The new VW Golf R which doubles as a family wagon
HOT hatch power in a wagon. That's the premise of the Volkswagen Golf R "Variant”, as it is formally known.
Informally, it's an excuse for young families to combine the practicality of a wagon with turbocharged all-wheel drive performance.
If the advertising material is to believed it's designed to appeal to windsurfers, mountain bikers and fresh young things who lead an active lifestyle.
The Golf R wagon will likely make them put on weight, though, because they'll be tempted to drive everywhere.
This is one of the fastest wagons on sale, with a claimed 0-100km/h time of less than five seconds, faster than a Holden Commodore V8.
The Golf R wagon is back after a brief hiatus. Volkswagen imported about 300 in late 2015 and they were snapped up almost instantly.
Another shipment of 300 are on the way here by year's end - initially as a limited edition "Wolfsburg” model - to coincide with the recent Golf 7.5 makeover with more power under the bonnet, more tech inside the cabin and a bold new nose.
Then from next year the wagon will become a part of the Golf R line-up and you can order one whenever you want, without some of the bells and whistles of the "Wolfsburg” edition.
The new Golf R wagon has more grunt than before - the turbo 2.0-litre four produces 213kW of power versus 206kW previously, and is paired to a seven-speed rather than six-speed twin clutch auto.
However, Australia still doesn't get the full 228kW of power offered in Europe due to our poorer quality fuel and harsher climate.
Pricing starts at $57,490 before on-road costs, $2000 more than the current Golf R hatch. There's no manual available in the wagon, so if you like to change gears yourself, you need to buy a hatch, which gives you the choice of either gearbox.
So what's it like to drive? Well we didn't get to drive on a winding mountain road, as you might imagine.
Instead we used it how it was intended: fully loaded with four adults and luggage loaded to the roof, on the autobahn from Berlin to Frankfurt.
Incredibly, despite running low profile tyres, the ride comfort was not harsh - even when we encountered the occasional bump.
As with the R hatch the wagon comes with adaptive suspension, so you can adjust the firmness of the suspension. We opted for comfort, although it must be said even "Sport” mode was hardly uncomfortable.
As for performance there's no doubt about the breadth of this car's ability, working up to 268km/h (indicated) when safe to do so on the speed-unlimited sections of road, without so much as raising a sweat.
In the real world, as we joined the bump and grind of traffic in Berlin and Frankfurt at the beginning and end of our journey, the Golf R still proved a nice place to be. Even when you're not exploiting its power, the comfort of the sports seats and the convenience of the fancy widescreen digital dash and central touchscreen make navigating unknown areas a cinch.
Room for improvement? With all that space in the boot it would be nice to store a full size spare tyre.
AT A GLANCE
VW GOLF R WAGON
PRICE $57,490 plus on-roads
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol, 213kW/380Nm
SAFETY Automatic emergency braking, seven airbags, rear camera, five-star rating
SPARE Space saver
BOOT 605/1620L (seats up and down)
WARRANTY/SERVICE 3 years/unltd km, service $1531 over 3 years