A Modest Proposal: Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen 2.0T

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler
a modest proposal volkswagen golf sportwagen 2 0t

A Modest Proposal is a new feature where we advocate for more exciting variants of existing cars. Unlike other columns that do the same, we’ll take a look at products that actually stand a chance of making the business case, and how that can be met. I know, I know, not as fun as asking for cab-over rear drive vans and station wagons. If you want that, you’re in the wrong place. -DK

With the introduction of the MKV Volkswagen Jetta, VW re-introduced the much-loved GLI as a full member of the range (rather than the late cycle special edition of the MKIV). But in Canada, it took the GLI a full model year to be introduced. Canadian customers got a model dubbed the 2.0T that featured the same 2.0T engine, a sports suspension and 17″ wheels. Among from the 2.0T were the the 18″ wheels, low profile tires, bodykit and plaid fabric seats, all of which came on the GLI. It was basically a “normcore” GLI, and it ended up being the car that replaced my father’s 2003 BMW 530i.

In retrospect, it couldn’t have been a more perfect car for my Dad. It had all of the GLI’s sport bits (suspension, engine, the option of a DSG gearbox), but nothing overly juvenile (hard ride, big alloys, aero kit). It was astonishing value, costing thousands less than an equivalent Acura TSX, while offering performance more akin to the Subaru Legacy 2.5GT – but without the spartan interior.

Driving the Golf Sportwagen, particularly the 1.8TSI version, made me long for a version like the 2.0T. It would have just enough power and handling capabilities to be a a lot of fun in spirited, everyday driving. At the limit handling would be dialed back due to the need for a bit more comfort than you’d get from a GTI or Golf R, not to mention longer-wearing tires, but the stock chassis and suspension setup is most of the way there. The old 2.0T, at least in the first few years, was only available fully loaded. You got your choices of colors and transmissions, but that was it. In return for spending big bucks on a Jetta, you got everything VW had to offer at the time. This kind of packaging presumably cut down on assembly complexities and let VW make money on a smaller car by loading it with margin-rich features. I think the same formula would work on the Sportwagen as well. The 1.8TSI engine is adequate for the Sportwagen, but if you want more real world grunt, you have to step up to the diesel – and that’s not always an appealing option for American consumers.

Why not just go all out and make the case for a Golf Sportwagen R? Well, this is called “A Modest Proposal”. We’re here to discuss combinations and variants that stand a chance of making it into the lineup with minimal fuss and maximum payoff for the auto maker. A Golf R is a lot closer to $40,000 than the $30,000 price tag of a loaded up TDI Sportwagen. No matter how many people on the internet are clamoring for one, it pales in comparison to the number of people that would buy one. On the other hand, a 2.0T variant that doesn’t need all-wheel drive, can be built in Mexico and sold for somewhere just south of $35,000? Not nearly as exciting, but a lot more realistic.

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2 of 37 comments
  • 1998redwagon 1998redwagon on Mar 19, 2015

    not sure how well the 2.0t golf wagon would sell but it would be a decent upgrade in power from what we get now. from what i see the 2009 golf wagon (jsw) 2.0t came with 200hp, the 2014 jsw 1.8t has 170hp similar to the old 5 cylinder but with much better gas mileage, while the 2014 jetta gli tops out at 210hp. getting 210hp in the new golf wagon would be fun. however, assuming the epa estimates were similar for the golf wagon vs. the golf sedan not sure if i would spring the extra cash for the extra 40 hp and a 4 mpg gas penalty. sales price would have a lot to do with it.

  • Tedward Tedward on Mar 19, 2015

    If they sold the 1.8t manual at higher trim levels I'd get that and throw a modest stage one tune on it. Gti+ power and mileage. The 2.5 is an engine in search of a performance gear ratio. Drive one that's had a six speed swapped in and WOW the difference.

  • SCE to AUX Not sure where that photo came from, but it wasn't Canada.
  • Arthur Dailey Very few probably share my view, but I believe that the T-roof option is well worth that price.Bring back T-Tops!!!!!!!!
  • Arthur Dailey Referred to in the day as a 'mini-Corvette'.
  • MaintenanceCosts The 3rd gen acquired an unshakable reputation as a mullet-mobile, but the truth is it was one of the best car designs of the '80s, full stop. It's a beautiful car, especially in late-'80s IROC guise, which gave it the best-looking body kit bits in body color. These late RSs look heavy and all the scoops look silly.
  • FreedMike These were neat little cars. As I recall, you flipped the headlights open with a lever in the cockpit.