By on January 3, 2017

2017 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen front quarter, Image: © 2016 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars

2017 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen TSI S with 4Motion

1.8 liter I-4, DOHC, turbocharged (170 hp at 4,500 rpm, 184 lb-ft at 1,600 rpm)

Six-speed DSG automatic transmission with all-wheel drive

22 city / 30 highway / 25 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

23.7 (Observed, MPG)

Base Price: $25,750

As Tested: $25,750

Prices include $820 destination charge.

I’ve no idea how, as I’ve lived in the same Ohio county for all of my 30-plus years (sounds better than nearly 40) on this earth, but I stumbled upon an unfamiliar rural road not far from home last week while testing the new 2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen. New roads are naturally meant to be explored, so I flicked the signal lever and looked for adventure.

The weather was typical for late December: brisk, with frost in spots making the fallen leaves a bit slick. My first instinct was to drive cautiously, but I realized that I never get opportunities like this. A few hours alone behind the wheel, in daylight, with nowhere to be. The 4Motion all-wheel drive should save me if things get hairy, right?

Alas, there was no trouble found; only fun times behind the wheel in the twisties. VW takes the Sport part of SportWagen seriously. Heck, even the DSG transmission was remarkably enjoyable, shifting quickly and seamlessly.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen on twisty road, Image: © 2016 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars

It’s not as fun to look at, sadly. In low-spec S trim, it’s positively dowdy and entirely too familiar. It’s a new car with a new drivetrain, but the package remains anonymous. Squinting at it from certain angles reminds me of the E90-chassis BMW 3 Series wagon — especially in how the horizontal character line cuts across the flanks, just below the door handles — but it’s not a stunning masterpiece that budding designers will study in years to come.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen front, Image: © 2016 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars

That’s OK, though. Sometimes an incognito ride is warranted, if not desired. It’s not like our most popular people-and-cargo haulers of the day will ever appear in a museum. The driving experience of the Golf SportWagen, especially compared to modern CUVs, makes up for the lack of visual panache.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen rear, Image: © 2016 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars

S, SE, and SEL trims are offered for the standard front-drive Sportwagen, and on the Golf Alltrack like the one Tim drove last week, but the all-wheel-drive shopper who doesn’t want the extra ride height and body cladding of the Alltrack is limited to the base S trim, where the only option is manual or DSG transmission — if you can even get the manual. You can’t configure a manual-transmission 4Motion on Volkswagen’s website now, but I’m told that it’ll arrive toward the end of January.

Before you say it, I’m aware the old cars I love don’t have any of the luxury or safety features found even on the base model Golf. But eliminating any upgrade path seems rather unusual.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen front seats, Image: © 2016 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars

The S trim does include standard heated front seats, which were welcome to keep a couple pizzas toasty when driving them home on a frosty evening. The touchscreen infotainment system — now with USB port! — worked well and synced flawlessly with my Samsung via Bluetooth. But I’d love to see leather(-ish) seats, larger alloy wheels, and the panoramic sunroof fitted to the 4Motion SportWagen, yet it’s not possible.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen dash, Image: © 2016 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars

The optional safety features available on other, non-4Motion trims would be welcome, too, including adaptive cruise control and blind spot monitoring. The sight lines out of the wagon are quite good, so blind spots aren’t as prevalent as those in my usual steed, but it’s a welcome feature I’d willingly pay for in my next car.

I did find the actual passenger space a bit tight. I’m broad in the shoulder and I should have played left tackle and not become a theatre geek in high school, so my wife and I were rubbing shoulders when driving together. My kids weren’t cramped in the rear seat, though. The seats themselves were reasonably comfortable, though I did note a lack of upper lumbar support on a long drive, which left me slightly sore.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen cargo, seats up, Image: © 2016 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars

2017 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen cargo, seats folded, Image: © 2016 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars

The cargo area is quite roomy for such a small car, reminding me that it doesn’t take a CUV to haul a bunch of stuff. The rear seat backs fold, but don’t quite give a flat load floor. Nonetheless, VW quotes 30.4 cubic feet with the rear seats up, and 66.5 cubic feet folded. Those figures are within reach of compact SUVs like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4, and are even larger than Volkswagen’s own Tiguan. No need to fear big strollers or a couple sets of golf clubs.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen door, Image: © 2016 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars

The long freeway cruise made me thirsty, which gave me an opportunity to appreciate a true delight — its deep, wide door pocket. Yes, that’s a 32 ounce Nalgene wide-mouth bottle nestled snugly in the door. I tested the popular stainless steel, 30-ounce Yeti tumbler, too, but the angle the cup assumes might lead to spillage if filled to the brim. Still, a car as efficient as this benefits by accommodating bladder-busting thirsts, and it’s a great feature for me.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen infotainment, Image: © 2016 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars

Long freeway cruises require entertainment, of course, and the Golf SportWagen delivers adequately. The MIB II infotainment system is solid, though the sound quality wasn’t as great as the Fender-branded speaker system in the Beetle Dune I drove in September. Again, higher trim levels of the front-drive SportWagen offer the premium speaker setup, but not this all-wheel-drive version. The 6.5-inch touchscreen also displays the standard rear-view camera, which is cleverly hidden beneath the large VW badge on the hatch. That camera is perhaps too clever, as the mechanism that raises and lowers the badge is noisy, only drowned out by loud music or loud kids.

(Tim experienced some issues with MIB II in the Golf Alltrack, which you can read about here.)

