30 Oct 2012

Why the Golf MkIV V6 4Motion is a great car

Is the Golf Mk IV any good?  It's reputation has taken a bit of a battering in various forums lately.  As the owner of a V6 4Motion, Matt Hubbard tells us why the Golf Mk IV is actually a great car.

 I have owned 24 cars in the 24 years since I passed my driving test (first time, aged 17, 6 lessons).  I tend to get bored after a few months and buy another.  I've also had some company cars.

Sometimes I get hooked on a make or model and buy a few.  I've owned 2 Subaru Outbacks.  Both 2.5 litres - one manual, one automatic.  The auto was better but both were great cars.  Great handling, great engine, lively, informative steering with amazing feedback for such a big car.

I've owned three BMWs and had one company car.  My first was a 1991 E36 320i with the two litre six cylinder engine.  It had 150bhp which, back then (I was 24), was amazing.  But the car was full of annoying irritations.  The pedals were offset, it juddered when reversing and it had a boot - so my dog had to go on the back seat.

Via a couple of underpowered E46's we arrived at a 1998 E39 525td estate.  It was utterly, incredibly dreadful.  Admittedly the engine was the wrong one (cast iron block, same as in the Range Rover) but God was it slow and, frankly, it was dangerous.  Turning right onto a busy A road was no fun at all when the turbo didn't kick in until 1700rpm and below that it had 2bhp.  A frisky run along the un-named road back road that runs over Watership Down in Hampshire would see the suspension regularly bottom out.

I've driven a few other BMWs, including an E90 M3 but none floated my boat and none could shake off, for me, the image that every other driver thought I was a pillock. I vowed never to own one again.

Mercedes' have come and gone and I've loved them all.  Strong build quality and mechanicals.  Uncomplaining, but not particularly involving chassis.  Quiet, strong engines.

I've owned two Fords.  A hateful Focus - I only hated it because it did bad things to my lower back that no other car seat has ever managed to do.  I was crippled after 10 minutes driving.  I had a Mondeo 2.0TDCi Estate that did everything as it should but with absolutely no charm - and the engine exploded at 10,000 miles.

I've only ever owned two Vauxhalls.  Both Novas, both in my teens.  I've driven dozens since.  Astras and Vectras in the main - as hire cars and courtesy cars. I liked the Astras and detested the Vectras.  Only a driver with a long body and short legs would suit the driving position.

I've also owned a Citroen BX, a MINI Cooper, a Rover Mini and lots of others that I cant remember.  Until my current car I've only ever owned one Volkswagen.  A Passat TDi 110 estate.  I hated it.  It was slow and it was boring.

My wife, on the other hand has owned a Golf GTi MkII, Gti MkIII and GTi MkIV and now she owns a Land Rover Discovery.

The point of this overlong introduction is that I had never driven a Volkswagen Golf Mk IV of any description until my wife bought her MkIV GTi 1.8T in 2006. And when I had a go I liked it.  A lot.  It was quite fast and the handling was good, if not super responsive - although I've never been a fan of front wheel drive and the wheels scrabbling for grip was annoying.

Then, in 2010 I sold my old car, the last in a long line of estates (3 children, 3 dogs), and bought a 2004 VW Golf V6 4Motion.  Why? Because it had four wheel drive and a massive V6 lump of an engine.  And it was dirt cheap compared to almost anything else that came close in terms of performance.

For about 5 seconds I thought about a BMW 330d but then I wondered how long it would be until the swirl flaps would break and turn the engine into a lump of molten steel.  So then I thought about a 330i and 5 seconds later realised it would be unkind to make my dogs travel in the boot.  An estate was out of the question because I was moving away from estates.  And I like the pedals in front of my feet rather than off to the side.

Nope.  As an obsessive Autotrader reader I went through all the options over and over and each time settled on the V6 4Motion because it ticked all the boxes.

Now, 2 years and 40,000 miles later, I still love it.  The Golf is the perfect size and shape for my needs (it fits 3 dogs in the boot and 4 adults in comfort).  The handling is GT rather than hot hatch. The ride is great.  The four wheel drive means I can go almost anywhere and hammer it even in the extreme wet.  It'll understeer if pushed halfway round a corner but usually handling is neutral.  It will never, ever wheelspin on anything other than gravel or snow.  The brakes are sharp, have good feel and never fade.   I do all my own servicing and everything is easy to work on.  It has never broken down.  Nothing has ever gone wrong.  It has a timing chain which will never need replacing.  It never uses oil.  It sounds fantastic.  VW enthusiasts love it.

It is nothing short of indestructible.  That is why I have owned it for 100% longer than any other car I've had.

I've driven £200,000 supercars and, after the fun and frolics of playing with 500bhp, have settled into my Golf, turned the key and had just as much fun on the way home as I did during the test.

I once took it to the Nurburgring with a friend.  I did all the driving.  1,300 miles and five laps of the 'ring in 36 hours and afterwards I was as fresh as a daisy.  It is a fantastic GT car.

If you want a cheap, reliable, fun, good looking, great sounding car you can't do much better than a Golf MkIV - and the V6 4Motion in particular.