For Dads

VW Desperately Needs to Make a GTI Wagon

February 27, 2019 Cars By

Volkswagen announced two new performance variants this February. The Jetta is getting a GLI version that will be a sedan form of the GTI, with the 2.0-liter I-4 producing 228hp and 258lb-ft of torque. Europe will receive a 296hp “R” version of the T-Roc crossover with a 4.9-sec 0-60mph time. It’s not coming to the U.S. But, it could be a signal of intent. The Tiguan could use a little zest.

With VW already having GTI and R variants of the Golf hatchback, almost every small car now has a performance option, except the Golf SportWagen. What did the SportWagen get for 2019? The smaller 1.4T engine from the Jetta. Volkswagen should remedy this oversight with a hot version of the Golf SportWagen with a stick. Just call it a GTI wagon.

The Golf SportWagen is an excellent base car. The formula was simple: keep the Golf handling and torque while adding cargo room. Volkswagen executed. It provides everything good about an SUV with much better driving dynamics. Perhaps, I’m biased. I own two of them. I bought the FWD version with a manual. My wife liked it so much we bought her an automatic with AWD.

That great base car has never been given an engine to flourish. Dieselgate hit the Golf SportWagen hard. The diesel was supposed to be the enthusiast hook. It still is for the retrofitted ones. Instead, the Golf SportWagen got stuck with just the base Golf engine. It’s not bad. But, it’s not mind-altering.

Producing a hot wagon would not require an engineering miracle. If both the Golf and the Jetta can handle a 2.0T, there’s a good bet that a tuned version of the Golf SportWagen could. An especially good bet, since a quite similar car already exists as a Skoda: the Octavia RS245 wagon running on a 2.0T engine.

There is a niche the hot Golf SportWagen could fill. Discerning GTI drivers don’t have a place to level up within the VW model tree. BMW pulled out of the American wagon market. Below the Audi Allroad and Volvo luxury level, there’s the Outback which sells strongly. Instead of aping the Outback cladding and ride height with the All-Track, why not go after it with a driver-oriented wagon that accelerates from 0-60mph three seconds faster?

Sure, Golf SportWagen sales declined markedly in the U.S. last year. So did the Golf, the GTI, and the Jetta. The argument for juicing interest in those cars with performance versions should have the same validity with the Sportwagen.

Most importantly, I need this car. My Golf Sportwagen has been a fine dad car. But, I still want a GTI when it’s not looking. I get wistful at the sight of black and red plaid. I already have one child, though. My PR team is deflecting questions on the timeline for number two. Downsizing to less cargo space would be a tough sell. A GTI wagon would be easier.

Parents deserve some driving exuberance with their value and practicality. Volkswagen producing a hot Golf Sportwagen could provide it.

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Tyler Duffy

Tyler Duffy is Gear Patrol's Motoring Staff Writer. He used to write about sports for The Big Lead and The Athletic. He has a black belt in toddler wrangling. He's based outside Detroit.

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