Road tested: He said, she said 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI

CDN Auto Editor, Duane Pemberton and green-car specialist, Sheryll Alexander give a hers and his review on the 2015 Volkswagen SportWagen TDI

2015 Volkswagen SportWagen TDI

LOS ANGELES, August 27, 2015 — Volkswagen is marketing its new 2015 (and upcoming 2016) Golf SportWagen and its fuel-efficient “clean diesel” TDI model as a competitor to compact SUVs. In a he said-she said road test of this brand new “wagon,” we discover if VW’s full-sized “wagon” can really replace a CUV or compact SUV and save money on fuel costs too.

Certainly the $2,000 price reduction on the 2015 VW Golf SportWagen is an excellent incentive for new car buyer – especially families – to ditch the idea of a CUV or SUV by buying this affordable ($25,495 base MSRP), sporty and fuel efficient wagon. At 43 mpg hwy it bests any compact SUV out there.

Beyond dollars, VW’s new Golf SportWagen also makes driving sense. The nimble Golf has always been fun to own and drive. And it seems VW’s new Golf SportWagen is no exception. Here are road test impressions from CDN’s car reviewers: auto editor Duane Pemberton and green car editor, Sheryll Alexander.

Her: Let’s face it. Full-sized wagons aren’t cute like the diminutive Golf and not sexy like a Jetta sedan, but compact SUVs aren’t the most thrilling in car design either, right? Hey, the VW SportWagen is sexy in its simplicity. It’s a ride for busy people with busy lives who don’t care as much about design and are way into utility. In my family’s real life road test in traffic-filled LA and around the curvy and scenic Hollywood Hills, we discovered the VW SportWagen is sexier even than its pictures and certainly stands proudly next to other wagons from BMW, Audi and even Mercedes-Benz. The beefy nose and bodacious body-colored front bumper give the front fascia some personality and a friendly smile. Although the side lines could be a bit more sculpted, the sleek windows all the way to the sweetly-styled booty give the Golf SportWagen a timeless appeal.

Him: Here’s the deal, there’s nothing “manly-looking” about this car, whatsoever, so it needs to placate itself to the practical parts of our male brain – and it does. Just imagine all of the beer or wine you could haul in the back of this car – even if the back seats are filled with screamin’ brats. The car’s exterior looks good for a wagon and yet has a ring of practicality to it as well. It’s not sexy, at all – it’s a “wagon” for crying out loud. Any more thought into this and you may have to check your “manhood” at the door.

Her: All VW interiors are heavily geared towards masculine design with a tendency towards heavy black matte and silver accents. However, VW interiors are always exceptionally ergonomic, which makes the driver’s cockpit feel like a welcoming place as is the front passenger’s cozy captain’s chair and completely comfortable (even for tall adults) second row bench seats. The SportWagen’s leather steering wheel with controls meant for the thumbs is also superbly crafted.

The easy push-button start, handsome digital gauges, kick ass 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system (with USB and downloadable apps), Bluetooth connectivity, standard rear view camera, well-placed temperature controls and handy device-charging niche just in front of the stick shift makes for a pleasant drive every time – even with screaming kids in the back. As for cargo, the VW SportWagen decimates the competition with a whopping 66.5 cu. ft. of cargo space with seats folded flat (30.4 cu. ft. with seats not folded). Indeed, we felt quite at ease in the 2015 VW SportWagen even as LA’s dangerous and exhausting traffic whizzed by in speeds way over the posted limits.

Him: Okay, now we’re getting somewhere. The layout is classically “clean” Volkswagen. It’s functional with plenty of masculine surface materials around the driver to help you feel a bit more confident while driving it. It has leather all around, very comfortable seats – even on longer drives – and has a good-sounding audio system to boot.

Additionally, the touchscreen is easy to use and is responsive but what gives with the 90s-looking navigation mapping? Hello? Doesn’t VW own Audi? That’d be great if VW could go ahead and use the same Google Earth mapping system that Audi uses – then we can fast forward to 2015.

While the panoramic roof might be cool to some, it can be an annoyance because it doesn’t actually have a sunscreen that blocks out the light completely. Fewer things are a bigger distraction on the road than to have that dreaded sunlight shining in from above, causing major sun-glare to the driver from any reflective surface inside the vehicle. Whoever it was that decided this mesh-screen was a good idea should immediately pick their replacement and fire him or herself.

Sheryll is spot-on in regards to the cargo area – there’s tons of room, especially with the rear seats folded down – for those late-night beer runs, hauling your buddy’s band equipment and those stops to the hardware store and Costco that always seem to fill-up the back of the car with stuff you had no intentions of buying until you got into the store.


Her: This manual tranny-loving Mama couldn’t wait to wrap her dish pan hands around steering wheel and to put her left foot on the clutch of the 2015 VW Golf SportWagen TDI. As green car enthusiasts, we love “clean diesel” rides because they are fuel efficient (43 mpg hwy!) and better for the planet. As car enthusiasts, we love to go fast. The acceleration on VW’s 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel powerplant when loaded with the six-speed manual transmission is light years away from your grandma’s cranky Benz diesel.

Push in the clutch and pop the stick into first gear and the SportWagen moves quickly and decisively through every gear, especially when you hit fourth or fifth and then this family wagon screams ahead at warp speed down fast California freeways. We had no shortage of driving excitement speeding up (while listening for the exact time to slam the clutch to change gears) and slowing down (again using said clutch and gears for heart-pounding slowing) in the Golf SportWagen with is exceedingly responsive steering, excellent handling and spot-on braking.

Him: For anyone who truly loves to drive, there are fewer things available on certain cars today that get us excited like a manual transmission. The sheer torque of the diesel engine in this car has no problems getting you to the speed limit so you don’t feel as if you’re on the struggle. There’s plenty of power as well for passing those idiots who can’t seem to manage to go the speed limit or slow-moving trucks over a mountain pass.

The shifting is very smooth the throws between gears is relatively short so the combined power and shifting along help elevate this wagon into a fun-driving car that may have both “him and her” fighting to see who gets to drive it.

Because it’s a VW, the steering feels solid and strikes a nice balance between comfort and “feel-of-the-road”. There’s little sloppiness in and the car simply drives well under most normal conditions. We didn’t experience a lot of body roll around hard corners and the braking system worked extremely well.

The real unsung hero of the performance of this car isn’t really how much torque it develops but its fuel economy.  With an EPA rating of 43 miles-per-gallon, there aren’t too many petrol-cars on the road today that can boast these kinds of numbers.

So, is the 2015 VW Golf SportWagen TDI better for the money than a compact SUV?

Her: Yes. With just about the same comfort and cargo room as an SUV, the Golf SportWagen is a good choice for a utilitarian green ride that’s fuel efficient and fun to drive.

Him: This all depends on what one’s overall needs are. While it does have a great deal of cargo space, it’s still relatively small compared to some of the compact SUVs available. In the end, the SportWagen TDI will likely appeal to those who do a lot of city driving,  with great fuel economy in a vehicle that’s also easy to park into smaller spaces. It offers a fun driving experience, great torque and a very functionally-handsome interior.

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