2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen
By now you’ve heard all the Volkswagen turbo diesel fiasco. Residual values, VW stock prices, and brand image have all taken a beating over recent months. But, what’s been lost in all of the hubub is that there’s a new Golf Sportwagon. And, despite the diesel disaster, the Sportwagon deserves it’s time in the spotlight.
For those fans that were upset over the demise of the Jetta SportWagen, we have great news. It’s hasn’t really gone away, it’s just been re-designed, and renamed, as the 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen.
And that means it is now using VW’s fantastic MQB architecture, and the benefits of that are almost endless. It weighs less, is more economical, and despite shifting from Jetta to Golf nameplates, it even has about the same amount of space inside.
We’re certainly okay with the expansion of the Golf lineup, as it has always been one of our favorite cars. But what we’re not fine with of course, is the recent news regarding Volkswagen’s deceptive practices when it came to getting their TDI diesel’s emission’s certified.
We spent time in a urea-injected TDI equipped SportWagen back in the summer, before all of this came to light. And averaged 37.0 miles-per-gallon, which is actually better than the Combined Government Fuel Economy Rating of 35, to go along with 31-City, and 42-Highway.
We’ve always been huge fans of the TDI and have always gotten exceptional fuel economy results, but perhaps in retrospect we should have known it was almost too good to be true. It’s not a total disaster however, as independent testing has concluded that with a software fix, fuel economy might decline as little as 5%.
Ultimately it will be the consumers that will decide the TDI’s fate when and if Volkswagen gets things sorted out.
We also drove a TSI-equipped gasoline fueled SportWagen; and here we also bested expectations, averaging 33.3 miles-per-gallon of Regular. The official Combined is only 29, with 25-City and 35-Highway. Its legitimate Energy Impact Score comes in at 11.4 barrels of oil consumed yearly with CO2 emissions of 5.0-tons.
The 1.8-liter I4 in the TSI is rated at 170-horsepower and 199 lb-ft. of torque and is available with either a 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmission.
Compared with a Golf 5-door, there’s 12.0-inches of additional length, yet it rides on a wheelbase that’s actually been shortened by a bit. Overall length, however, is almost exactly the same as the departing Jetta SportWagen.
As far as design, there’s only so much you can do with the two-box wagon shape, the Golf’s take is without a doubt more purposeful and less bloated than the Jetta’s.
The forward portion of the interior doesn’t depart at all from the simple Golf theme, and we’re just fine with that. Material quality is good, and seat comfort better than expected.
Cargo capacity in the hold is down slightly to 30.4 cubic-ft., but after dropping the rear seat backs, the space expands to 66.5 cubic-ft. And that’s much more space than all of the rapidly growing subcompact crossovers have to offer.
And it’s much more fun to drive as well. Here at the track, it was as capable as we hoped, and handles way better than a car this big should. The extra 100-pounds or so of weight over the hatchback did nothing to compromise handling here; or ride quality on the way back to the office.
0-60 times were quicker in the TSI, as you would expect, though not by much. 8.7 TSI, verses 9.0-flat for the TDI. Both are a little sluggish off the line, while they wait for their turbos to spin up the boost.
So naturally, the TSI completes the 1/4-mile more quickly as well; taking 16.2-seconds to trip the lights at 88 miles-per-hour. Stops from 60 averaged a good 125-feet. Brake feel was great and fade was minimal.
With all of the pricy cars we test these days, at $22,215; the Golf SportWagen packs about everything you could want in a tidy, highly affordable package. 2016 editions tack on only a couple hundred dollars more. For the time being, the TDI is not available pending recertification. Expect about a three grand premium when it returns.
So, while VW’s deception has certainly tempered our enthusiasm for the 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen, and it’s in fact difficult for us to recommend any Volkswagen at the current time, the SportWagen is still a good idea. But even good ideas need the proper timing to be great ones.
- Engine: 1.8 liter I4
- Horsepower: 170
- Torque: 199 lb-ft.