I also found I could ignore the camera by punching the right pedal liberally. While the 1.8-liter turbo four isn’t overwhelming with 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, it’s surprisingly quick when paired with 4Motion. Pulling the DSG lever back into Sport mode enables firm, quick, full-throttle upshifts, launching the family hauler briskly.

Better yet, the venerable MQB platform was solid and surefooted. Freeway expansion joints were absorbed nicely. The ride is firm, but never jarring. And when the road turned twisty, the Golf SportWagen cornered with minimal body roll. Still, I wonder if the front-biased system helps to reduce torque steer. None was evident during my spirited drive, even though torque is only sent rearward when slip is detected.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen rear quarter, Image: © 2016 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars

Would I buy the Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen 4Motion?

I’m not certain I would — at least not as tested. It was a remarkably fun car to drive, but I’d need a few more features that were simply not available with the 4Motion package. If I were to buy a SportWagen, I’d opt for a front-drive SE trim and add the $595 SE Driver Assistance Package.

The SE adds the V-Tex leatherette over cloth in the S, power seats,  panoramic sunroof, and the Fender audio system, while the Drive Assistance Package adds adaptive cruise control, emergency braking, and a blind spot monitor — all useful features.

While I’d forego all-wheel drive, the front-drive with good tires is plenty in nearly all conditions I’d ever encounter. As equipped, the price would be $28,445 — a $2,695 jump over my tester — but better equipped for my needs.

[Images: © Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars]

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

Recommended

91 Comments on “2017 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen 4Motion Review – So Many Letters, Yet Not Enough...”


  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    At these prices I predict that VW will help support the sale of many Subarus.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      @ Dan,

      Average transaction prices don’t support that narrative though; a TrueCar search tells you closer to the real story about transaction prices.

      Subarus sell at or near sticker all day long. Golfs are transacting around $3500 off sticker in my area (greater DC), and they’re not even the worst. Jettas are around $4.5k, and Passats are upwards of $5500. Right now VW has no advertised incentives to speak of aside from a $1k loyalty bonus as well.

      All that said, if you roll in and just look at the sticker price, yeah. You’ll probably go down the street to a Subaru dealer. When you look at actual ATPs though? The VW starts to make a lot more sense.

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Yes but a “Golf 4-motion” buyer is likely going to look at an Impreza (newly refreshed) and less expensive at various trim levels.

        At the prices Chris quotes for the VW you could be looking at an Outback instead.

        • 0 avatar
          duffman13

          Makes sense. I feel like you’d have to look at feature content.

          The sticker for Chris’s tester and a base Outback are the same, but taking into account the discounting, it’s maybe $750 more than a Impreza hatch premium. In that case, you’re also getting the room of a wagon over just a hatch. Plus you get roughly 30 more hp and lb-ft of torque.

          At the trimmed out version he lists at the end though? The outback wins that if you can do without pleather, sunroof, or driver assistance, otherwise adding them is almost $4k in options. The Outback’s problem is there is a $5k jump from the premium at $27.5k to the limited at $32.5k, and you’re still not getting the driver assistance at that price.

          Realistically I see the VW slotting between the Impreza and Outback, and it’s transaction prices taking into account discounting support that well.

        • 0 avatar
          moorewr

          If they’re like my family, they’re going to take notice of how much smaller the Impreza’s cargo volume is. The GSW is just barely big enough for our two kids and some camping gear, and will probably get the nod.

          We’ll probably chuck the cost difference and get the FWD GSW.

      • 0 avatar
        Rick T.

        Just drove off a remaining 2016 S (Tornado Red over Sand) from a dealer near Nashville Saturday. Got $5,500 off with the 2017’s probably getting $3,000. Could I have done a little better? Who knows but I’m satisfied.

        For my commuting irregularly between 30 and 100 miles a day plus occasional estate-saleing duties for my wife, it’s a heck of a lot of car for the money and fits our needs almost perfectly. Nowhere near a penalty box. I didn’t want to spend over $25,000 all in due to piling up miles over the next several years until retirement. Sure, I’d like a couple of the automatic features like lights, climate, and wipers but I’m happy to adjust them myself for the savings.

        My wife wanted an SUV/CUV and I wanted a sedan. I pointed one out to her a couple weeks ago and she pronounced it “cute” so we were on our way. Happy wife, happy life.

      • 0 avatar
        joeb-z

        If you plan ahead on a Subaru you can get a substantial discount with the VIP program that is a benefit for certain organizations for example:

        https://www.imba.com/subaru-vip

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    This Sportwagen has “dual exhausts”, one on each side of the car. I wonder if that is a byproduct of the rear differential and axles taking up space? The FWD Sportwagen has dual tips, both on the driver’s side of the car.

    Does this have a multi-link rear suspension?

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      I think it’s because dual exhausts look cooler, and that’s what buyers want even if it has no performance benefit and actually increases weight/complexity. I have 2 4-cylinder cars (S2000 and Mazda3 2.5L), and both have unnecessary dual exhausts.

    • 0 avatar
      moorewr

      Yes, it is multi-link. Only the diesels use torsion bars…

      I suspect the separated exhausts are just for looks – it is pretty close to the GTI’s rear valence, so it may have been a cheap change to make.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Is that actually a DSG in the Sportwagen S? I’m pretty sure VW puts the 09G Aisin 6 speed conventional automatic in the 4Motion wagons. Only the Alltrack gets the DSG as far as I know.

    Also, this thing badly needs a more modern looking front end. I know some people don’t like LED headlights, but when the cheaper Jetta comes with LED DRLs in 2017, the more expensive Golf should have the same feature. And the lighting package should be available even if you decide to get an “S” trim.

