Redesigned VW Golf SportWagen Makes American Debut At NY Show

April 11, 2014
If you want a sporty European wagon that doesn't have a luxury-level price tag—or otherwise, one that hasn't been been raised and made rugged for the trail—the Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen has been the one and only sport wagon for the mainstream U.S. market for several years now.

The current SportWagen's success in the U.S. remains unique and unrivaled. And now this next week, at the New York Auto Show press days, Volkswagen has released pictures and information teasing that it will be revealing the completely redesigned version of the SportWagen to the U.S. for the first time.

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Technically the Golf SportWagen, as it's being shown at New York—and how it will be badged when it goes on sale in the first quarter of next year—is a concept. Volkswagen hasn't yet announced whether it will arrive for the 2015 or 2016 model year, and official features and the bulk of U.S. specs aren't expected for a few months. But visually, the Golf SportWagen is virtually identical to the production global Golf SportWagen, called the Golf Variant, that was introduced at the Geneva Auto Show last month.

VW hasn't released full U.S. specifications for the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen, but it's confirmed that it will follow the design of the model already introduced for the European market—lighter, bigger, and roomier, as well as more powerful and fuel-efficient, than its predecessor. Overall length is up 1.1 inches, while it's nearly an inch wider and nearly an inch lower altogether, which contributes to this model's vast reduction in aerodynamic drag.

Similar size, quite different profile

While the footprint isn't much different than before, the profile is. Built on Volkswagen's new global MQB architecture, the new SportWagen has front wheels that have been pushed forward nearly two inches, leading to a “cab backward” look, and proportions more like those of rear-drive sport wagons. Yet compared to the current model, the new Golf SportWagen has slightly more rear legroom and shoulder room, as well as more headroom all around. In back, the cargo-floor load height is lower than before as well; and compared to the outgoing Jetta SportWagen, the Golf SportWagen offers almost ten percent more cargo space with the seats folded.

Volkswagen has sold about 80 percent of outgoing SportWagen models in high-mileage TDI Clean Diesel guise, which includes a 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injected diesel in-line four, now making 150 horsepower (10 more than the outgoing model). It will remain the premium pick, offered with a choice between a six-speed manual and a six-speed dual-clutch (DSG) automatic transmission.

The standard 170-hp, 1.8-liter turbocharged and direct-injected gasoline four—still the pick for those who are more focused on sticker price—will get a choice between a five-speed manual and a conventional six-speed automatic. And because its highway fuel economy might be improved by as much as 17 percent over the outgoing five-cylinder engine, it might prove a more popular choice.

All-wheel-drive part is what still makes it a concept...for now

As for all-wheel drive, well, that's part of the reason why the Golf SportWagen is being shown at New York as a concept. While there's no chance we'll see a '4Motion' all-wheel-drive version of the SportWagen at launch, there's a reasonable possibility that Volkswagen's Puebla plant, where these models will be assembled for the U.S., could be given that build option in the not-too-distant future.

“We see this as a business opportunity in something that gets great mileage and is all-wheel drive,” said Volkswagen spokesman Mark Gillies, pointing to the success of Subaru, to VW's generally superior mileage numbers, and to increased awareness about all-wheel drive due to the daunting road and weather conditions in the Midwest and Northeast this winter.

Elsewhere on the safety front, the SportWagen has a structure that provides enhanced crash protection while being lighter than before—through the use of more high- and ultra-high-strength steels. The Golf SportWagen will offer an Automatic Post-Collision Brakiong System that can automatically engage the brakes after the car is involved in a collision, to help avoid a secondary collision.

Features available on the Golf SportWagen will include a panoramic sunroof, automatic climate control, a 12-way power driver's seat, Park Distance Control, and bi-xenon headlamps with Advanced Front Lighting and LED running lamps.

Golf or Jetta, it's still a great alternative to a thirstier crossover ute

Whether badged as a Golf or a Jetta, it's unlikely to make much of a difference at the dealership. The equity is in the SportWagen name itself; so with the brand eager to bring the Golf name back to stature with Americans, we see it as a move that will restore a little more luster for that nameplate in the U.S., after the brand shied away from using it some years ago (with Rabbit, and dropping the Golf name from GTI).

Look for more details on the 2015 or 2016 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen, including pricing and full specifications, later in the year.

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