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Volkswagen Golf R Wagon 2015 review

Driving thrills, for you and your Labrador, are guaranteed in the Golf R wagon. There's big-dog space in its tail and one of the world's great turbo four-cylinder engines in its nose.

At this week's press launch in Europe, Volkswagen confirmed it would bring a batch of the red-hot R wagons to Australia.

A shipment numbering "in the hundreds" will arrive in October, says VW Australia spokesman Karl Gehling, and sell for "under $60,000". Further batches will be imported if there is continuing demand for the model.

To highlight the R wagon's prowess, VW hired the Ascari Circuit, a private racetrack hidden among olive groves near scenic Ronda in Spain's south. VW adds only subtle visual hints that the R variant packs a 206kW punch, rather more than an HSV V8 had 20 years ago.

As with the Golf wagon, this one looks practical and plain. But the R wagon is a properly potent performance car, just like the Golf R hatchback that already sells in Australia.

The R wagon's acceleration - 0-100km/h in 5.1 seconds is the official claim - is in the same ballpark as a present-day HSV Clubsport R8. Its standard all-wheel-drive turns all of the engine's power into forward thrust, something potent rear-drive cars such as Holden V8s often have difficulty doing.

The Golf R wagon is an agile handler on a racetrack, too. VW fits more direct steering to the R model, so the car responds smartly when you turn the wheel. There's great grip from the car's wide tyres and its snug-fitting fabric and Alcantara-trimmed sports seats hold the driver and front passenger firmly when cornering.

The Golf R has looks so quiet that only a dog's ears will prick up when one passes by.

Choosing Race mode on the car's central screen makes the R wagon feel really feisty. The engine and standard double-clutch automatic transmission become more sporty and responsive, the shock absorbers firmer and a valve opens in the muffler so the engine sounds better when revving hard.

It's ferocious fun on a circuit yet this doesn't mean the R wagon grumbles when faced with daily chores. With the Normal or Comfort modes selected, the five-door rides comfortably for a sporty-driving car. These modes make the car calmer, yet it still feels quick and capable.

For Australia, VW reduces the turbo's power output, a move intended to protect the engine from possible damage when driving in very hot weather - it classifies Australia as a hot-weather market. The loss is 15kW, not enough to dent the very strong performance.

And the power and handling don't dent the car's practicality. The R wagon's interior quality, space and carrying ability - there is 605L of cargo space - are the same as a regular front-drive Golf wagon.

Still, it's easy to understand why VW will only ship a small number of the superfast wagons to Australia. Performance car buyers here typically like to advertise that they've spent money on speed.

The Golf R has looks so quiet that only a dog's ears will prick up when one passes by.

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