    Last thing regarding visibility – If anyone buys one of these, do yourself a favour and order some European aspherical mirrors as they basically eliminate your blind spots if they’re adjusted correctly.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      No they are dsg. They built out the 4motion 1.8t combo with dsg or the 6 speed manual, no torque converter or 5 speed.

      Correction for the article, I’m pretty sure this 1.8t makes 199lb/ft like all the other golfs.

      Lemansteve, yes multilink, the torsion bars were only tdi.

      As to the price, this version of the car was clearly aimed directly at the base outback. I’d bet good money that’s the only reason it exists as the alltrack s is a little bit more. The b&b is hung up on the size difference between the two, but I’ve never met a awd sportwagen/alltrack intender who wasn’t cross shopping the two. If manual wasn’t a must for us I would too.

      It’s probably the eventual replacement for my own fwd base wagon. Heated seats, android auto, and the better transmissions make for a hell of an upgrade. The last manual wagon standing right? This is great news for our family at least.

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        Interesting. I guess it’s a DSG then. If you build a Sportwagen S 4Motion and an Alltrack S on vw.com the Alltrack says it comes with a DSG while the regular Sportwagen S just says it’s a 6 speed automatic with Tiptronic. I guess that’s just VW being VW.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      Looking at VWs site, it seems VW dropped the lighting package from the Jetta and Golf lines outside of HIDs being standard on certain GTI trims. Yes the Jetta gets LED DRLs, but leaving out availability of HID lows when you get LEDs standard in a base Corolla is a misstep if you ask me.

      Honestly, I’m so disappointment in the lighting from my Mazda 3 compared to my S2000 and my wife’s Santa Fe that I would consider moving to a Passat just for the available LED headlights over halogens.

    • 0 avatar
      ImAbeFroman

      agree RE: the lights. It baffles me they don’t offer the Bi-Xenons and driver assist packages on the S models.
      Would make for a damn good car – instead one has to spend $30,000+ to get lights worthy of a modern German car.

    • 0 avatar
      palincss

      The 4-Motions in both GSW and Alltrack have DSG or 6 speed manuals. The front wheel drive GSWs are available with either conventional automatic or 5 speed manual.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I test drove a Golf wagon in Se form and it did not have a DSG in it, and after having one in my TDI wagon the drop off was a major issue and one of the reasons I passed on it as a replacement for said TDI wagon. Maybe the 4 motion and DSG go together.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      That looks right. The website lists the DSG for the Alltrack, but not for the 4 motion.

      I’d consider that a plus. I wouldn’t be thrilled with the $500 transmission service. DSG fits the character of the GTI, but for a 170hp wagon?

      • 0 avatar
        jkross22

        How often does the $500 transmission service need to happen? I’ve heard the DSG requires maintenance but didn’t know the cost.

        • 0 avatar
          brettc

          Every 40000 miles on the dot. It’s just over $100 online (idparts.com) if you buy the parts and do the drain, measure and fill method. My local dealer was charging $289 at one point a couple of years ago.

          • 0 avatar
            MrGrieves

            I just sold my DSG equipped TDI back to VW, and I never had a problem with it and loved its performance, however –

            The stories about DSG servicing costs are totally accurate. The dealer nearest me charges $619 just for the DSG service (the 40K service in total is around $1000.) I never found a place to do it for less than $500. The stories about local dealers not gouging the heck out of the service prices seem fanciful to me. Another reason I bid farewell to VW.

          • 0 avatar
            Wheatridger

            Smart DSG owners shop around. Find an independent VW expert. Mine charges the list price, about $250, for the magic lube, and the labor is ten minutes of the hour he takes to do a major service.

            Most other non-slushbox cars I’ve owned needed a clutch job around 100,000 miles, but the DSG didn’t, and probably won’t. My wrench, a lifelong VW tuning specialist, says he’s only had to repair one DSG in all these years, and that was an electronics breakdown.

            With TDI fading into a blot on history, the DSG may be the best reason to buy a VW/Audi. This wasn’t a simple achievement (actually, it took Porsche to do it). Look at Ford’s struggle with its dual-clutch box.

            By the mile, DSG service costs me about a penny. I’ll gladly pay that fee – it’s cheaper than buying a Porsche!

  • avatar
    Ol Shel

    That whole last part about a front-drive SE for Tim’s needs is an odd way to end the article.

    • 0 avatar
      Steve Biro

      To each his or her own. Chris wants all of those optional driver’s aids. For the life of me, I can’t understand why. Especially given the panoramic view from the driver’s seat in this car. But his remarks about the virtue of front-wheel drive with appropriate tires are quite true. I’d be tempted to go for an S version with FWD. But I have a base Subaru Forester – never mind! :)

      • 0 avatar
        duffman13

        You’d think so, but wait until you live with them for a while. My wife’s SUV has blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic, backup camera, and rear parking sensors. When she had to drive my car for an afternoon she told me she was alarmed at how much more dangerous she thought she was without those aids.

        Personally, I like them too. Lane keep and auto-cruise aren’t things I’d ever use, but stuff that gives me extra situational awareness as to what’s behind me are always welcome. My next vehicle will probably have at least that level of driver assist, and I’ll happily pay for it if it’s less than $1k.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          I bought my 2013 Outback Special Appearance package to avoid the 2014 SAP package Eyesight nanny made mandatory. I always wondered if I should have sprung for it.

