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VW Sportwagen

Aug 31, 2008 05:00PM, Published by Super Admin, Categories: In Print




With the cost of fuel helping to short out the world’s economy, fewer people see the logic in buying massive SUVs for the daily grind. Interestingly, buyers who once saw station wagons as an automotive styling plague are beginning to rethink the idea of a tiny SUV, or essentially, a wagon. And, fuel economy aside, there are a lot of other reasons to love a wagon over an SUV – they’re easier to drive, ride better, often easier to get in and out of, take less room to park, frequently look better and are simply smarter for a daily use regime.

Volkswagen is the latest to the segment with the new Jetta SportWagen. Where the Passat wagon was once the VW wagon of choice (it was the only one), the Jetta SportWagen brings a level of youthfulness and fun that the Passat is simply too formal and familial to offer. In a word, the SportWagen is fun. Yes, that adjective can be used in conjunction with wagon.

The SportWagen is available in three trim levels and accompanying prices: S (starts at $18,999), SE (starts at $21,349), and SEL (starts at $25,990); and they are all well equipped from the get go. But, VW has taken the liberty of offering a wide array of optional extras to help tailor the exact SportWagen that customers would like to have. Things like polished aluminum exterior mirror covers, several rims from 16 inches to 18 inches, mild body kit upgrades, fog lights, leather, rear cargo cage, panoramic moon roof, manual or automatic transmission, and normally aspirated or turbocharged 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine (SEL only) are but a few of the things buyers can choose from to build the wagon that suits their lives perfectly.

The top-of-the-line SEL is the best equipped with heated leather seats, leather shift knob, brake lever, and steering wheel, the turbocharged engine, 17-inch wheels, 12-position power driver’s seat with three-position memories, larger dual exhaust tips, premium sound system, and several more standard features that all come together to create a vehicle that truly rivals even higher-priced nameplates.

Beyond how well equipped it is, the SEL is also no slouch, zipping to 60 miles per hour in 6.9 seconds, roughly a full second quicker than the non-turbo equipped S or SE. Each is relatively athletic and much more inspiring than the heavier, larger Passat, but not quite as capable as an Audi A4. Again, keeping the prices in mind, the SportWagen is a gem.

Poking around with the “Build It” feature at vw.com, and selecting the most expensive wheels, panorama moonroof, and no roof storage options, we were able to load an S model to the hilt, and tip the price to just over $28,000, but for all the goodies we checked off in the options box, it’s a bargain. We clicked the same options with an SEL and broke the piggy bank for a cool $37,917. A bit flabbergasting for a VW, but again, taking into account all of the bells and whistles, both standard and optional, it’s not a horrific deal, but does knock loudly upon the Audi A4 door. Electing the same options for an SE, we built a $33,276 wagon.

In terms of comfort, the SportWagen isn’t cavernous, but it’s not tiny either – it’s just right. A little snug, but not overbearingly so, the seats are supportive, the visibility is good, and it’s simply an easy car to drive. It also offers no pretensions whatsoever, meaning you don’t get glaring jealous eyes staring at you along the highway, but rather curious folks wanting to know more. And, should you go antiquing one weekend, you’ll have plenty of room for all the needful things available, and the merchants won’t be inclined to demonstrate the pricier sides of their goods, thanks to owning a VW.

Later in 2009, VW will offer a Clean Diesel version of the SportWagen, which promises to be a much more efficient vehicle than we’re used to seeing. Some sources cite that 35 MPG on the highway isn’t far fetched, and in town, the Clean Diesel SportWagen won’t be hard pressed to achieve 28 MPG, which is utterly amazing. However, the turbo and non-turbo gas-powered engines currently available do pretty well too, finding 21/31 (T) and 21/29 (NT) respectively.
All things considered, the wagon is back, but in a new way. Thanks to sleek styling and ample performance, the VW SportWagen isn’t the plague-inducing wagon of yore, but rather a sexy alternative to the bank-breaking SUV.

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