At 29 years old, I am in an incredibly interesting stage of life. I have similarly aged friends who often end their nights in a puddle of their own vodka-reeking sick while others struggle to stay up past Wheel of Fortune.
It’s also an age where a person’s body is still in top-form (well, not mine anyway), but is slowly beginning to deteriorate. Recently I spent hours in the blazing Georgia sun and soupy humidity mowing the lawn, pulling English ivy from trees and removing a huge stack of firewood from my backyard. I did all this with no more stress or injury to my body than being soaked with sweat. Afterwards I felt fit, young and spry. But those feelings quickly vanished when, just a few minutes later, I pulled a muscle in my back while showering because I tensed up when the water went too cold.
Twenty nine is also the age where some have already settled down into family life with three kids and a dog while other see 6 a.m. as the hour to end their day, not start it.
Yes, the march of time continues to roll. Luckily though, there seems to be a Golf for every phase of life.
A reliable and practical standard Golf is ideal for an acne-riddled teen with a freshly minted license in his hand. In his early 20s and with his first serious paychecks coming his way, he wants a bit more pep in his Golf’s step and opts for the Golf GTI.
A few years later and our Golf driver has entered his profession. Though he loves his GTI, he wants even more power and handling prowess and, with his new checkbook greased, puts in a down payment on a Golf R.
His powerful, sporty and brilliant Golf R still suits him well even though he now sports a wedding band and heavy bags under his eyes, a badge of new fatherhood.
But a few years later and with another kid on the way and a dog running around the backyard, he begrudgingly realizes he may need something a bit bigger to haul his brood.
He still fancies a good hike or mountain bike run so he opts for all-wheel drive Golf Alltrack wagon, which provides plenty of room for two kids, a dog and a bike rack and has no trouble navigating the unpaved roads that lead to his favorite hiking spot.
Flash forward a few more years and Mr. Golf has reached the stage of life where his kids soccer practices and ballet classes dominates his schedule, his hiking boots do nothing but sit and gather dust and a venture out on his mountain bike causes soreness that seems to last for weeks. At this point he still wants the practicality of his Golf wagon, but no longer needs all-wheel drive, so he decides to purchase a SportWagen.
This sports him well for many years as he watches his young kids grow into young men and women, graduate high school and leave him suddenly with an empty nest.
As his hair begins to fall out in gray clumps and he suddenly develops an affinity for keeping his grass at no higher than one-fourth of an inch, he wants something practical, reliable and, suddenly most important to him, cheap at the pumps. So he trades in his SportWagen for an e-Golf.
It was pristine timing that I should test the SportWagen. Sure, I still want the lunacy of the Golf R, but my wife has developed serious baby fever after her sister had her firstborn and we already have my baby, a boxer dog named Daphne.
The good news is this — if I find myself in need of a wagon in the next few years, I will head straight for a VW dealership.
What has made the Golf lineup such a success is that the engineers have taken a great base and suited it to fit just about everyone’s needs. And despite creating a crossover like Alltrack version, a wagon version or an electric version, it’s still a Golf underneath.
The SportWagen delivers the crisp handling, performance and all-around fun driving experience that is expected from a Golf, and does so with plenty of room.
It’s also a lot of car for the money.
The wagon seats four comfortably (though there are five seats) with heaps of cargo space. The base “S” model I tested — with a five-speed manual and no options — came with a price tag of just $22,535, which included destination charge.
The S version also includes cruise control, a rearview camera, a 6.5-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth and power windows as standard.
That said, the base model interior certainly isn’t thrilling. I once owned a 1999 VW Jetta and the Sportwagen’s interior did not appear as if it was made nearly two decades later.
For those looking for a few more features, the top-of-the-range SEL version comes with leatherette seats, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, CD player, adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking. The SEL is only offered with an automatic transmission and prices start at $30,245.
So the SportWagen is spacious, affordable and fairly well-equipped even in the standard versions, but will drivers be embarrassed by driving a wagon in the crossover age that has wagon driving characteristics as well?
Not at all. Despite a bit of body stretching, it’s still a Golf.
It carves corners like a well-honed knife, doing so with all the precision of a seasoned chef. The steering is perfectly weighted and gives you the confidence to give the wagon a good thrashing on winding roads. The turbocharged 1.8-liter engine is peppy and playful. The brakes have good feel and the manual transmission serves up velvety smooth gear changes.
It’s a drive that puts a smile on your face. And because it’s a wagon, you can grin with the knowledge that you have enough room for the kids and their approximate eight million toys.
The Golf family of cars continues to excel and providing enthusiasts a range of loveable cars for every need, and of course, every stage of life.
And though I’m at the age where I still drool over the R version, I wouldn’t be disappointed to have the SportWagen when my wife’s baby fever can no longer be contained.
God help me.