          Last week when my car was in for service I had a 2017 Outback loaner with Eyesight – it was really impressive. With my daily 30 mile commute and frequent road trips it would make sense…

          I love the design of the Golf wagon. Mpgs aren’t too impressive for the size though…

          Pamaoramic sunroof and HIDs FTW in my book…

  • avatar
    tedward

    I’m going to test drive one of these. I’ve tried the alltrack se already but I’d like to see if the ride height affects handling. As it stands my wife wants an alltrack se stick on the condition that I lower it a bit. We’ll save a ton of money if she can live without the roof, leatherette and fender. Also, a suspension swap won’t be an immediate necessity with this one, although I’m sure it would happen down the road.

    Hell I can probably throw my gti dampers on this thing, fit some r springs and then find something more sporting for the gti. I can’t help myself apparently.

  • avatar
    Lampredotto

    I suspect the standard heated seats are an artifact from VW’s assumption that the Sportwagen would enjoy a high TDI take rate. Like many diesels, the TDI is slow to come up to operating temp, meaning long waits for dashboard heat. VW must be figuring a large proportion of 4Motion buyers will be in cold weather climes.

  • avatar
    nels0300

    I’d love to get one of these with a manual transmission. I want a 6 speed manual (not the current 5 speed in the FWD models) and nice looking wheels.

    If VW ever made a GTI version of the Sportwagen, my lifelong avoidance of anything VW would probably come to an end. Reliability be damned.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      The manuals are supposed to be available sometime in 2017.

    • 0 avatar
      derekson

      The manual version of this will be a 6 speed because they don’t have AWD paired with the 5 speed in their parts bin. IIRC the 6 speed is the same one from the Golf R.

      • 0 avatar
        nels0300

        That’s nice that they’re using the 6 speed manual for the AWD version.

        Why can’t they use it in the FWD version of regular Golf, Sportwagen, and Jetta?

        What is it with this 5 speed manual garbage in 2016? Subaru does it too. Cheap bastards.

        A friggin’ Kia Rio has a 6 speed manual.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          It seems cheap, but I’d drive it first before rendering a final verdict. The 1.8T spreads its power over a broad rev range, I didn’t think it needed more than 5 speeds on the test drive I took.

          • 0 avatar
            nels0300

            I’m sure it’s fine, I’m sure a 4 speed would work too, it just bugs me.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            By that reasoning you should be upset that it doesn’t have a 7-speed. If the 5 is fine and it works and the gear spread isn’t a problem, then why would it bug you? Drive it and find out for yourself if you’re actually interested.

          • 0 avatar
            nels0300

            It bugs me because every other manufacturer that bothers to offer a manual is using 6 speeds now.

            VW isn’t using it because it’s better.

            I’m sure I could live with it, I lived with my 2013 Subaru 5 speed manual, I’d just rather have the extra gear.

  • avatar
    sirwired

    “The optional safety features available on other, non-4Motion trims would be welcome, too”

    These are only “available” in a theoretical sense, as this year they’ve been demoted to “factory order only”, which might as well be “unavailable” unless you have the patience of a saint, and the fortitude to handle incentives disappearing between order date and delivery date.

  • avatar
    Jason

    I’m trapped between the feelings of “this design is inherently broken if the rear seats don’t fold flat, this is a freaking outrage” and “perhaps I’m weird”.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The prior generation Sportwagen would fold completely flat, but you had to pull up the bottom cushions before lowering the seatbacks. Either Chris didn’t do this or that feature has been eliminated from this generation.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        They don’t fold completely flat, but close (assuming it is the same as the Golf). The seat on the left in the photo of the rear seats down looks like about the maximum they will go, maybe a little flatter if you put some weight on it. You have to make sure there is room between the front and rear seats for the headrest though, which can be a problem for taller drivers.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          Bummer. I liked that feature on the Jetta wagon.

        • 0 avatar
          Jason801

          I purchased my Kia Forte5 (2011*) partially on the fact that the rear seats fold flat (yes, I do have to flip up the seat cushions first, but that’s fine with me).

          “Completely flat” is an unnecessary elaboration, it’s either flat or not. :D Not-flat rear seats in hatchbacks make me go you-ruined-the-point-of-the-car-how-dare-you levels of outrage.

          *The replacement model (2014) has seats that do not fold flat, so Kia has lost me as a returning customer unless they reverse course on whatever comes next.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Nice review, Chris, but I’d never pass up an otherwise likeable car because it lacked plastic seats and driver assistance nonsense.

    This is a fantastic car on paper and in concept. They drive well, they feel expensive, and the asking price is reasonable. The cargo hold is huge for the class and the cabin is long enough to fit 8-foot long 2x6s. The interior is loaded with thoughtful details that may escape notice on a test drive but become apparent once you own it–the huge door pocket lined in fabric to quell rattling from the water bottle is just one example.

    Resale and reliability would be my primary concerns. Shame, as it sets up a difficult dichotomy–the car is good enough to want to keep long term, but reliability may bite you if you do, and the resale punishes you for trading out after a shorter ownership period.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      The only reason I’d take pleather is if it was necessary to get heated seats. Since that’s not the case, I can’t see why, unless the trim was necessary for the driver aids.

      VW does good things with their interiors and the driving feel of their newer cars – the question is will it hold up over time, both in fit&finish and mechanically. I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, and am seriously considering it financially, but at the same time I know too many people who’ve had bad VAG experiences as recently as the Mk VI era (myself included, but Mk IV/B5).

  • avatar
    rjg

    VW’s trim levels are now more restrictive and annoying than even Honda’s. The deal breaker for me is that you’re forced to get pleather seats in anything beyond the S trim, and as this article points out you can’t add any of the good options to the S.

    I rented a Passat with “v-tex” once and returned it within 2 hours– vinyl seats sucked in the 80s and they still stuck today. The GTI seems to be the only model their lineup that isn’t plagued with pleather. Do most buyers not notice this?

