VW GOLF SPORTWAGEN SHOWS ITS TIME FOR THE STATION WAGON TO GET RESPECT
This is no fairy tale, but I’ll say it anyway.
Once upon a time, before crossovers, SUVs, and minivans began taking over as the favored providers of family transportation, there were perfectly capable vehicles for the task.
They were called station wagons.
They could handle a family of up to seven or eight members in relative comfort (depending on the age and size of the kids) and also offered plenty of room for weekly grocery runs and other routine errands, plus luggage space for the family vacation. There was even room for sheets of plywood in the back, something that those in the Southeast and Texas might appreciate during this hurricane season.
Station wagons also served as a measure of what stage of life you were in. I remember once when about six of us from high school got together with our families for a small reunion probably15 years or so out of high school. Every one of us showed up in a station wagon. No more V8 coupes with dual exhausts and glass-pack mufflers for us!
But the oil crisis of the 1970s and evolving of the aforementioned SUVs and minivans, and later crossovers, eventually killed off — or nearly so — the station wagon in the U.S market. Clark Griswold’s Wagon Green Family Truckster from the movie National Lampoon's Vacation may have dealt the final blow. You think minivans don’t get respect today? Think about the Truckster.
Today, with Dodge having ceased production of the Magnum wagon nearly a decade ago, no domestic manufacturer even offers one in its portfolio. I would argue that Ford’s Flex with its boxy profile is more station wagon than it is crossover, but such is the scorn associated with those two words Ford marketers prefer to use the term “utility vehicle” in promotional material.
Ah, me. Where did we go wrong?
Fortunately -- at least in my view -- a handful of European manufacturers still offer a modern take on the classic station wagon in the U.S., including a couple from Volkswagen.
In essence, the Alltrack is a bit more sophisticated version of the SportWagen (and a few thousand dollars more expensive) and more adaptable to off-road treks with its slightly higher ground clearance. Not that you are going to take it out on the Rubicon Trail or anything, but you can venture off on more rugged dirt roads than you are the SportWagen.
I was able to spend a week recently in the 2017 Golf SportWagen TSI S w/4Motion wagon before the visit from Hurricane Irma kind of threw life off kilter. I liked it.
Apparently others do as well because U.S. News & World Report has it tied for No. 1 with the Volvo V90 in the wagon segment in its analysis of auto reviews. That’s remarkable in itself because with an MSRP starting in the low $20,000 range, the SportWagen is less than half the price of the luxury V90.
One issue I had going into the week was whether the SportWagen would offer enough room to really be a serviceable station wagon since it does carry the Golf nameplate. Though slightly smaller than the older Passat station wagon my wife drives, it does.
It seats five passengers and offers just over 30 cubic feet of storage space behind the second row. The older Passat has 35.6 cubic feet of space behind the second row. Fold those seats and the Golf’s capacity more than doubles to 66.5 cubic feet.
The Golf SportWagen comes in three trim levels — S, SE, and SEL — all with a 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. With 170 horsepower at 4500 rpm and a 199 pound-feet of torque kicking in at 1600, the SportWagen doesn’t offer a whole lot in the way of “sporty” performance, but it’s no slug. Far from it, in fact. I didn’t bemoan any lack of hp.
For 2017, the S is available with VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system (not so the SE or SEL) with either the five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission (with paddle shifters and a sport mode). The SE and SEL get only the automatic.
The combination of the 4Motion system and automatic transmission delivers excellent fuel ratings of 22 miles-per-gallon city, 30 highway, and 25 combined for the S using regular fuel — unlike the premium recommended for my wife’s Passat and its 2.0 turbo.
Front-wheel-drive models are even better at 25/35/28 with the manual, 25/34/29 with the automatic.
The automatic and 4Motion system does add a bit to the MSRP. The S starts at $22,400 (including destination and delivery) with the manual tranny, the S 4Motion with the automatic $25,750.
Standard equipment for the S includes the Intelligent Crash Response system, 16-inch alloy wheels with all-season tires, halogen headlights, black roof rails, manual climate control (which suits me just fine) heated front seats with power recline, cloth seating surfaces, a rearview camera, 8-speaker sound system, Bluetooth cell phone connectivity, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, and VW Car-Net App-Connect system.
SE and SEL trims offer such standard features as leatherette seating surfaces and a Fender premium sound system, and the SEL gets navigation as standard as well. Some other option packages not available on the S are offered on the SE and SEL.
The most significant of those are an SE Driver Assistance Package that includes blind-spot monitor and adds $595 to the MSRP of $27,850 and an SEL Driver Assistance Package that includes Park Assist, Lane Assist, and HID headlamps and tacks on $1,995 to the $30,790 MSRP.
If you can live without those features, you will find the SportWagen S w/4Motion to our liking.
What I liked about the 2017 VW Golf SportWagen S w/4Motion: It’s a lot easier to handle in an urban setting than many SUVs and even crossovers. The cloth seats may be even better than the leatherette, and I liked the manual controls the A/C and the two knobs to adjust the radio.
What I didn’t like about the 2017 VW Golf SportWagen S w/4Motion: Not a big deal, but I’m thinking that in addition to power reclining for the front seats, it might be nice to have them move forward and back via power rather than using the manual lever under the front of the two seats.
Would I buy the 2017 VW Golf SportWagen S w/4Motion? Definitely. The S is one of the best bargains around.