About the 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

Volkswagen has done some model line shuffling, moving its Jetta SportWagen to its Golf line. A similar size and a lighter weight define the new model that goes on sale in US showrooms this spring.

Mention the word “SportWagen” to any Volkswagen acolyte and “Jetta” may come to mind. That’s a fair assumption as the two names have been conjoined since the Jetta SportWagen came to the market in 2011.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen
2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen (Photo: Volkswagen of America).

Model Line Migration

However, beginning in 2015, the two names have officially been dissevered as the Jetta SportWagen was terminated to make way for the Golf SportWagen. And lest you think that the new model is a smaller version of the Jetta variant, consider this: the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen is slightly larger and capacious than the outgoing Jetta version in keeping with upsizing for the subcompact Golf model line. Further, bigger does not mean weightier either as Volkswagen found a way to prune 137 pounds from the original SportWagen.

Please indulge me and I mention one side reference: where vehicle lines were downsized from the late 1970s and through much of the 1980s — in a bid to save weight and improve fuel economy — today’s vehicles are trending larger as weight savings are realized elsewhere, typically through smaller engines and in the greater use of lightweight materials, including carbon fiber, aluminum and high-strength steel.

2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

Arriving in dealer showrooms in April, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is priced from $21,395 for the base 1.8T model powered by a turbocharged, 1.8-liter gasoline four-cylinder engine. It comes paired with a 5-speed manual transmission; opt for the 6-speed automatic and you will add $1,100 to the price. Volkswagen estimates that the gas model will achieve 36 mpg on the highway.

Also available is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbo-diesel engine. It comes paired with a 6-speed manual or a dual-clutch automatic transmission. The base TSI S starts at $24,595 and achieves an estimated 43 mpg on the highway.

Although the SportWagen is definitely a wagon, it has the utility of a small crossover and might be compared with the likes of the Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-3, Jeep Renegade and the Fiat 500X. However, the front-wheel drive SportWagen has no all-wheel drive variant, unlike the assemblage of subcompact crossovers.

Shortcoming or not, Volkswagen says that the SportWagen has the equivalent fun-to-drive characteristics as the standard Golf, including the versatility that this best-selling VW bestows. With this in mind, Auto Trends has not received a model to test yet, so we will reserve our own comments for a later date.

Corresponding Trim Levels

Volkswagen will market the new SportWagen in six trim levels, with three each corresponding to the chosen engine. The gasoline engine yields TSI S ($21,395), TSI SE ($26,995) and TSI SEL ($29,345) editions; the diesel engine yields TDI S ($24,595), TDI SE ($27,995) and TDI SEL ($30,345) editions. Notably, the diesel option in “S” lines is a $3,200 premium, but drops to just $1,000 with the SE and SEL editions. By the same token, the diesel equivalents are outfitted with the manual transmission — to upgrade to the automatic, you would pay an additional $1,100.

Every SportWagen offers aluminum-alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, a touch screen, SiriusXM satellite radio and iPod integration. Power accessories and air conditioning are standard as are manually-operated leatherette seats.

The amenities list expands as you move up, as larger wheels, front fog lights, keyless entry with push button start, a panoramic sunroof and a rear view camera are included with the SE editions. Select the SEL and you gain automatic climate control, sport seats, and a 12-way power adjustment for the driver. Lighting and assistance options are available with the SE and SEL trim levels.

Advancing the Volkswagen Brand

For Volkswagen, a model such as the SportWagen is imperative, regardless whether it is called a Golf or a Jetta. This German automotive manufacturer has had a tough time in the ultra-competitive US market and needs additional new products to flesh out its model line. And those new models can not come quick enough.

SportWagen photo courtesy of Volkswagen of America, Inc.

Turbo CUV: 2015 Audi Q5 TDI Quattro

Medium range crossover combines performance with efficiency.

2015 Audi Q5

The recent arrival of an Audi Q5 TDI Quattro in my drive marked the third of three crossover utility vehicles I’ve received from this German luxury manufacturer within the past year.