    • 0 avatar
      whitworth

      I’m just the opposite, I can’t stand cloth interiors.

      How is the pleather all that much worse than leather?

      If anything, I almost prefer the newer vinyls to real leather as they hold up better.

      • 0 avatar
        rjg

        It’s much less breathable than even highly processed automotive leather. I notice because I start to sweat even w/ A/C on when sitting on a vinyl seats (even the perforated ones). doesn’t happen to the same extent w/ leather or cloth. That’s been my experience across a number of cars with cloth, leather (various types) and vinyl seats.

        As far as durability, there are so many other things that will wear out or break (especially on a VW) before the leather or cloth wears out. And even if the vinyl is in better condition than leather would be in say, 15 years, the seat foam is going to be shot by that point anyway. I remember someone posting a pic of their e46 BMW w/ vinyl seats complaining that while the vinyl held up some of the seams busted after 10 years.

    • 0 avatar
      FreedMike

      “I rented a Passat with “v-tex” once and returned it within 2 hours…”

      This.

      I test drove a Golf with the fake leather seats in July heat and it was AWFUL (the fact that the car was red with black interior trim didn’t help). When you sweat, and your body weight shifts in the seat, it makes a squeaking noise.

      No. Sale.

      Base Golfs do have cloth, which is by far the better option.

  • avatar
    OzCop

    I’m not sure it’s relevant to compare an 07 model Jetta Wolfsburg edition to a 10 year newer VW of any kind, but since that is my only reference to VW quality, ride, etc., here goes…
    My lovely wife had been admiring the Jetta for a year or so, and when it was time for a new car, that is all she wanted to explore. Me being the skeptic I am suggested she lease one and that way she wouldn’t be stuck with it for 5 years of payments. Selection was made, and she drove away in her new white Jetta, complete with sport suspension, 2.5 NA engine, and auto tranny, with her fanny perched on tan leatherette seats. She loved it…for about 10 months. Me, on the other hand, not so much. The first road trip we took, 600 miles round, I found the seats horribly non supportive, and comfort adjustment impossible. I thought I would require back surgery by the time we returned home. It didn’t matter whether I was in the driver seat, which at least had power assist for the seat portion, but a large round wheel for the seat back angle, or the passenger seat which was mechanically adjusted fore and aft, and another large wheel for seat back. Lumbar support was supposed to exist, but it didn’t matter the position of the adjustment lever, there was no significant difference. However, it was her car, and if she liked, fine. I had my 06 AWD Hemi powered Durango Limited, and it was quite comfortable for me and the long trips, even towing a trailer with a CRX autocross car aboard.

    About 10 months into the lease, she decided to drive from our home at the time in Lexington, KY to Mobile, AL to visit her cousin, and would be traveling alone. Her first encounter with problems came several miles south of Nashville, TN on I 65, after filling up with gas just north of Nashville. The car began jumping and jerking, as she described it, so she pulled into a gas station and called me. Of course the car did have a road side service warranty so I suggested she call and have someone come look at it. Three hours later she was back on the road, with a new engine oil cap that somehow had lost it’s seal, screwing with the emissions system. Fine, till she headed home and found herself facing a similar issue, jumping, jerking, and the smell of raw fuel. Again, she called road side assistance, and true to her last negative experience, 3 hours later, she was on her way home with a new fuel filler cap. According to the tech, the cap simply wasn’t sealing and was allowing excess air to be sucked through the system. By the time she got home, she hated that car more than she hated her ex husband! But alas, there would be at least a couple more years to live with it. During the lease period, there were only a couple more warranty items replaced, but the car pretty much became a local commuter car, and with 3 months left on the lease, we sold it with only 25K miles of the 36K miles allowed on the lease. Appearance wise, it looked and smelled new, and honestly, mechanically, it was ok, but she never got over that bad experience encountered on her trip. I still hated riding in in for anything more than short trips. We were able to sell the car early, with enough profit to finish paying out the lease and the buy-out.

    Bottom line is, she will not go near a VW dealership. Me on the other hand, I kinda like the appearance of the newer VWs, particularly the wagon models, but would want to rent one for a road trip before ever committing to lease or purchase. I would never consider an S or anything not equipped with multiple adjustment seats, AWD, and creature comforts most newer cars and SUV’s, as well as pickup trucks, tend to offer. The Golf R model on the other hand, does appeal to me as an autocross/occasional track day toy, however the price doesn’t. Bark’s choice of a Focus RS would be the better choice at that price point…

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      Seats are an individual preference. I’ve taken 14-hour road trips in that generation of Jetta and found them very comfortable–firm but not unyielding, abundant thigh support, adequate bolstering, plenty of adjustment. Lumbar could be more aggressive if you have back issues, I suppose. What I hate are broad, overly soft, bolster-less shapeless sofa seats.

      Mine went 7 years without issues, I never worried about reliability in that time because it never gave me a reason to. It also had the 5-cylinder. I haven’t looked at Consumer Reports recently, but as of a few years ago that generation of Jetta/Golf was average or above on reliability. Individual experiences like that can feed into a narrative. If it were a Honda would she be as put off?

      • 0 avatar
        OzCop

        Ironically, she owned a Honda Pilot EXL AWD prior to the VW…it was taken out by a large truck…she enjoyed that SUV as much as any she has had. Her next car after the VW was a 325i BMW sedan…she loved that car, but after a few years decided she wanted a more conventional and economical SUV since her mother had come to live with us following the passing of my father in law, and we were moving back to Texas. I left the purchase up to her and her mom, who was 84 at the time, and needed something “butt high” to swing herself in and out of, rather than climbing up, or sinking down into the seat. Against my better judgment, they chose a pretty nice Titanium Edition Ford Escape…the “butt high” requirement is perfect…Personally, being 6’1″ and a bit robust in stature, I have no interest in driving it other than local, short trips. The car itself has been flawless for the most part, other than a few recalls. It has ample power, and I find myself unintentionally chirping the tires at times pulling away from a stop.

