room with admirable thigh support for long distance haulers. The driver seat welcomes its driver with a commanding view in all directions with an attractive instrument tunnel gauge cluster, easy to use multi-function leather wrapped steering wheel and touch screen infotainment system. Our tester came standard with Navigation – it’s definitely a step-up from the last-gen Volkswagen becoming easier to use and voice activation friendly – it still though has the very German militant woman voice – some guys may like that – we don’t judge.

Since Volkswagen has practically been king of the diesel playing field, our Golf SportWagen arrived with a 2.0-liter Turbo Diesel engine. The thing is here, you can’t look at the numbers… sure, 150 horsepower sounds pretty low considering the word turbo is in the mix, but the 236lb-ft of torque zipping through the front-wheels more than makes up for it. Even though it takes over 8 seconds to get to 60 mph, the Golf SportWagen feels pretty quick and when shifting through the snappy six-speed DSG automatic, gear changes are swift and agile. Of course though the automatic is an added $1100 over the standard shift-for-yourself six-speed manual.

Unsurprisingly driving the Golf SportWagen has a very German feel – the chassis feels tight and orderly. It provides the driver with a gratifying experience – body roll is minimal if you make a turn to tight, the suspension is firm but adaptive to its surroundings, and the steering provides suitable feedback to the driver.

We understand that diesels can be a scary concept – in the past they sounded like a dying barnyard machinery. In this generation diesels are barely noticeable. In this case, there are subtle signs you’re driving one and no, not because of the TDI badge on the tailgate. At idle the Golf SportWagen does sound a bit rough and at first acceleration you can feel its heaviness. But in the end, it all comes down to fuel efficiency. During our week we recorded an average of 41 mpg combined over the EPA’s 31/42/35 (city/highway/combined). This Golf SportWagen however did only show 500 miles of range in return on the trip computer, where as in the past we have seen upwards to 800 miles of range on other TDI models.

At the end of our term with the Golf SportWagen, we found ourselves quite pleased with its overall capabilities and passenger refinement. Seen here, our tester was comfortably equipped and reasonably valued at $33,955 which also included the $695 Driver Assistance Package. It’s a price we wouldn’t mind paying to have this much value packed into a fun-to-drive wagon.

Price (As Tested):
2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI SEL: $31,445
Destination: $820
Featured Options:
Driver Assistance Package: $695
Lighting Package: $995
Grand Total: $33,955


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