Shed of the Week: Volkswagen Golf V6

With sales of diesels dipping by 31 per cent in November and petrols currently occupying nearly 57 per cent of the total new car market, now must surely be a perfect time for smart Shedpeople to get into the Government-approved groove by buying themselves a nice petrol-powered motor.

Our tutting overlords might not fully approve of this week's thirsty VW Golf 2.8 V6 4Motion Shed, but as logic doesn't seem to be impacting on many of the Govt's motoring decisions just now, it could be argued that the purchase of a vehicle that does fewer than 20 miles per gallon around town is entirely in keeping with the prevailing political landscape.

Remarkably, given how common they are, only five Golfs have appeared in Shed of the Week in the last five years, and none of them have been V6-powered. This 2003 specimen uses VW's narrow-angle 24-valve V6 to produce 204hp and 195lb ft. Offering a nice dose of flexibility and refinement and a properly whooshy third gear, this engine gives the game old Mk 4 a couple of new dimensions as a relaxing cruiser or a snarly A-road stalker.

Some say the 1.8T is more tunable and less juicy, and that a remapped 1.9 TDI will deliver equally fine or better performance along with decent fuel consumption, but neither of these options will give you the six's fruitilicious exhaust note.

Nor will they have the 4Mo's Haldex 4WD system, which provides excellent traction out of corners wet or dry. This is a full-time arrangement that defaults almost entirely to the front wheels, with the rears getting up to maybe 30 per cent of the power when conditions dictate. Upgrades are available to make the balance more 50/50-ish, or to keep the system engaged when you take your foot off the throttle (at which point standard setups usually disengage), giving a degree of back-end engine braking. 4WD or not, our Shed will still naturally handle like a Mk 4 Golf, but you can de-roll it a bit by fitting a set of ARBs from an R32.

To keep your Fo'Mo running hard and true it's really worth looking after its drivetrain. The engine is a pretty sturdy lump that will take big mileages, but our Shed is at the point where timing chains can start to make themselves heard. Sorting that wouldn't be a cheap job. You're also well advised to change the Haldex oil at 20k intervals and the filter every 40k. Our car is within tolerance.

There are two main issues with these V6s. One is failure of the twin fans. If you don't catch this in time, there will be steam. Replacing the strip fuse atop the battery can sometimes restore at least partial fan operation, but for a proper fix it's a case of pulling the front of the car off to fit two new fans. Pay VW £300-plus for the pair, or about half that for aftermarket items, plus maybe another £300 or so for labour. There's no mention of this work having been carried out on our Shed, so it's something to be aware of.

The other issue is fuel consumption. You can get more than 30mpg if you drive in a stately fashion, but realistically you're looking at mid to high 20s even on a motorway cruise, low 20s on mixed roads, and figures in the mid or even low teens in town or when pressing on.

Springs break, and indeed already have done on this car, not once but twice. Both rears went back in 2009, and the vendor says that these replacements have themselves just been replaced for the recent MOT. Wishbone and anti-roll bar bushes are known to go too, along with all the usual VW suspects of MAFs, window operating systems, anything with the word 'sensor' in it, and coil packs. On post-2002 BDE engines like this one there are six individual coils that cost around £30 a pop, but the general view is that you're less likely to experience the dreaded misfire on a six than you are on a four.

Some owners have reported problems with the ESP light coming on if the MAF is faulty or if the wheel alignment isn't bob-on. You need to be canny about tyre replacement too. It's highly desirable bordering on essential to change all four hoops at once on cars with this sort of transmission. Luckily that very thing happened on this car just 4000 miles ago.

At launch, this was an expensive car (£24,000 plus options). There's no getting away from the fact that it's now an old once-expensive car, with all the running cost pitfalls that suggests, but even with the odd bits of brown showing through on the bodywork this full service history example looks like a potentially nice beater for winter use. The road tax is £305 a year, but you've got no MOT bills to worry about until next November. Use that money to keep the tank topped up - and pray for an uninterrupted supply of 95RON going forward, as the politicos say.

Here's the ad.

FSH and last serviced on 15/11/17 @ 103645 miles. 2 previous owners. Haldex diff oil & filter change carried out in November 2016. MOT expires 22nd November 2018 and had 2 new rear springs and a rear ABS sensor replaced for recent MOT. It is in good condition, performs well and has the lovely V6 growl.
It does have some surface rust on the wheel arches and there is also some corrosion around the boot handle. It comes with 2 keys. A full set of Michelin cross climate tyres were fitted 4000 miles ago.


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Comments (75) Join the discussion on the forum

  • sidewinder500 08 Dec 2017

    Used to have one as a lent runaround for a few weeks, was very keen on it at the start, but other than the really fruity sound even inside the cabin it turned out to be a big dissapointment.
    It was not exactly frugal, the petrol FWD models were zippier, the diesel was, mapped or not, the one to have in real life for torque and mpg, so the benefits were sparse, wasn't so much fun to drive as excepted.
    Consider the usual Golf IV qirks and it being a 5-door, so I would step back.
    Cheeep one though, but then go for the last 1.8 T 3 - doors in a good colour and it could be a keeper...

  • s m 08 Dec 2017

    Very seasonal with today's snow!

  • J4CKO 08 Dec 2017

    s m said:
    Very seasonal with today's snow!
    Yeah, I thought that but it made me think buying this for a few days of snow would be like buying a cat to deal with one mouse, in that you get the large mammal to deal with one small one and are then stuck with 15/20 years of the large one and this will deal with snow better than 2wd cars but then you are stuck with a thirsty old Golf that isnt actually that much fun for the fuel it uses.

    Not a bad car, just probably not worth 20 mpg.

  • Steven555 08 Dec 2017

    Having followed shed of the week for a number of years I'm quite chuffed at getting my car selected. It's disappointing that the first reply is a negative one but I can understand that everyone has a different view on these and we all like different things from our cars.

    The Golf has been used as the 2nd car ferrying me to work and back mostly. Having previously owned a Corrado VR6 a number of years ago, I was keen to get myself back in a V6 and the Golf option was practical enough choice for transporting the kids. It has the added bonus of 4wd for those less pleasant days. The engine is the big appeal of this car. It has a nice, linear power delivery and the growl as the revs climb. It is definitely not the most frugal of engines but it's character does go some way to balance things out. Other than the V6 badges there is no way of telling that there is anything remotely interesting about it and I kind of like that. In the age of engine downsizing it's nice to know that they used to put these larger engines in normal family hatchbacks.

  • djbobbins 08 Dec 2017

    Re: dealing with snow - I bought a 3.2V6 Isuzu Trooper once for that purpose (well, and the fact my wife had driven her car over a lamppost that morning so we needed a spare).

    I laugh at the 20mpg of the Golf if driven hard. More like 10mpg for my 10 mile trip to work from the Isuzu; the best we ever got was 21mpg for driving (at a steady 55mph) from Staffordshire to the Lake District. Nice noise though...

    As far as this week's SOTW is concerned - I quite liked the look of it when I first saw the ad, then a dose of practicality kicked in and I just thought about the nagging depression of filling up so regularly. Might be a good stopgap for someone over the winter (especially given the CrossClimate boots) but it's not for me.

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