    • 0 avatar
      Eurylokhos

      Just turned in my wife’s 2014 TDI wagen, and I feel the same about the seats in that. Poor lumbar made them suck, killing my back on longer drives. Put a small pillow behind my back on long drives and all was well. My 2004 GTI was the same, didn’t have adjustable lumbar and hurt. Swapped the seats for the higher end leather with lumbar and all was good. 2009 and 2016 GTIs both have adjustable lumbar and I can drive them forever in comfort.

      Moral of the story for me is don’t buy a VW without adjustable lumbar. You will hate life.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I had v t ex seats in my TDI wagon and after 130,000 miles they still look great and they were not bad at all, a little sticky in hot weather but I would not want cloths seats in the summer either. The hated seats were great in the when it got cold. My seats were pretty comfortable, not volvo seats but not bad.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Between the 2012 wagon and 2014 sedan my wife and I have, we’ve had the bottom seat cover replaced on mine and the top seat cover replaced on hers, both on the driver’s seat and both pretty early on in the life of the car (both were under the bumper to bumper warranty).

      So I’m not a huge fan of it but it is easy to clean if nothing else.

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    An unreliable Mazda 5 without sliders?

  • avatar
    nels0300

    If anyone from VW is reading this, regarding the Sportwagen, please:

    1. Get rid of the gross, cheap looking silver plastic trim on the dashboard. Make it black, or something else. Even fake carbon fiber would look better.

    2. Ditch the 5 speed manual FCS, seriously.

    3. Offer some wheels that don’t look so cheap on the manual transmission version.

    4. Create a new segment. Offer a GTI version of the Golf Wagon….you know….a SPORTwagen. For Moms, Dads, and anyone else that would like the utility of a SUV/CUV, but don’t want an SUV/CUV and can’t afford an Audi/Volvo etc. wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      ItsMeMartin

      Oh boy, here it goes again…

      >> CHEAP <> CHEAP LOOKING <<

      It's one of the most non-sensical criticisms aimed at a car that I can think of. Sadly, it's becoming ever more common in these parts. It's the equivalent of the soft touch plastic fetish due to which roughly 30% of every video car review is spent on watching closeups of the reviewer poking every imaginable panel in the car.

      There exist rolling testaments to the companies' contempt for their own customers which pretty much disintegrate once the warranty period expires. They get a pass; after all: "its all worth it because fährvergüngen autobahn ültimate leasing mäschine herp derp".

      There are companies that use their customers as beta-testers. They get a pass; after all: "i wont drive an anshent car with *insert a proven, effective technology* its too cheap n im too innovative for dat herp derp".

      Etc.

      Then, there are cars that commit the ultimate sin of not being helpful in upholding the image of affluence that buying a compact on a 60-to-72-month note so clearly projects. There's nothing worse than having a car that does not scream far and wide about how well-off we are, I tell you!

      • 0 avatar
        nels0300

        What are you talking about, what does anything I wrote have to do with 72 month loans?

        What is wrong with wanting good looking wheels no silver paint on the dashboard?

        Not sure what your point is. Only cash buyers deserve good looking wheels? Silver dashboard paint doesn’t look cheap? VWs stink? What?

        • 0 avatar
          ItsMeMartin

          You didn’t write anything about 72-month loans; I know that. I simply wanted to illustrate how ironic it is that a sizeable portion of the car-buying public in general as well as the commenters here want their car to highlight their affluence (indicated by using “cheap” rather than “ugly” or any other adjectives not pertaining to the perceived price of the part in question) despite needing to take on ever longer loans in order to be able to afford the cars that they want to buy (hence the 60-to-72-month car loan comment).

          There is nothing wrong with wanting different styles of wheels on a car or different interior trim colors – de gustibus non est disputandum. But when you say that you don’t like them because they look “cheap”, you do not communicate “I do not like the looks of them”, but rather “I think they do not project the level of affluence that I would like them to”, in other words “I do not look as rich in a car that has them as I would like to” which would be an understandable, albeit vain, sentiment when talking about the Rolls Royce Ghost or a Maybach, but less so when talking about a Golf, a car that does not exude affluence virtually anywhere in the World.

          I did not mean to challenge your choices or preferences. I just noticed a lot of comments recently in which cars are disparaged not on the basis of their objective qualities but rather on the level of affluence that they supposedly project which, in my opinion, is a silly criterion; especially in relation to cars that can be classified as “middle class” at best.

          The rest of my comment was meant to show how severe technical shortcomings of various cars – especially of the German premium makes – are chalked up as par for the course and ultimately deemed acceptable but “image defects” are treated as much more serious and scorn-worthy.

          • 0 avatar
            nels0300

            I don’t care about “highlighting affluence”, I’m not sure a Golf wagon would is the right car for anyone who cares about “highlighting affluence”.

            Whatever you want to call it, cheap, ugly, cheesy, whatever, the silver trim doesn’t look good and it wouldn’t cost VW any money to change it. Fake metal interior trim is a stupid trend that needs to go away. I don’t need fake metal, real plastic is fine with me. It has nothing to do with appearing affluent, it has to do with personal taste.

