The Volkswagen Golf is no longer just a world-leading compact hatchback, at least in the eyes of American motorists.
For this latest edition, the Mark VII Golf, Volkswagen decided to expand the line beyond its hatchback offerings. They included the latest SportWagen in the Golf Family, as the lineup is now called. Customers can now decide whether they want just a hatchback, a sporty GTI, the performance of the Golf R, or a wagon that is accommodating and fun to drive.
Volkswagen did not stop there. The SportWagen has become quite popular among new car buyers, because there are only a few of them available out in the marketplace. Somehow, we love wagons; in particular the Subaru Outback.
This sparked a lightbulb to flash over Wolfsburg. Volkswagen can make a wagon like the Outback. They have a great all-wheel drive system called 4Motion. They also have made similar models in other markets normally called “Cross [fill in a Volkswagen model here].” To entice American customers (and to capture Subaru lovers) they have to go beyond just slapping on plastic cladding and raising the ground clearance by an inch or so.
The result is the most anticipated Volkswagen in quite some time: the 2017 Golf Alltrack.
Why is the Alltrack important? Considering recent events at Volkswagen, they need to maintain their presence in this country. Otherwise, they would be lost to the financial wallow of the courts and the Federal Government. Instead of offering TDI diesel engines, Volkswagen is looking elsewhere in the short- and long-term. Since there is an interest in crossovers and SUVs, why not create a highly capable product that can go off-road and let it still be a Volkswagen?
We, as GLBT automotive consumers, love Volkswagens. We love them as much as Subarus. It sounds like this Alltrack is the right fit for our community.
As much as we appreciate SUVs and crossovers, wagons are a hit with us. The extra space behind the back seat for more cargo makes for a shape that is distinctive above all vehicles. In the Golf’s case, becoming a wagon was easy, as the longer roof was a good fit for the Golf’s front end. It carries on the Mark VII’s sharper lines all the way to the liftgate. The wagon rides on the same wheelbase as the hatchback, which translates into the same door openings and access to the seats.
The big difference is in ground clearance. The regular SportWagen is only 5.5 inches off the ground, while the Alltrack is lifted by 1.4 inches to 6.9 inches of clearance. With ground clearance comes some protection pieces on the lower part of the body, including a small skid piece up front, plastic cladding around the wheel arches, and lower protection diffuser on the rear bumper. The lower grille on the bumper denotes the Alltrack from the other Golf models.
Inside, there is plenty of continuity with the Golf Family and the Alltrack. The instrument panel, dials, and switchgear follow Volkswagen convention, as well as keep in line with other Golf models. The quality is superb with great touch and logic for each switch and control. Instrumentation is also logical with proper dials and readouts. The center screen helps to keep information flowing for the driver. The Alltrack sports the latest flat-bottom steering wheel from Volkswagen, replete with great controls for cruise control, information readouts and audio functions.
The SE tester we worked with offered leatherette upholstery that is durable and breathable. Front seats offer support, but are a bit firm at first. They should yield over time. Rear seat room is fine for average-sized adults. Cargo space is good, with 30.4 cubic feet behind the rear seat. This space expands to 66.5 cubic feet with the rear seat folded down.
Volkswagen has been getting a lot of praise for its latest infotainment systems, called MIB II. Our tester featured a 6.5-inch Composition Media system with clear audio controls and touch screen interfaces. This system enables three different mobile connections: Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Mirror Link. Through the USB connection to a smartphone, any of these systems complete the interface on the touchscreen, while enabling redundant switches on the steering wheel to control music file playback and volume. SiriusXM is available, along with HD Radio and Bluetooth connectivity. Our tester also came with the Fender Premium audio system, which emits a powerful sound throughout the cabin.
The Golf Alltrack comes with the 1.8-liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder engine as its only power source. It does the job with 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque, the same numbers as in the regular Golf and SportWagen models. It is a very solid engine for this 3,358-pound lifted wagon. Our tester came with the quicker-shifting six-speed DSG gearbox. On certain models, one can choose a manual transmission later in 2017.
By selecting any Alltrack, you get the 4Motion all-wheel drive system. It is a good system. It is even better with the model-exclusive Off Road drive mode. Most all-wheel drive systems will work to find the right traction by sending torque to any wheel that needs it. The 4Motion adds a drive mode that enables this system to work in non-tarmac situations, such as dirt roads. It has been noted that Golf Alltracks had been tested on even tougher traction situations and done exceptionally well.
In terms of fuel economy, the TSI/DSG/4Motion combination averaged 23.4 MPG. We can blame this on the extremely cold temperatures the Alltrack was exposed to during testing.
Having a long wheelbase means having a very smooth ride. Because the Alltrack has a higher ground clearance, the ride quality is quite soft. This is actually good when things get a bit rough, because of the extended suspension travel can absorb uneven surfaces, even on the highway. Handling is competent, but do expect some roll in the banked corners.
Steering feel is a bit on the soft side on center, but it is a precise system with great turning radius and at-wheel response. Brakes are also quite good with a strong feel at the pedal and in the system. Stops are quite good in normal, panic, and winter situations. Consider all of this and trust that this is not a GTI or Golf R we are talking about. This is a purpose-built Volkswagen model made to get through tougher conditions, such as our winters.
Our tester did not come with the available Driver’s Assistance Package; however, one can get it on the SE and SEL models. This is worth noting because of our look at active safety features that will help keep you on the road even in the worst of winter. If there is an Alltrack available with these features (such as adaptive cruise, forward collision warning, and blind spot monitoring) consider it.
Pricing starts at $25,850 for a Golf Alltrack S with manual transmission. This SE tester came with a sticker price of $31,350.
The Golf Attrack is a superb addition to a highly coveted car line. Volkswagen had the right intent to create a lifted wagon for the active lifestyle set by retaining continuity with the rest of the Golf Family. This is ideal for those who want a Subaru Outback, but with a conventional engine design and German engineering.
We can go on comparing the Golf Alltrack and the Outback, but it is plainly obvious that there is now a choice for a highly capable non-crossover/SUV for under $37,000.
Which one would you choose? The next time you’re shopping for such a vehicle, please consider the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack.