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2018 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen Overview
Thanks to a mid-generation refresh on the Golf line, the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen rolls into 2018 with many updates and new standard features. Now in its fourth model year, the SportWagen combines sporty performance with SUV-like versatility to make it both fun and functional. Its well-equipped cabin, top safety rating, and available all-wheel drive (AWD) make the SportWagen a popular Golf spin-off.
Although no changes were made to the SportWagen's overall shape or dimensions, Volkswagen refreshed the exterior look of the wagon's front and rear ends with key lighting and design elements, giving it a brighter, modern appearance. Up front, new features include horizontal chrome accents above and below the bumper, a redesigned fog light housing on the lower fascia. Automatic headlights now come standard on all three trims. The entry-level S also gets new LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing wipers, and LED taillights. Volkswagen spruces up the top two trims with new 16-inch, Dover-style aluminum-alloy wheels for the SE and 17-inch Karlskoga aluminum-alloy wheels for the SEL.
The SportWagen's clean styling is highlighted by straight sidelines, gently sloping roof, and a long, low profile. Other standard exterior features include heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals and LED license plate lighting. The SE and SEL come equipped with corner-illuminating fog lights and heated windshield washer nozzles. Black roof rails remain standard on the S and SE, but upgraded silver roof rails give the SEL an upscale appearance. Buyers can replace standard halogen headlights on the SEL with an HID option.
Other updates for 2018 include new driver assistance features for the SE and SEL trims. Both now come equipped with forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking. The SEL also receives adaptive cruise control as a standard feature. Volkswagen plans to add pedestrian monitoring for both trims later in the model year.
Inside the SportWagen's 5-passenger cabin, all three trims receive new features for 2018. The S gets an updated 6.5-inch touchscreen for the automaker's MIB II infotainment system that integrates HD and Satellite Radio, a reversing camera, a USB port, an 8-speaker audio system, and VW's Car-Net connectivity system, providing connectivity to apps like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Other standard features for the S trim include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, cruise control, a height-adjustable telescoping steering column, 6-way partial power-adjustable front seats, and brushed metallic trim.
VW outfits the SE trim with a brighter 8-inch color touchscreen that includes a proximity sensor to improve responsiveness. Features rolling over from the previous year include V-Tex leatherette upholstery, heated front seats, push-button start, and a power tilt/slide panoramic sunroof.
The top-line SEL gets an 8-inch touchscreen that includes navigation with voice-activated destination entry and the ability to save past routes. VW also adds an auto-dimming interior rearview mirror to the SEL's standard equipment list. It joins other SEL-specific features rolling over from the previous year, including dual-zone climate control and a 12-way power-adjustable driver's seat.
Like the Golf hatchback, the SportWagen's roomy cabin offers good ergonomics and quality materials. Cargo volume behind the 60/40-split rear seat measures 30.4 cubic feet and expands to 66.5 cubic feet when the rear seats are folded down. Other interior storage spaces include a glovebox with an adjustable cooling feature, seatback storage pockets, and a storage compartment in the front center armrest. Passengers will enjoy ample leg- and headroom in both rows of seating.
Power for the SportWagen continues to come from a turbocharged 1.8-liter inline 4-cylinder TSI engine. The turbo I4 utilizes direct fuel injection and an intercooler to produce 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque, delivered over a wide range to ensure good acceleration from a stop and strong passing performance at highway speeds.
In the wagon's standard front-wheel-drive (FWD) configuration, the engine links to either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed automatic. When equipped with Volkswagen's optional full-time 4Motion all-wheel-drive (AWD) system, optional on the S trim, the transmissions upgrade to either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed DSG automatic transmission with Tiptronic and a Sport mode for spirited driving. Although fuel economy numbers for the 2018 SportWagen have not been finalized, VW expects numbers of 25 mpg city and 34 highway for FWD trims with the manual transmission and 24 and 33 with the automatic. For AWD trims, those numbers drop to 22 and 31 with the manual and 22 and 29 with the DSG automatic.
Like the Golf hatchback, the SportWagen continues to excel when it comes to ride and handling. Its low center of gravity results in good stability. A strut-type suspension in the front and a multilink setup in the rear, with telescopic dampers and anti-roll bars in the front and rear, ensure a comfortable yet controlled ride. The electric power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering delivers a precise feel.
All trims include VW's XDS+ Cross Differential System that automatically applies the brakes to improve cornering at higher speeds. Electronic stability control continues to come standard, along with emergency brake assist. The 2017 SportWagen was awarded a 5-star safety rating by the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA), which should continue for 2018.
With a combination of performance, functionality, and affordability, the SportWagen stacks up well against competition. The 2018 updates ensure that the SportWagen will continue to be a popular choice.
Rob has been a contributor to CarGurus since 2007, and an automotive test-driver and writer since the early ’90s. He’s test-driven everything from BMWs and Jags to Bentleys and Saabs, with an occasional Range Rover, Ferrari, Porsche or Lamborghini thrown in. He also created the annual Car of the Year and Exotic Car of the Year awards for Robb Report magazine. He currently resides in California.
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