          • 0 avatar
            Marcin Laszuk

            *Changed username, it’s still ItsMeMartin*

            “I don’t care about “highlighting affluence”

            I know, and I understand you. I also think that aluminum-imitating plastic is overplayed and rarely attractive (although this Golf is far from the worst offender). Personally, I pine for any deviation from the grayscale, but if that is not to be, then it might as well be black plastic that takes its place. At least it does not pretend to be something it isn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      whitworth

      I agree about getting rid of the cheap fake metal trim on the dashboard. Just put some decent black plastic in there instead if it really is a cost issue.

      The painted metal stuff just doesn’t last and scratches/flakes off.

  • avatar
    Detroit-Iron

    Dave Matthews in the infotainment picture? You are like the anti-Baruth.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    I am really excited about the new Volvo wagon coming in a few months.

  • avatar
    EAF

    What an overall somber and gloomy design! The color combo is hideous as well! I am immediately driven into a state of depression when I look at these pictures and think about the hard working family who ends up spending this much cash on this unreliable BORING POS. Ohhhhh the hardships they will endure!

    I think it is safe to assume that most wagon shoppers will gravitate towards a Subaru instead of this Griswold Wagon Queen Family Truckster look-a-like. CRV? RAV4? Anything but this!!!

  • avatar
    TOTitan

    Ive had a 2016 Sportwagen SE with lighting pkg for 15 months and 22,000 miles now. This is a great car. Many have mentioned Subaru but IMHO there is no comparison. Subarus are appliances that will get you there but are not necessarily fun to drive. My Sportwagen makes me smile every time I drive it (my Neuspeed Power Module bumped the hp/torque to 200/250), feels like it is machined from a piece of billet, will carry a lot of stuff, has never had any issues, and gets 33 mpg hwy when driven hard, as in 80-95. Whats not to like?

  • avatar
    rpn453

    “The 4Motion all-wheel drive should save me if things get hairy, right?”

    Save you from all that scary FWD power understeer?

    Just once, I’d like to read a car review where the driver explains the nuances of the AWD system’s contribution to accelerative and dynamic abilities in slippery conditions, rather than just the typical throwaway line about how it’s there to save him. From what? Not accelerating fast enough?

    • 0 avatar
      VoGo

      Maybe Chris thinks that 4Motion is a brand of winter tire, because the ability to accelerate all 4 wheels rarely saves anyone in snow and ice.

      • 0 avatar
        rjg

        +1

        Sadly, even people that should know better seem to have fallen prey to the AWD marketing machine. “Without AWD I’ll surely fly into a ditch!”. Goes to show that if you repeat something enough it becomes true.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    Just, is it so much to ask for a sensibly sized wagon with restrained styling, that isn’t awful to drive, from someone other than VW? I was absolutely enamored with the Golf rental I had several months ago, and that vehicle with a little more cargo space would be nearly perfect. But I’d have no choice but to take a chance on a VW because apparently it’s a worthless segment.

    • 0 avatar
      nels0300

      I’m with ya.

      I would love it if the Accord, Mazda6, and Legacy wagons were still around.

      Can you imagine? An Accord Sport wagon, 6 speed manual. A new version of the Legacy turbo wagon.

      NOPE!!!

      But they’ll sell you a lifted version with a CVT and thick sidewall mall-terrain tires!

    • 0 avatar
      syncro87

      I hear you.

      If I could buy a brand new equivalent to the 2005 Focus wagon we had, I’d do it. The pseudo wagony hatch things you can buy today have ridiculous sloped hatches and roof lines that kill cargo space. You can carry a lot more in a decade old Focus wagon than you can a new Civic hatch or Impreza 5 door.

      I should have never sold that Focus, but I started to worry about safety, lack of ABS, etc with a grade school age kiddo in the house.

      By the way, that Focus was more reliable and cheaper to own than the average VW we’ve had, and we’ve had many.

      New Focus wagon, Cruze wagon, one size up Honda Fit, etc…money would be spent if available. Don’t really want an SUV.

  • avatar
    jb1016

    For what it’s worth:

    1)As has already been pointed out, this car gets the 199 lb-ft tune, just like all other non-manual iterations of the MQB/1.8TSI combo.

    2)If you’re into that sort of thing (as the writer here seems to be), Driver Assistance Package is indeed available on this car. After a quick look on VW.com, I could see why you would think otherwise, as they make zero mention of it. But I have had two of them in stock. The DAP adds blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise, rear cross-traffic alert, and front assist with autonomous emergency braking. Here’s a link to one; if you squint, you can make it out on the Monroney. But you can clearly see the adaptive cruise button on the left side of the steering wheel. http://www.hallmarkvwcoolsprings.com/vehicle-details/2017-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen-s-franklin-tn-id-15991903

  • avatar
    FreedMike

    I’m with Chris. Ditch the AWD and go with a base manual Sportwagen.

    But, personally, if you want a Golf (and there are a ton of good reasons for that), go with the hatchback and save a few bucks. Utility-wise, it doesn’t give up much to the wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      AU CONTRAIRE MON FRERE!

      The utility difference between the wagon and hatchback is absolutely enormous, particularly if you plan on hauling stuff *and* passengers. The difference in usable cargo space behind the rear seats simply cannot be overstated. We used our wagon for extended road trips and hauling bulky folding strollers and that simply would not have been possible in any way shape or form in the Golf hatchback. We would’ve been in a RAV4. I’m glad VW gave me an alternative.

    • 0 avatar
      moorewr

      For us, a family of four, the difference in trunk space is crucial. I have a GTI, and if we decide the GSW is too small to be our family car we’re left looking at SUVs (or the Outback).

