By Mercedes Lilienthal
I have always had a soft spot in my heart for VWs. Maybe it was because my parents decided to move to another country for job opportunity and arrived off the boat (well, plane) in the 1960s from Germany to start a new life in the USA. Maybe it was because my Papa always loved VWs, and when they moved to the US and settled in Chicago, he got a job at a VW shop that was owned by another German. Well, quite possibly it may have been because I learned to drive in one: a manual 1979 VW Rabbit diesel my father completely restored from ground up. It smelled like McDonald’s french fries when you took off because he retrofitted it to run on a combo of diesel and veggie oil to get better MPG. It was regularly getting in the 60s for MPG, not too shabby, eh—specially for the 1980s. He was ahead of his time, and our family’s love for VWs runs deep.
Needless to say, when we were offered the 2015 Golf SportWagen TDI SE for review, I got excited. And when I found out it was one with a manual transmission, I said, “Yes please!” A rare bird indeed: a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo-charged diesel with a six-speed that had many bells and whistles on it. One “bell” which is a must for me: a power sun-roof. This has a BIG, expansive panoramic power sun-roof. OK, gimme the keys and let’s try this formerly-named Jetta wagon out! (Remember, this is now the Golf SportWagen!)
Ride: Both Andy and I find this German wagon ... er ... wagen smooth, solid, and stable. The leatherette seats envelop you nicely and support you as the torque-happy engine takes off. I forgot how much fun it was to drive VW's turbo-diesel-powered vehicles, especially with a manual. Even though this Silk Blue Metallic-hued SportWagen is the larger cousin to the Golf GTI hot hatch, it didn’t feel weighted down. It doesn’t handle as sprightly as the GTI, but it isn’t meant to. It handles nicely, has plenty of power when you need it, and has ample braking capability thanks to its well-proportioned front and rear disc brakes. The SportWagen is meant to be a comfortable cruiser for 4–5 people; a car to take on long drives across the country. It begs to be driven long distances and scoffs at fuel stations when passing them. I could easily see hopping in this German-tuned rig and taking it from Portland, Oregon to Kentucky on a whim. It's one of those cars you could easily cruise at 80 MPH all day in (speed limit permitting of course); it feels very solid and planted at speed. We averaged a happy 38 MPG with this diesel during our week with it. A job very well done seeing as the Golf SportWagen’s average ranges from 31 city/43 highway/35 combined.
One item of note (and this is merely a preference thing)—the clutch uptake is very high, a tad sky-high to be exact. I found it difficult to shift this wonderful wagon quickly; I never got a good rhythm. Shifting normally, though, is a breeze. The shifter is nicely weighted; the gates easily defined and not sloppy. As many of you know, however, we have a TRD clutch and short-throw shifter in our 2007 Toyota Yaris and have a stock sport clutch in our 2013 Subaru WRX hatchback, so we're used to sporty clutches. The SportWagen’s high clutch release is typical VW and the same was said with the 2015 Golf GTI we just reviewed. A deal breaker? Nah, but something to note.
Exterior and Safety: As per all VWs, the exterior is classically styled; in tune with German-designed subtlety, with even and graceful body lines, and that ginormous panoramic sun-roof. Did I mention I love that thing? All-season tires wrap the factory 17” alloy wheels. Side indicator turn signals adorn the mirrors, and a host of safety accouterments are tucked into its body. This ride includes all the standard equipment other modern vehicles have, such as ABS, ESC, among others. It also has niceties such as a rear-view camera, heated and folding power side mirrors and washer nozzles, and rain sensing automatic front windshield wipers. So now that we know a bit about the exterior and safety, I shall take you inside.
ARB outdoor fridge/freezer you just bought (like we did) for your cross-country adventure. The only thing that really jumped out at me as silly (but a necessity because of legality) was the placement of the “ultra low sulfur diesel fuel” sticker on the forefront of the driver’s side of the dash. I get it; you need to put that sticker somewhere to cover yourselves, but there? It begs to be removed within the first five minutes of ownership, in my humble opinion. But, I know, it has to be somewhere …
Synopsis: All-in-all I was very impressed by the 2015 VW SportWagen TDI SE. It had plenty of power, will eat-up-and-spit-out miles without using much diesel, is very comfortable to ride in, enjoyable to drive, and is classically designed. Everything the Germans hoped for, and in our opinion, achieved.
|THE BASICS: 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen SE|
|MSRP As Tested:||$28,815|
|Engine:||Turbocharged 2.0-liter four cylinder diesel|
|Curb Weight:||3,199 lbs.|
|Suspension:||F: Independent, struts w/22mm sway bar |
R: Torsion beam
|Brakes:||F: Disc w/ABS |
R: Disc w/ABS
|Range & MPG:||31 city, 43 highway, 35 combined|