On The Road

Golf Sportwagen TSI S 4Motion may be most practical car on road

courtesy of Volkswagen
The new Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen comes with a 6-speed manual transmission. The car gets 31 mpg on the highway.

The 2018 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen with all-wheel drive and 6-speed manual transmission may be the most practical vehicle that you’re unlikely to spot on the SUV-friendly streets of Los Altos.

With a total sticker price of under $25,000, it is one of the least-expensive cars we’ve driven this year, but it includes all the necessary safety features – such as stability control and a back-up camera – of any new car on the road.

In addition, the Golf Sportwagen S 4Motion has those two unicorn characteristics – a manual transmission and nearly 70 cubic feet of maximum cargo space – without being an SUV wannabe. It’s what your parents once called a “station wagon,” a vehicle nearly all families purchased when there was too much family and luggage to fit in the old sedan.

At our Saturday morning gathering of gearheads, the Sportwagen received the group’s five-star seal of approval, based on the straightforward styling, traditional equipment and high-quality fit and finish. One fan commented: “They must have brought VW engineers and stylists out of retirement to put together this car.”

The car’s 1.8-liter 4-cylinder engine driving all four wheels produces 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, managed by a satisfying 6-speed manual transmission that rewards the good driver with excellent pick-up. Combined mileage is an adequate 25 mpg, with 31 mpg on the highway. Steering and handling is competent without being overly sporty.

What we liked: The no-frills, inexpensive approach to basic transportation needs at a total price less than what some manufacturers charge for options. Overall package size makes the car easy to maneuver and park. It also has exceptional manufacturing quality.

What it lacks: The see-and-be-seen height of a compact SUV and fancy interior trim.

Overall: If we were shopping for a safe, practical car for a family member going away to college, this would top our list.courtesy of Audi

The new Audi Q7 Quattro, above, features a 2-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder engine producing 252 horsepower.

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