      I’d kill for a Passat Variant, Mazda6 Wagon, etc, but I’m an American, and we can’t have nice things because we wont buy them. Or something.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    Funny, I was thinking this would be a great Ace of Base article. I drove a similar AWD Sportwagon at a dealer last week and thought it was nice. It was a little noisier than I thought and the ride was a little on the rough side, but it made me think the larger wheels on the Outback (I know, but why pretend?) model would just make the ride worse. The cloth seats were comfortable and none of the added features on the higher level were all that intriguing to me. The seats were a lot more supportive than they look at first glance.

    I am not a fan of the silver plastic on the dash, mostly because I wonder how it will hold up over time, but that’s a minor issue. I live in Michigan and my current car is FWD and I am fine, but this one is pretty intriguing, especially if I can order a 6-speed manual.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    Manual buyers are the ones that are really screwed with this. No matter what drive wheels you select, you’re only able to select the manual with the S trim. I can live without leather and power seats, but why do they assume I only want a crappy sound system? Unless I needed the space of the wagon, I can’t see buying this over the Honda, Mazda, or Focus hatches. Mazda even commented how many of their manual buyers go for the higher trim and optioned models.

    • 0 avatar
      moorewr

      The GSW’s only trump card, now that TDI is off the table, is a larger trunk.

      To think I was at a dealer, in a TDI GSW, taking a test drive when they got word of the stop sale.. (9/21/2015)…

    • 0 avatar
      stevelovescars

      I didn’t think the standard sound system was all that bad, actually. It included phone integration (car play) and a nice screen. The sound was fine. Frankly, I can rarely tell much difference between base systems and the upgraded ones (particularly Beats branded systems which don’t sound good to me at all). Putting some upgraded aftermarket speakers in would certainly be a lot cheaper than paying for mediocre factory upgrades. It isn’t like this car is Lexus quiet or anything, where the subtle difference of a fancy sound system will be appreciated.

      I don’t care to pay for navigation and I consider vinyl seats a downgrade over nice cloth, personally, especially since these are still heated. The panoramic sunroof was nice but not really something I “need” if it’s going to require paying $5k more.

      I’ve been following the Ace of Base write-ups with great interest. The last few cars I’ve looked at seemed to come fine in base form. I bought an Abarth HB a few years ago and ordered it without a single upgrade (I even deleted the stripes). Larger wheels ruin the ride with little upgrade in handling. The mechanicals are usually the same, and most automatics are a downgrade to me over a good stick. A sunroof without a truly opaque sun shade (like the Fiat and the Mini) are a non-starter for me. Leather… yeah, nice but not necessary. Navigation… not worth a thing since my phone with Waze is superior and warns me about speed traps. They all come with power windows, locks, cruise control, a good radio, bluetooth, A/C… stuff that was optional on cars just 15-20 years ago.

      • 0 avatar
        tjh8402

        @stevelovescars – I actually have an Abarth as well. Mine was bought used, though, so I didn’t have much say in the options. the only option I was choosy about was the sunroof, which I didn’t want because I was going to put a roof rack on and the two are incompatible. Mine came relatively well equipped. It has the leather, which looks nice at least, and the upgraded rims. I didn’t get to drive one with the 16s, but I’m very happy with how mine drives with the 17s. the ride quality is actually feels nicer than some 500 sports I drove, but that may be my affinity for Michelins at work. On the older 500s, Navigation can be worthwhile because it made operating your phone a lot easier (my parents have a 2012 500C with it, and although I never use the nav, I do use it for phone integration). However, once they got uconnect and the bigger screen standard, it became less of an advantage.

        That being said, my 2013 doesn’t have it and I make due just fine using the aux input. Mine also came with the beats audio which I’m actually quite happy with once I got the sound mix right. I didn’t listen to the base Abarth stereo, but the standard 500 stereo is AWFUL. That is definitely worth upgrading, so unless the standard Abarth is a lot nicer, I wouldn’t be happy with it. I really like to crank my music up and blast it, so I can distort the sound quality on a lot of base model radios. I distinctly suspect I’d have a problem with VW if the author is complaining. I would disagree with you on most cars having “good radios” – I’ve had almost no mainstream cars with base sound systems that I’ve actually liked or been happy with.

        I actually care much less about integration than sound quality so the carplay isn’t a huge deal to me. I’d rather hook up an aux cable to a really capable system than have a good infotainment OS with middling sound quality. That’s what I do on my car because I find going the USB route is more difficult to operate (no big screen to go through) and the volume is curiously limited and way too quiet for my tastes. I’d also worry about warranty problems with speaker upgrades. A infotainment unit is something I’m very worried about, and I’m sure any automaker will see upgraded speaker as an excuse not to pay for a new one. Previous experience with aftermarket radio upgrades says you may lose some of that functionality and integration if you do go that route.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Scottdb: @Featherston, The only thing that kept a CCC Quadrajet car running was a mechanic who knew *exactly* what to...
  • BobNelson: Syke, “Because I prefer to buy my electric car as a car. Not as a statement of saving the world, or...
  • bd2: Not surprisingly, DW’s account of Hyundai’s reliability not improving is WRONG. Hyundai is at the...
  • BobNelson: ” Most fossil fuel subsidies are for low income energy assistance programs, tax breaks on fuel used...
  • bd2: Not true at all. They have seen some of their strongest growth in the luxury segment and that’s w/ no...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Contributors

  • Matthew Guy, Canada
  • Seth Parks, United States
  • Ronnie Schreiber, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Corey Lewis, United States
  • Moderators

  • Adam Tonge, United States
  • Kyree Williams, United States