The exquisite seven-passenger Q7 arrived first, what serves the full-size end of the segment. Later in the year, an all-new five-passenger Q3 arrived, an elegant vehicle designed for compact luxury CUV shoppers. But it was the five-passenger Q5 that provided me with the best week of driving thrills, by virtue of the 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 diesel engine powering its medium frame.

Quattro Meets Turbodiesel

The 2015 Audi Q5 comes with standard all-wheel drive Quattro; only the smaller Q3 offers with either front- or all-wheel drive. As I have adroitly enumerated in my previous write ups, all-wheel drive is the superior choice — not just for on-road traction, but for optimum steering and handling. Think “quattro” and you have a permanent all-wheel drive system — one that is always at work. In some other vehicles, all-wheel drive only kicks in as you need it. Yes, there is a difference, one best articulated in every twist, turn, rise and fall of the pavement.

The advantage of the Audi Q5 depends principally on how you examine it.

First, it seats five people just like the smaller Q3, but more comfortably so. I like to think that Q3 buyers acquire one to serve two people or perhaps two parents with their young children in car seats. Beyond that, rear legroom will have you feeling pinched, especially as the children grow.

Second, it offers the same larger engines as the Q7 as well as the four-cylinder 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine found in the Q3. Audi, in its infinite wisdom, only offers the larger V-6 diesel in the Q5. And that’s where the fun begins!

2015 Audi Q5

But first, let’s look at what you receive in the 2015 Audi Q5. This model is available in three trim levels: Premium ($39,300), Premium Plus ($42,200) and Prestige ($52,900). Select the Premium edition and the four-cylinder, turbocharged gasoline engine is your solitary choice. All three engine choices, including the “four” and a pair of turbocharged diesel and gasoline V-6 engines, are available with the Premium Plus. The Prestige offers only the larger engines.

My weekly driver was powered by the turbodiesel V-6 and outfitted with all-wheel drive; it had a base sticker price of $47,000. Its total price came in at $55,625, due chiefly to a $4,000 technology package and a $2,300 luxury package. A savory Bang & Olufsen sound system added $850 — that’s one upgrade I strongly recommend.

Uniform Style Language

Across the Q3-Q5-Q7 triumvirate, the styling is constant, although there are some differences. The overall design composition is uniform, with the waterfall grilles on the Q3 and Q5 making for the closest match. Audi’s latest LED daytime running lights arrangement has those lights completely encompassing the lighting assemblies front and back.

The Audi Q5 has a graceful persona with a flowing look that extends from the grille, up the hood line, across the windshield and roof line, and down the liftgate. Not especially muscular, yet athletic, the Q5 moves lithely like a ballerina until a sudden kick tells you that it means business.

2015 Audi Q5
2015 Audi Q5

And that business is symptomatic to the turbodiesel, what produces 240 horsepower and a whopping 420 foot-pounds of torque. Its twist kicks in early and low in the rpm curve, providing an extra boost before you expect it. Be prepared here: you may find yourself tooling down the interstate entrance ramp at a cop-car-pull-me-over speed.

Audi pairs the Q5’s engines with an eight-speed tiptronic transmission. You will operate it in automatic mode much of the time, but if clutchless shifting is your fixation, then have at it. Personally, I want the real deal — give me a true manual gearbox and the attendant clutch pedal — maybe not in a utility vehicle, but definitely in a sport sedan or coupe.

With a utility vehicle, you will also have at least some pitching and rolling as you navigate the twists and turns. The Audi Q5 makes short work of it all as it hugs the corners and navigates its turns with authority. No, you are not driving a low-slung sport coupe, but you are accessing one crossover that has fun factored in. Just be certain that the kiddies are tightly buckled in back there!

2015 Audi Q5 TDI Quattro

View manufacturer details and pricing

2015 Audi Q5

Polished, Luxuriant Cabin

Inside, you enjoy the anticipated Audi craftsmanship that this brand exemplifies. And with an uncluttered dashboard at that.

The instrument panel features two large analog displays —odometer and speedometer — and two much smaller analog displays for oil pressure and fuel. Strategically centered is the digital driver’s information center, what you control with a steering-wheel mounted switch.

