If you want a tough-looking smaller wagon that is a joy to drive, this is the car for you.
Review and photos by Tom Sedens
Click on any picture to see a larger version.
Pricing: 2017 VW Golf Alltrack 4Motion
Base price: $35,295
Options: $1,310 Driver assistance package; $1,610 Light and Sound package
A/C tax: $100
Price as tested: $39,940
Not content with just offering us the fantastic Golf Sportwagen, VW has upped the ante and given Subaru shoppers something to think about. A slightly raised suspension, a body package that looks like it means business and a fantastic drivetrain make for a mostly compelling offering.
In my opinion, the Alltrack looks really good. Although most of the bits are available in the Golf Sportwagen, the Alltrack does get a number of unique parts. It gets its own grille and front bumper (with integrated fog lights), silver trim around the bottom of the car and noticeable fender flares. It gets very bright bi-xenon headlights and LED driving lights. Speaking of bright, my review car’s Tornado Red is a statement all on its own.
I would have liked the 18-inch wheels to be a bit more aggressive, but they do look nice, and they’re shod with sizeable 225/45 rubber. This car got a lot of looks (particularly from other VW owners) and I got a lot of questions about it, mostly from people who didn’t know this model exists.
Inside, the well-balanced intimate-feeling cabin is roomy enough with a nice amount of headroom. You’ll find nice materials (mostly soft plastics) throughout. I absolutely loved the flat-bottomed steering wheel. It’s wonderfully sculpted, and fit my hands perfectly. It’s very comfortable to hold and ideal for aggressive driving too.
The Alltrack gets really comfortable (and grippy/supportive!) heated leather seats, with delightful contrasting stitching. Unfortunately, when it comes to comfort, I found the centre console was a bit too wide. That matters to me because I rest my right knee against the centre console and it always felt tight on that side and intruded on my ability to get comfortable.
The smallish 6.5-inch touchscreen works well and the user interface is mostly intuitive – it’s also quite responsive, and it manages your navigation, phone and a great 8-speaker Fender sound system. For comfort, there’s a dual-zone automatic climate control system and the huge panoramic sunroof overhead (with it’s electric sunshade) is a beautiful touch. The Alltrack has a push-start ignition – VW chooses to put the button down on the centre console, which takes a few days to get used to.
There’s quite a bit of driver assistance technology here too – a back-up camera (which is protected from road grime by being contained in the rear VW badge) and front and rear parking sensors, automatic parallel and perpendicular parking assist, lane keep assist and adaptive cruise control.
I would say this is the Golf Alltrack’s Achilles heel. When sitting behind my own driver’s seating position (I’m 5’10”) in the back seat, I barely had enough leg room or foot room. There is a reasonable amount of head room, thankfully. This goes for the two outboard seats. The middle position, however, is a complete write-off for adults as it straddles a massive drive shaft tunnel, and even my kids hated sitting there.
The middle seatback folds down and has two cupholders, but other than that, there is no further consideration given to rear seat passenger comfort – no charging plugs, etc. And that feels a bit chintzy for a car this pricey.
I was very happy with the storage options around the Alltrack’s cabin. I love VW’s big carpeted door bins, and the reasonably sized glove compartment can be air-conditioned to keep drinks cool. There’s a deep rubberized bin with USB and auxiliary plugs underneath the centre stack – this is where I found myself putting most of the stuff on a daily basis – and also a small bin with a 12V plug under the armrest. A couple of neat details – there are card and change slots in the centre console to quickly access those things if they are part of your daily routine.
Of course, the trunk in any wagon is definitely roomy – and the Alltrack is no exception. Unfortunately a power liftgate isn’t even available, which is a tad surprising when you’re about to crack the $40,000 barrier. As noted, you’ll find plenty of room as well as a ton of useful underfloor space and a retractable and removable tonneau cover. There are two plugs in the cargo space – a 115V household plug and a 12V plug. For more space, the rear seats split 60/40 and can be folded with remote release latches in the trunk. Needless to say, there’s plenty of utility in the back.
Under the Hood
Here you’ll find a transverse turbocharged 1.8L 4-cylinder putting out 170 HP, mated to VW’s 6-speed dual-clutch transmission and 4MOTION all-wheel drive system.
This all makes for a reasonably efficient drivetrain, and VW rates the Alltrack at 10.6 L/100 km (22 US mpg) in the city and 8.0 L/100 km (29 US mpg). We ended up with an average of 9.5 L/100 km (25 US mpg) during our week with the Alltrack, which is significantly below the rating. Very impressive.
I truly enjoyed the driving experience in the Golf Alltrack. The little engine is a bit laggy off the line, but after that split second, the torque pours on (199 lb.ft of it as low as 1600 RPM!), and for virtually all driving situations, I felt there was plenty of power.
It’s not going to throw you back into your seat but it’s fun to drive. There are four driving modes – Normal, Sport, Off-Road (with an actual hill descent mode!) and Custom (which is tunable by the user). These are really just electronic maps of the engine management system, where the responsiveness of the powertrain is impacted. The suspension is not variable, and thus remains unaffected by the drive modes. With that said, this is a pretty awesome suspension set-up. Much of that “fun to drive” aspect I mentioned earlier comes from the Alltrack’s handling abilities. Even though it’s slightly higher off the road than it’s pedestrian Golf wagon cousin, it is a very secure and competent handling automobile. It tackles corners and curves happily, stays surprisingly flat while doing so and grips beautifully, taking advantage of the all-wheel drive. The system was quite effective, especially on slippery side streets. The 20 mm raised suspension certainly doesn’t make the Alltrack an off-road monster, but if nothing else, it and the 4MOTION all-wheel drive give the driver some more confidence to tackle some slightly more adventurous routes. Not only is the handling stellar, I found the Euro-firm ride to be very comfortable too.
VW’s DSG transmission is brilliant in my opinion – it’s always in the right gear. Gear changes are smooth and instant, including manual gear changes which are done with the gear selector. The transmission has a sport mode that hangs on to gears pretty aggressively before shifting. The Alltrack’s brakes are powerful and the car is very quiet around town and on the highway – just a bit of wind and road noise at highway speeds, but it is very well controlled. I enjoyed a little bit of a growl from the engine when I was on the gas, but that’s a good thing. And visibility out of the car is excellent.
VW has a great little wagon on its hands here. It does so much well. The utility factor is high, obviously. It’s capable on the road, and although I didn’t test this out, it would be capable if you headed slightly off the beaten path too. It’s fun to drive and quite efficient. The rear seats are the biggest drawback here, and if you are regularly transporting adults in the back seat, this could be a deal breaker.
WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) was quite high. She loves wagons, particularly German ones, and this did most things right for her. She even liked the more aggressive exterior.
I really enjoyed the Alltrack and would certainly recommend anyone who is in the small wagon market to add it to their list. It’s a rewarding drive, to be sure, and if the back seat is big enough for your needs, this thing might do it all for you.
Disclosure: Vehicle was provided by Volkswagen Canada.
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