2012 Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI
2012 Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI. Click image to enlarge
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Review and photos by Michael Schlee

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2012 Volkswagen Golf Wagon

This week I found myself in my true automotive love: a wagon.  Yes, I am a sports car enthusiast and yes, 83 percent of all vehicles I have owned were two-door coupes, but ask me what my ultimate daily ride would be and I’d have a tough time choosing between a CTS-V Wagon and an RS 4 Avant.  Although these (and other) super-wagons still exist, the modern day (station) wagon is an endangered species. Wagons are few and far between as manufacturers continue to pull away from the segment.  Endangered as they may be, wagons are resilient.  First the minivan tried to eradicate them from this planet, followed closely by the SUV.  Now the wagon faces a new threat in the form of Crossover Utility Vehicles (CUVs), which, at their core, are basically just tall wagons.  Ah, the circle of life.

Well, outside the realm of the ludicrous wagons mentioned earlier resides this week’s test vehicle, a 2012 Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI Highline.  For those new to Volkswagen nomenclature, TDI stands for Turbocharged Direct Injection and signifies that the Golf is equipped with one of Volkswagen’s excellent diesel engines, while Highline is the top trim level available for this wagon.

2012 Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI
2012 Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI
2012 Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI
2012 Volkswagen Golf Wagon TDI. Click image to enlarge

The 2.0L turbocharged TDI engine generates 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque and connects to the front wheels through Volkswagen’s 6-speed DSG automatic transmission.  Although great on their own, the DSG and turbodiesel are not great in combination for driving around town.  There is an initial delay at throttle tip-in due to either DSG clutch engagement, turbo lag or both.  To overcome this delay, a more aggressive initial launch is required, which usually results in too much throttle and an eruption of torque.

The DSG does shine once underway as it exploits all of this torque throughout the rev range with quick on-boost downshifts and upshifts.  In fact, for a compact wagon the engine never leaves you wanting more and, as a bonus, gets great gas mileage too.  How great? 6.6 L/100 km was my average over a week with this 1,515-kg vehicle.  Well, most of a week.  The car developed a flat and due to a shortage of the specific winter tire it came equipped with, it had to be returned.  Combined with the 55 L fuel tank, I was on pace for 833 km of driving before I would have needed a fill-up.

Achieving this mileage was not the result of hypermiling.  To be completely honest, I was a bit addicted to the sound of the turbo spooling up and the ensuing thrust from the torquey two-litre.

The old stigma of earlier diesel engines was dirty emissions and noisy operation.  It is safe to say that in 2012 these characteristics are all but gone from passenger vehicle applications.  The Volkswagen engine makes a bit of noise at first, but then quiets down and you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between it and its gasoline counterparts once warmed up, particularly any gasoline engine with direct injection.

On the outside, the Golf Wagon TDI is attractive and refined, but that may be my wagon biases shining through.  It isn’t flashy nor boring, but rather elegantly conservative. There are dual antennas on either side of the rear 3/4 windows that I at first mistook for window de-icers, which, come to think of it, would be a great automotive invention.  Other exterior highlights include the simple 17-inch rims wrapped in 225/45R17 winter tires.

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