The center console has the requisite display and, notably, Audi seems to be moving away from the unit that either was fixed to the top of the instrument panel or quickly emerged once the ignition was activated. No matter, the look is a clean one, with orange and white lettering on the blackest of backgrounds. You govern the panel with a knob situated between the seats.

Underneath the display are vents, a multimedia system and switches for the climate control system, including heating and cooling switches for the front seats.

2015 Audi Q5

Connectivity Issues and an App

Audi still does not make it easy to connect some smartphones for recharging purposes. Specifically, you must have the correct cable connection, but that just does not work out for me. However that may change as Audi, new for 2015, released an “Audi MMI connect App” to sync directly with the available MMI navigation system. For example, the app ties in with the owner’s myAudi account to stream music, to help you find where your car is parked and provide destination support. Given that I do not have an account, I did not test it.

I have yet to meet an Audi that failed on the fit and finish front — each model is a mark of impeccable craftsmanship, with a tasteful fusion of authentic dark brown wood inlays, chic aluminum trim, Milano leather seating and choice soft touch materials. Drive this model at night and the interior is peppered with red highlights —easy on the eyes, but enchanting nonetheless.

Audi provides a crossover that comes well equipped. Every model is outfitted with three-zone climate control, power accessories, a tilt and telescopic steering column, a rear cargo cover, four 12-volt outlets, ambient lighting, leather touches and four cup holders and four bottle holders.

2015 Audi Q5

Move up to the Premium Plus and procure keyless entry and push button start and stop, heated front seats and a panoramic sunroof. The Prestige edition extends the luxury quotient to its zenith by bringing in adaptive xenon plus headlights, LED daytime running lights and tail lamps, MMI navigation, manual rear sunshades, parking assist and a rear view camera.

Additional Crossover Considerations

Beyond the Q triad, Audi does offer other crossovers for your consideration, including a hybrid variant of this very same Q5. Yet another variant, the SQ5, brings optimum performance to the line with the specialized styling befitting a sport edition. Consequently, you may find yourself wrestling with your choices as nearly every utility vehicle niche has been filled by Audi.
2015 Audi Q5

2015 Audi Q5 TDI Quattro

  • Sticker price from $47,000
  • Price as tested: from $55,625
  • Seats 5 occupants
  • 3.0-liter 24-valve V-6 turbodiesel engine
  • 240 horsepower @ 3,750 to 4,000 rpm
  • 428 foot-pounds of torque @ 1,750 to 2,250 rpm
  • 3.27 inches bore by 3.60 inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 16:8-to-1
  • 8-speed automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 110.5 inches
  • Length: 182.6 inches
  • Width: 74.7 inches
  • Height: 65.2 inches
  • Passenger volume: 101.5 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 29.1/57.3 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: 4,400 pounds
  • EPA: 24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway
  • Diesel fuel
  • Fuel tank: 19.8 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 4,475 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: Good
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 12 years/Unlimited miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Ingolstadt, Germany

2015 Audi Q5 photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.

Ford Transit: Work Van, Family Wagon or Fleet King

2015 Ford Transit

The Ford Transit is available as a commercial van or a passenger wagon.

Until a Ford Transit arrived in my driveway earlier this month, 1980 was the last time I had driven a full-size van of some kind.

At that time I was a fairly new driver, but my neighbor had enough confidence in me to ask if I would take him and his family to the airport in their Ford Econoline. I agreed, rode with the family to the airport, was paid for my time, and then I climbed behind the wheel of their 15-passenger van to start my 25-mile journey home.

That drive showed me then and there that a van of gargantuan proportions was not in my future. Not so much because of its size, but for its mushy steering, creaky ride and embarrassing disposition. Minivans hadn’t hit the market yet and the Econoline was far removed from the 60s-era hippie-loving vans that were more to my liking.

Though I never drove an Econoline again, the model name lived on until 2010 when it was renamed the E-Series. Naming convention change notwithstanding, the refreshed van was essentially the same as the updated one that rolled out around 1990.

