2023 Volkswagen Golf R Wagon (car review)

Sometimes an experience is so unfathomable you can’t put it in words. That’s what it’s like to drive a 2023 Volkswagen Golf R Wagon. It’s an intricate blend of sportiness, sophistication and pulse-racing thrills.

We borrowed most of that opening paragraph from the German car maker, because we couldn’t have said it better ourselves. There really is such a term as an “R thing” and the performance wagon on test here epitomises that to a tee.

What it offers is all the get up and go, road holding magic and cornering grit you’ll find in a Golf R hatch, with the added practicality of more space, and an oddly sexy street appeal. It sort of reminds us of the “oh my” feeling you get when you see a C 63 Estate.

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Sure, it doesn’t have the big ballsy donk the Merc offers, nor the sheer size of its body shape, but it still makes you go “damn, look at you”. There’s plenty of pep under the hood of the Volkswagen though, thanks to its 235kW 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine.

Mated to a 7-speed DSG transmission with R Performance torque vectoring, the wagon delivers 420Nm of torque (20Nm more than the hatch). Also specific to this model are chrome roof rails, a luggage partition net and an electric tailgate with easy open.

2023 Volkswagen Golf R Wagon
2023 Volkswagen Golf R Wagon

The engine is grunty, snappy and well, positively angry if you find your way into Race mode after tapping the R button, but yet it’s refined enough to feel like a family wagon on a quiet Sunday drive.

We should tell you though that the capability of the Golf wagon doesn’t stop there, as it also features two exclusive R Performance driving profiles – ‘Drift’ for thrilling drifting capability away from public roads and ‘Special’.

That latter has been tuned on the demanding Nürburgring-Nordschleife racetrack and is pretty much Race mode, but with steroids injected deep into its veins. That aside, where the Golf R Wagon comes into its own though is the 4MOTION all-wheel drive.

We found ourselves trekking from the NSW Central Coast to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains for a family event. What we didn’t expect was gale force winds and driving rain, a situation that makes driving on windy roads an experience unto itself.

The VW handled it with aplomb, eating up corners despite the treacherous conditions, like it was riding on rails. Not once did it feel like it would get away from us, and that’s what makes this car special. It’s absolute capability in any condition.

dash
Inside the 2023 Volkswagen Golf R Wagon

It looks good doing it too, with all that is R-styling, as well as matrix LED headlights with dynamic cornering and dynamic light assist, LED daytime running lights and a light strip across the grille, and LED taillights with dynamic indicators.

19-inch Estoril alloy wheels also feature, along with rain sensing wipers, dark tinted rear and side windows and folding exterior mirrors. Inside, there’s more R goodness, with sports seats that feature the iconic logo embroidered into the rear seatbacks.

Those, like the steering wheel, are wrapped in Nappa leather, and heated and vented up front, while the driver also gets electric adjustment and memory. An auto-dimming rear-view mirror and three zone climate control air-conditioning are also included.

There’s 30-colour ambient lighting, an alarm system, keyless access, and push button start. Driving tech includes adaptive chassis control, with driver profile selection as well.

The better 480-watt Harman Kardon sound system, which is next level good, is an optional extra, which is a little disappointing, although it was fitted to our test vehicle. You do get Discover Pro though, with satellite navigation and a 10.0-inch infotainment display.

front seats
Inside the 2023 Volkswagen Golf R Wagon

That comes complete with voice control and wireless app-connect (including wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay). There’s a similarly cord free phone charger and a very groovy digital instrument cluster. DAB+ digital radio and a head-up display also feature.

In terms of storage, the Golf R wagon offers luggage space of 611-litres with five useable seats. An impressive 1,642-litres of luggage space is available with the rear seats down. That practicality alone makes this car that little bit different.

Rear leg room is super good too, and even taller passengers will find comfort back there. You will need to sit your feet under the front seat, but it’s not a struggle, and that’s what sets it apart from the hatch version.

On the safety front there’s front assist with pedestrian and cyclist monitoring, lane assist, side assist with rear traffic alert, adaptive cruise control with stop and go, travel, emergency and park assist.

You’ll also find an exit warning system and high quality rear view camera, eight airbags, a proactive passenger protection system and manoeuvre braking, front and rear. It’s a car that feels safe because it quite literally is.

rear seats
Inside the 2023 Volkswagen Golf R Wagon

The 2023 Volkswagen Golf R Wagon does cost a fair bit of coin though. For example, opt for both the add-on sound system and the panoramic sunroof, and choose it in our test colour of Lapiz Blue Premium Metallic, and you’ll get no change from $81,000 drive away.

That’s a lot of biccies for an elongated hatch. But if the thought of a go fast wagon that handles like a dream, sounds like an angry rally car and looks like well, sex on wheels, is for you, then spend away.

You can also opt for Pure White or Deep Black Pearl Effect (yes there are only three colours), but for us it’s the blue or nothing. You do get a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty and a year of roadside assistance.

Should you be ready to rush out and own one, you can build your own on the Volkswagen Australia website, and if you need finance, talk to CreditOne. We should warn you though, there’s presently quite the wait to get one.

Our test vehicle was provided by Volkswagen Australia. To find out more about the 2023 Volkswagen Golf R Wagon, contact your local Volkswagen dealer.

boot
Inside the 2023 Volkswagen Golf R Wagon

REVIEW OVERVIEW

Driving experience
9
Exterior styling
9
Interior look and feel
9
Technology and connectivity
9
Family friendliness
8.5
Value for money
8.5

SUMMARY

Pros - plenty of tech; good looking car; exceptional handling; practical performance.
Cons - a little pricey; good luck getting one; better sound system and sunroof are optional extras.
Mark Holgate
Mark Holgate
A journalist with more than 24 years experience, Mark Holgate has worked with a number of regional, suburban and metropolitan newspapers, as well as stints with motoring specific publications like Which Car? Motorsport News, Auto Action and Street Machine. He is also a contributor to DriveTribe.

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<strong>Pros -</strong> plenty of tech; good looking car; exceptional handling; practical performance.<br> <strong>Cons -</strong> a little pricey; good luck getting one; better sound system and sunroof are optional extras.2023 Volkswagen Golf R Wagon (car review)