The fast estate is a car that any petrolhead can get on board with. If you can move a chest of drawers and still have a blast at the weekend, what’s not to love? Volkswagen has simply added extra boot space to the ballistic Golf R, and it might have just made a brilliant everyday performance car even better.
Elongating the Golf’s profile gives it a more elegant, classic silhouette. Our feelings are that the optional (but more attractive) five dual-spoke wheels are worth adding if you can avoid looking at how much they cost, because they lift what’s otherwise a little too understated a design. On their standard wheels both versions of the R can tread an uncomfortable line between classy and too safe.
Adding an impressive 225 litres of boot space is only part of the story, because that’s all below the luggage cover. As an estate this version gives you the option to slot things like household appliances in without necessarily having to drop the back seats.
Otherwise things are exactly as they are in the Golf R hatch, which is to say more or less any current Golf. There are cupholders where you want them, useful upholstered door pockets and a similarly lined glove box. Rear passengers will find that getting out asks more of a stretch than expected, and it’s tricky not to rub the back of your leading thigh against the (potentially filthy) bodywork.
Behind the wheel this is the most exciting production Volkswagen for decades. Dynamically it doesn’t give anything noticeable away to the hatchback, and yet while you’re sitting open-mouthed at the raucous antics coming from the engine and exhaust you know that you’re driving a practical family car. It’s brilliant.
Huge acceleration comes courtesy of grippy tyres, four-wheel drive and 296bhp. The irregular chorus of chatter from the exhaust adds tangible excitement to the experience far in excess of what the Golf GTI can muster, and there will be little to outpace it in the real world. De-restricted it’ll top 170mph. If we’re super-picky there’s only one black mark we can lay against the R estate’s performance.
No matter how hard we tried on the superb Ascari Race Resort track, we couldn’t get the R to feel rearward balanced. It’s so neutral, stable and confidence-inspiring, but it’s impossible to recreate a rear-wheel drive feel. That might put a dampener on some people’s enthusiasm.
To add the estate boot is a mere £695 box-ticking exercise, so why wouldn’t you? That’s fantastic value for a more practical, rarer version of the Golf R that’s also pretty much guaranteed to hold its worth for longer.
On the other hand, it already costs more than a BMW M135i. The Golf is better-specified, easier to get the best from and definitely more practical, but the BM is still the better driver’s car for those who really want the emphasis on their ‘everyday performance car’ to fall on the performance side.
Make no mistake, the Golf R estate is a laugh-out-loud marvellous everyday car.
It ticks most of the weekday boxes with ease and laps up high-adrenaline action on country roads or the race track at the weekend. Buyers who want startling speed without sacrificing the family wagon will never want to get rid of it.