2017 VW Golf SportWagen S 4Motion – Road Test Review – By Ben Lewis



Is the Golf Wagen 4Mo the cure for Diesel-departum depression?

If you’re a VW fan, you know by now that the diesel (TDI to the faithful) is a goner. And that’s a big bummer to Wagon fans. We know a lot of VW Wagon owners who just looooove the great fuel economy of the TDI – making it an especially adept long range cruiser, and a great alternative to a small crossover.

While you can’t get that TDI Wagen (or is it wagon?) anymore, for 2017, VW is sweetening the deal by offering the Golf SportWagen for the first time with 4Motion all-wheel drive. If you like that unusual blend of low-key bling, high-level efficiency, and outstanding German driving manners, you’ll find that the 4Motion Wagen checks all the boxes.

On the outside, in a world of small SUV’s trying to look like Merrell hiking boots, the Wagen is sensible shoes. Which is not to say dowdy. The lines of all Golfdom are crisp and clean, and a step up from the more potato-esque Jetta wagon. We’d say it’s handsome.

Perhaps our tester felt a bit conservative because of its restrained Reflex Silver Metallic exterior. And the standard 16-inch alloys do little to get the heart pumping.  Available 18-inch alloy wheels and an eye-popping Tornado Red would be more to our liking.

Note: this model shouldn’t be confused with the new Golf Alltrack model, with its raised suspension, black wheel arches, and higher content level (and higher price) aimed at those Upscale Audi buyers.

To separate it from said fancy Alltrack, the 4Mo is offered exclusively in S trim level – but in no way does it feel cheap. VW continues to wow us with quality interiors, even in their less-expensive models.

Take the seats, for example. Basic cloth, no fancy sport adjustments. But typically German, they are exceptionally supportive, and with a standard lumbar support, the driver’s seat is easy to get comfortable, and you stay comfy for long stints behind the wheel. And since all-wheel drive is perfect for snow country, VW throws in heated front seats as standard fare. Toasty!

The rest of the interior has a high-quality look and feel, and the switchgear operates with a precision feel. If we taped the VW badge on the steering wheel, you could easily be fooled into thinking you were in an Audi.

There’s no skimping on the goods either. The nice 6.5-inch touchscreen works well with VW’s smartphone-friendly CAR-NET info-tainment system – a big step up from laggy VW systems of a few years ago. Speaking of entertainment, the 8-speaker system sounds great, and with Bluetooth connectivity, USB inputs and SiriusXM satellite radio, your entertainment needs are well taken care of.

The only thing missing here really, is navigation. You do get a standard rearview monitor which looks great on the 6.5-inch display, though.

The rear seat is comfortable for adults, although legroom is a little tight – no worse than most smaller SUVs, and with rear seats up, 30 cubic feet of cargo means plenty of bring along space. Drop the rear seats and you get a nearly flat floor, and an impressive 67 cubic feet of cargo space.

For comparison, a 2017 RAV4 rings in at 38.4/73.4 cubic feet respectively. So the VW is not far off. And we’d argue that the Golf’s lower load height makes stuffing it full of cargo easier, while the lower overall height means roof racks would be more accessible, too.

The nicest surprise is in the Wagen’s performance. You might expect that the added weight of all-wheel drive might dull the driving experience in a tradeoff for the the added grip. Just the opposite is true.

Power comes from VW’s familiar 1.8-liter, turbo four cylinder, pumping out a respectable 170 hp, and 199 lb.-ft. of max torque at just 1,600 rpm. It’s a jewel of a powerplant, smooth and refined, with just a burble from the exhaust to let you join in on the fun.

One change from the front drive models is switching from VW’s regular Tiptronic automatic to the DSG Dual-clutch auto transmission. It’s the fast-shifting transmission we’ve learned to love in other models like the GTI, and it really shines here, keeping the little turbo on the boil and making the AWD model noticeably quicker. And despite the added weight, we recorded 24-25 mpg in our time with the tester, almost exactly the same as the front-drive model in the real world.

Handling is also a step up. The 4Motion system lets the VW act like a front-wheel drive setup most of the time, sending up to 50% of power to the rear wheels as needed. It gives a wonderful balance, and combined with excellent steering, it urges you to toss it around corners and drive it like the European thoroughbred it is. Plus, you’ve got the added confidence and grip in rain, sleet or snow.

Best of all, you get that VW precision driving feel that seems to be owned by European cars. A suppleness in the ride, a precision to all the motions, a polished, slick feel, that’s refined, yet still includes you in on the fun. It’s a great drive.

Ok, it’s a win-win, dynamically, but you’re going to feel it in the pocketbook, right?

Well, your most basic SportWagen 1.8T Wagen starts at $21,580. Add in the automatic transmission and it’s another $1,100. The 4Motion Wagon starts at $24,930, so you’re paying $2,250 more – but the 4MO gives you a little Mo’ with the more advanced DSG transmission and standard heated seats.  Because there are no options on the TSI S with 4Motion, $24,930 is you’re out the door price, minus destination. Not a bad deal at all.

But it gets better. If you start shopping inexpensive 4WD crossovers you’ll find the least expensive 4WD RAV4 starts at $26,985, and the Golf’s Tiguan Sibling $26,970.

So SportWagen lovers rejoice! The 4Motion is here to fill the hole in your hearts with the departure of the TDI. And for anyone who wants a great driving experience with added capacity, capability, and high quality –  all at an attractive price, the Golf SportWagen TSI S w/ 4Motion is an excellent choice.

 

About The Author

Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, or learning to surf.