2015 Ford Transit
2015 Ford Transit

Twenty-five years later and that E-Series and the erstwhile Econoline are now history. The Ford Transit, based on a European model of the same name, has replaced the aged stalwarts. Ford took its European-designed van, reconfigured it for the North American market, and now assembles it in Missouri. The Transit is a far cry from the earlier Econolines and a substantial step up from the now defunct E-Series.

The Ford Transit is sold in van and wagon versions. The former is a panel van design that targets commercial buyers; the latter is for fleet owners or for families that can use the extra seating space and the side windows that accompany these models.

The expanded space provides standard seating for eight with available seating configurations for 10, 12 and even 15 passengers. Church vans, transit buses or any other public conveyance can be replaced with this wholly modern interpretation of a traditional people mover.

Of course, Ford has much more in mind for the Transit, a vehicle that is available in single- and dual-rear wheel models, three roof lengths and three body styles. Moreover, Ford designed the Transit for any number of cargo volume and payload permutations. It has wagon and van payload limits that get the job done no matter how it is configured.

Need to tow? No problem: some models can pull up to 7,000 pounds. If you want versatility, the Ford Transit delivers.

2015 Ford Transit
2015 Ford Transit

The V-8 and V-10 gasoline engines that once powered the big Ford vans are not needed in the Transit. The standard engine is a 3.7-liter naturally-aspirated V-6 gasoline engine. If V-8 equivalent power is preferred, a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 gasoline engine making 310 horsepower can do the job. In addition, a 3.2-liter five-cylinder turbo diesel engine making 185 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds of twist is also available for optimum fuel efficiency.

Certainly, the Ford Transit in all of its many sizes, uses and power plant offerings goes well beyond what the previous model offered. That was done with a purpose as Ford intends to keep its decades long hold on the big van market as it has done in the large pickup truck market in the F-150. Yes, Ford’s big van sales leadership is almost as long and strong as it is with large pickup trucks, although Ford sells nearly six times as many trucks as it does vans.

2015 Ford Transit Wagon

View manufacturer details and pricing

Now that the background information has been said, the model I drove for the week was the Ford Transit 150 LR Wagon XLT. Yes, that’s a mouthful!

What the model terminology means is that I was provided with the standard (or medium) wheelbase model with room for eight. I had to dig through my paperwork a bit to confirm that the model information matched the vehicle provided. I also learned how Ford Transit pricing is established.

The Ford Transit van — the standard commercial or work van — is priced from $29,735. The Transit XL Wagon — the standard passenger carrying model — is priced from $32,270. The Transit XLT Wagon, with several interior and exterior upgrades, is priced from $33,770.

You should know that the base price reflects models that are lightly equipped — there are many package upgrades and options that buyers will most definitely want to consider.

No worries, you get an automatic transmission, air conditioning and a basic audio package with every model. Upfitters know that they will pay for their customizations, but that’s part of the adventure of owning a big van — you can upfit to meet your own peculiarities and specifications.

My weekly driver arrived and immediately took over the driveway. Well, not really. But its proportions were larger than anything that I had to date, including the handful of full-size SUVs and crew cab pickup trucks that have composed my fleet.

2015 Ford Transit

Can’t find the fuel door? Open the driver’s door and you gain access to the fuel spout.

Cutting to the chase the following represent my observations about the Ford Transit:

First, the styling is something entirely different. Whereas the E-Series was based on the platform underpinning the F-Series, this platform is its own beast. You still have a rear-wheel drive architecture, but you also have a vehicle that from the front is more aerodynamically pleasing than its predecessor. Its lines won’t win style points, but its boxiness is more relaxed. Still in place is a tall roofline and a squared off rear fascia, but that comes with the territory.

Second, interior room is nothing short of amazing. The test model offered seating for eight with a pair of bucket seats in the front followed by two three-placement bench seats. After the third row is a colossal amount of storage space — so much so that a fourth row could fit and ample room for storage would remain.

