Practical. It’s not a word that usually comes up when discussing performance cars. But then the Volkswagen Golf R isn’t your usual performance car.
In standard form it’s a three-door hatchback with the on-road abilities of a proper sports car. In estate form it’s even more than that – it’s a true blend of practicality and performance.
The estate tested here takes the three-door and stretches it by a foot. Aesthetically, the extra length works well and the estate is as good looking as its hatchback sibling.
But that extra length isn’t really about looks, it’s about practicality. It adds an extra 225 litres to the three-door’s boot capacity, meaning a class-leading 605 litres with the seats up, 1,620 with them down.
In essence, that means you can lug your garden waste to the tip on a Sunday morning then enjoy a B-road blast on the way home.
Because adding a big boot hasn’t done anything to blunt the Golf R’s ferocious performance.
It still has the same 296bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol under the bonnet, the same six-speed DSG gearbox and the same Haldex 4Motion four-wheel-drive system sending that power to the road.
That means 0-62mph in just 5.1 seconds and a top speed limited to 155mph.
On the road there’s a slight pause when you sink the throttle but once it’s over that momentary lag it feels every bit as quick as the numbers suggest. There’s a ceaseless shove through the revs propelling you forward at face-bending speeds, all in a sensibly appointed family estate.
Such straight-line shenanigans are pointless if it can’t go round corners but here, again, the Golf excels.
Our test model was fitted with the optional adaptive chassis control system, which offers comfort, normal, sport and race settings. In race the Golf is everything you want from a performance car. It’s firm, focused and agile with apparently endless grip and the throttle and gearbox responses are tweaked to match. The exhaust, too, gets in on the action, issuing all sorts of encouraging sounds – it managed at one point to sound like it was blowing a raspberry at the cars we’d just passed.
It is a hardcore setting though, and not one you’ll want to leave it in all the time. For that outward drive to the tip, or the school run, or whatever everyday chore lies ahead there’s the normal and comfort modes and these are perhaps the Golf’s trump card.
While something like a Civic Type R will leave you shaken and stirred after every drive whether you want it or not, the Golf can cosset just as much as it can thrill.
Stick it in comfort mode and you could be in any Golf. It’s smooth and soft, soaking up the bumps well and moderating the throttle and exhaust noise to suit a relaxed, gentle driving approach.
Look around you and the feeling of familiarity continues. Apart from the flat-bottomed steering wheel and our model’s R-specific leather sports seats it’s like any other high-spec Golf. That’s to say it’s comfortable, packed with top-quality materials and impeccably put together.
The only sticking point on this car, really, is the price. You can, theoretically, have a Golf R Estate for £33,955 but our test model weighed in at north of £40,000. That did include a chunk of optional extras you could do without – including the uprated stereo, Car-Net connectivity pack and lane assist – but the dynamic chassis control (£830) is a must. And personally I’d expect a halo model such as this to have leather as standard, not as a £2,600 option.
Even then, though the Golf R Estate is a compelling prospect. The hatchback is refined and comfortable yet offers a phenomenal driving experience. For just £700 you can add an estate boot that turns it from useable hot hatch into a truly useful – and practical –everyday performance car.