- 0-60 mph: 8.7 seconds
- 1/4 mile: 16.2 seconds @ 88 mph
- EPA: 25 mpg city/ 35 mpg highway
- Energy Impact: 11.4 barrels of oil/yr
- CO2 Emissions: 5.0 tons/yr
2023 BMW 330i xDrive
The Standard Bearer Is Still Bearing The Standard
The BMW 3-Series has been a luxury sport sedan standard bearer for most of its 7 generations. Well, it’s not time for an all-new 8th gen just yet, but BMW has done some significant updating to this current sedan. So, let’s see how they’re staying ahead of the curve.
While it’s easy to see the slow decline in sedan sales continuing as SUVs take up more and more market share, it’s also easy for us to always see a place for the European style sport sedan. If not in dealer showrooms, certainly in our motor oil pumping hearts. 2023 sees an updated BMW 3 Series sedan with better looks, better tech, and better performance.
Never satisfied to leave well enough alone, BMW has again tweaked the 3’s face, with slimmer headlights, ever more prominent air intakes, and yet another take on their classic twin kidney grille. There are multiple M Sport packages available, adding 19-inch M Sport wheels to replace the standard 18s, adaptive suspension, variable sport steering, M Sport brakes with blue calipers, and black trim.
Ever since they crammed a 2.0-liter M10 into 1968’s 2002, BMW has seemingly been on a mission to maximize 4-cylinder power delivery and reliability. Their latest 2.0-liter turbo-4 in the 330i outputs 255-horsepower and 295-lb-ft. of torque. The 382-horsepower 6-cylinder remains available in the M340i, and there’s a 288-horsepower 330e PHEV as well.
This 2.0-liter is paired with the familiar 8-speed automatic transmission; the entire package is smooth and punches above its weight, delivering big hits of torque off the line with barely a hint of turbo lag. We hit 60 in 5.1-seconds with the help of launch control.
The ¼-mile passed in 13.7-seconds at 102 miles-per-hour. The engine sounded powerful and aggressive as it eagerly revved to redline, where each shift of the automatic transmission gave a nice little surge of additional power. xDrive all-wheel-drive is optional and not only does it provide extra grip for launching, but additional traction when it comes to handling as well. With the M Sport package, the suspension feels tight and the ride is quite firm; perhaps a bit much for our aging bodies, but you won’t be complaining when scooting down your favorite driving road, or shuffling through a handling course. It felt ever more athletic when whipping in and out of the cones of our slalom, with just a hint of understeer showing up at its limits. Steering is incredibly quick, but still has an artificial feel that takes some getting used to. There is very little body roll to contend with. In our braking runs, a nice firm pedal and great overall stability made for quick 103 foot stops from 60, rock steady all the way.
BMW has truly upped their interior comfort game in recent years, and everything inside this updated 3 looks great and feels nicely finished. Twin screens, 12.3-inches behind the steering wheel for instruments, and 14.9-inch for infotainment, now flow into one another as part of BMW’s curved dash display. While it works well enough, this latest iDrive 8 may be a step back, as very few manual controls remain, and you seemingly have to do more menu diving than before for anything other than basic climate and audio controls. Dash vents are now slimmer, and the console gets a redesign with, for better or worse, a new toggle lever instead of an actual shifter for controlling the transmission. Steering wheel-mounted shifters are also standard; M Sport adds a unique wheel and aluminum trim, with Harmon Kardon sound optional.
Front seats are firm but adequately comfortable, there’s a good amount of room for rear seat passengers, and a great 16.9 cubic-ft. of trunk space.
Pricing starts at $45,495 for the 330i, 2-grand more for all-wheel drive; the 330e plug-in is just above that at $46,595, with the top 340i coming in at $58,595.
BMW essentially created the sport sedan as we know it back in the 1960s. And while you don’t have to spend this kind of money to get a great driving experience these days, the 2023 BMW 3 Series still delivers perhaps the best mix of performance, luxury, tech, and even comfort, in a 4-door sedan package that an awful lot of people, including us, still adore.
- Engine: 2.0-liter turbo-4
- Horsepower: 255
- 0-60 mph: 5.1 seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 103 feet (avg)
- Transmission: 8-speed auto
- Torque: 295 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 13.7-seconds at 102 mph
- EPA: 24 City / 33 Highway / 27 Combined