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New Volkswagen Golf R Estate 2022 review

Can the new Volkswagen Golf R Estate hold its own in a world full of performance SUVs? We find out...

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Verdict

No VW in the brand’s line-up quite nails the performance/practicality brief as well as the estate version of its core R model, the Golf. It’s not without fault, and is a pricey machine these days, but dynamically few can match it, while it offers the performance, image and all-round ability to back up its price tag. It’s a strong continuation of the Golf R Estate lineage.

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If you want a fast family-focused Volkswagen that combines pace and practicality, in 2022 you have lots of choice. There’s the VW T-Roc R, for example, or the larger but also pricier Tiguan R if you need more space. But with the rise in popularity of the performance SUV niche giving birth to these two cars, does the brand’s Golf R Estate still have what it takes to tick the aforementioned boxes?

Priced from £43,175, in budget terms it sits between the hot T-Roc and Tiguan; it offers 20bhp more than the former and just four litres less boot space than the latter, yet it costs £4,035 less. If you want to define an all-rounder, the Golf R Estate could well be one of the closest cars to personifying this trait on sale today.

Let’s recap the recipe, which is familiar. Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, the same unit that powers the five-door hatch and its hot Tiguan sibling.

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It sends drive to all four wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, while there’s the option to add the same clever torque-vectoring rear differential as the hatchback to boost agility further still. It costs £2,095 as part of the R performance pack, which also adds a larger rear spoiler, 19-inch wheels and progressive steering. You can also add adaptive dampers for a further £815.

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On the move, and with our car’s optional dampers set to their soft setting, the Estate’s longer wheelbase compared with the hatchback means that, even on 19-inch alloys, the ride is composed and comfortable. There’s little pitch over bigger bumps, and the suspension absorbs the worst a winter-beaten B-road so common at this time of year can throw at it.

If you toggle up towards Race through the 15-stage setting on the Dynamic Chassis Control menu the Golf R stiffens up noticeably, sharpening its body control and adding more poise – to the point that you forget its concessions towards practicality and engage with it purely on its dynamic ability.

While it’s lumpier in its touch over bad surfaces, it also rolls less, so you can be more aggressive with the light, fast but ultimately mostly mute steering. It’s a very effective approach to going quickly, and while the car’s MQB underpinnings make it still feel a little more inert than rivals, VW has unlocked just a little more sense of humour than its predecessor.

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The added security of 4MOTION four-wheel drive allows you to deploy everything the engine has to offer – which is 316bhp and a solid 420Nm of torque spread over more than 3,000rpm. With launch control 0-62mph takes just 4.9 seconds, and despite the mid-range grunt giving plenty of flexibility, the motor revs sweetly and only loses its linear pull a little before the rev limiter. The gearbox’s changes are fast on the way up but could be slightly swifter going down the ratios in manual mode, but it’s a minor gripe.

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The bigger issue is the artificial sound piped into the cabin with the powertrain in Race mode, where you get the sharpest responses from the engine and transmission. It sounds like a droney generator and is not particularly pleasant, so it’s useful that you can opt for the ‘Pure’ engine sound setting in the Individual driving mode, which just gives you a sporty exhaust note and none of the artificial noise.

As with all Mk 8 Golfs – and VW’s ID. products – the touchscreen interface is another source of frustration. While the panel is loaded with features, too many of them are hidden in sub-menus of sub-menus, and the display is still too slow to respond on occasion. Combined with the touch-sensitive sliders it makes simple tasks such as changing the volume or temperature too difficult, which is a shame.

Sat-nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a 10.25-inch digital dash, wireless phone charging, three-zone climate control, adaptive cruise, a host of safety kit including autonomous braking and traffic jam assist, plus front and rear parking sensors are all fitted as standard.

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So are a pair of nicely trimmed, supportive R-branded sports seats, with plenty of blue interior accents to remind you you’re in the top rung of the Golf range. Quality is mostly good too, with only a few zones of hard plastic – but even then, areas such as the door bins are flock-lined, which is a nice touch.

There’s ample space in the rear, so back-seat passengers will have little to complain about, and with a 611-litre boot (the all-wheel drive R’s rear differential eats into boot space slightly compared with front-wheel drive models, but of course there’s no Golf GTI Estate available, so this is your only performance wagon option) there’s enough luggage room too.

With its lower ride height compared with a fast SUV the Golf R Estate is also easier to load than some rivals that overlap this category.

Other points of practicality include claimed fuel efficiency of up to 36mpg combined, with CO2 emissions of 178g/km, which are respectable numbers, but you’ll have to drive with some self-restraint to achieve them.

Still, given this repertoire the Golf R Estate still lays claim to that all-rounder tagline we wanted to know if it could live up to.

Model:Volkswagen Golf R Estate
Price: £43,175
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque: 316bhp/420Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph: 4.9 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Economy/CO2: 36mpg/178g/km
On sale: Now
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Sean’s been writing about cars since 2010, having worked for outlets as diverse as PistonHeads, MSN Cars, Which? Cars, Race Tech – a specialist motorsport publication – and most recently Auto Express and sister titles Carbuyer and DrivingElectric

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