Third, the Ford Transit does high profile right. Slip behind the driver’s seat and you may have the distinct impression that you are ready to drive a bus. If you think that 4x4s have a high profile, you haven’t been in the Transit. The driver sits high and has full command of the road in front. Indeed, the sight lines in this vehicle have been optimized to where you can peer down to the street and see clearly on both sides of the vehicle. Oversized mirrors, available in short- or long-arm design, with a convex mirror are worth ordering — blind spots may not be eliminated entirely, but you shouldn’t be surprised by any vehicle inching up on you.

2015 Ford Transit

Fourth, the Transit’s dashboard is expansive and thoughtfully arranged. On either side of the dashboard and nearest to the fixed, A-pillar windows are cup holders. Beneath both are additional open compartments that might also fit drinks. Moreover, you will find a trio of cup holders near the base of the center console. The instrument panel features traditional analog tachometer and speedometer displays and a pair of smaller fuel and oil temperature gauges. A digital driver’s information center is also present. The steering wheel column tilts and telescopes and the transmission shifter is located on the dash to the right of the wheel. The display screen is small and not particularly easy to read — I would have liked to see it canted toward the driver’s position. Additional storage spaces are found in the oversized glove box, in the front doors and at the base of the center console. A smart phone holder, 12-volt outlets, USB ports and a 110-volt outlet are also present. One additional cup holder is found in the wall for each of the second and third row seating positions. Overhead rear heating controls, illuminated mirrors and seating lights are included. Two more cup holders are behind the third row seat, ready to serve fourth row passengers when the extra seat has been installed. The spare tire can be found underneath the rear of the Ford Transit.

2015 Ford Transit

Fifth, steering and handling are excellent. If you are easily intimidated by any vehicle larger than a Toyota Camry or a Chevy Equinox, the Ford Transit may surprise you. This vehicle won’t win any awards on the track, but steering is confident and handling is responsive. With the Transit you can take those slow, tight turns you might otherwise avoid. Braking is adequate or what you would expect with this type of vehicle.

Sixth, your power options gives you a real choice. My test model came equipped with the most powerful engine offered: the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine. Not once did more than one person ride with me, but if I had a wagon full of people, then this motor would be my power plant of choice. At 310 horsepower, this one is “retuned” from the 365 horsepower offered in some models, such as in the Ford Taurus, but its torque rating comes in at 400 or 50 more than in the Taurus. Torque is the power you want most once you get going. And the EcoBoost delivers energy in spades.

Seven, configure this model the way you want. Buyers want choice when it comes to their vehicles. In the Ford Transit, that choice extends to the length of its platform, single or dual wheels to the rear, multiple height choices and a variety of engines. Whether used as a work van or a passenger wagon, the Transit accurately advances versatility. The wide pivoting passenger and rear doors magnify that trait.

2015 Ford Transit

While the Ford Transit most definitely serves a niche, its possibility as a family hauler is a factor. Undoubtedly, not many people will abandon their big crossovers or large pickup trucks to buy one, but then what we have here is a vehicle that is far superior to the vans that it has replaced. For Ford, that means that they have a winner on their hands, especially for commercial accounts and fleet buyers.

2015 Ford Transit Wagon

  • Sticker price from $33,770
  • Price as tested: from $36,000 (estimated)
  • Rear-wheel drive
  • Seats 8 occupants
  • 3.5-liter 24-valve turbocharged V-6 gasoline engine
  • 310 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
  • 400 foot-pounds of torque @ 2,500 rpm
  • 3.64 inches bore by 3.45 inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 10.0-to-1
  • 6-speed automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 129.9 inches
  • Length: 219.9 inches
  • Width: 81.3 inches
  • Height: 83.6 inches
  • Passenger volume: NR
  • Storage volume: 246.7 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: 5,300 pounds
  • EPA: 14 mpg city, 19 mpg highway
  • Regular grade gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 25 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 5,100 pounds (estimated)
  • IIHS safety rating: Not Rated
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 5 years/Unlimited miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Kansas City, Missouri

See AlsoUpdated 2018 Ford F-150 Features New Gas and Diesel Engines

2015 Ford Transit photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.