Great things can come from a singular purpose. That’s why we like the Mazda Miata. But car makers often try to pack far too much versatility into a single model. That’s how the world came to know the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet. There is a delicate balance that can be struck. A crossroads of practicality, efficiency, technology, and most importantly, driveability. On paper, the new Volkswagen Golf Alltrack appears to be one. We spent a week with one to find out if it’s credentials hold up in the real world.
Americans have gone cold on wagons. They still bear the stigma of an entire generation’s idea of a “family car” much the same way the next generation views mini vans. But a half-inch seems to be all it takes to change buyer’s preconceived notions. Add a half-inch or more of ground clearance, and usually some body cladding, and suddenly you’re not buying a station wagon. It’s a neat trick, one that the Golf Alltrack pulls off just as well as the others. Based largely on the Golf SportWagen, the Alltrack sits 0.6 inches higher off the ground and wears unique front and rear bumpers, cladding, and stylish wheels. It’s a rather smart looking package, especially in our test car’s Pure White color with the optional lighting package.
Like it’s SportWagen counterpart, the Alltrack is powered by VW’s 1.8L TSI turbocharged engine making 170 horsepower and 199 lb-ft torque. Unlike the SportWagen, the Alltrack feature’s VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system to send up to 50% of the torque to the rear wheels. Any impact on total range due to the Alltrack’s AWD system is negated by a slightly larger fuel tank. Surprisingly, the Alltrack even offers a choice of transmission! The snappy six-speed DSG is the only transmission available on our tester’s SEL trim, but lower trims do have an no-cost six-speed manual option.
Inside, the Golf Alltrack’s standard V-Tex leatherette seats in unique Marrakesh brown add a touch of class and separate our tester from the sea of boring black interiors. VW’s superior ergonomics are on full display with a simple, elegant layout. The panoramic sunroof, comfortable seats, and superb steering wheel all have a familiar yet upscale feel. And thanks to all that glass, the cabin is bright and airy; large windows and great visibility aren’t always a hallmark of crossover competitors. Updated for 2018, the SEL trim now features an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment display that modernizes the feel of the interior. The big, bright touchscreen is a welcome replacement. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay integration are built right in.
The AllTrack is predictably German in layout and in feel. The incredibly comfortable ride remains soft, especially on poor road surfaces, without sacrificing body control and balance in high-speed driving. The buttery-smooth engine and transmission work perfectly together to keep the power on tap. At stoplights, there’s so little noise and vibration in the cabin it can be hard to tell the VW is idling at all. There were, however, one or two things we kept running into. The first, literally, was the door sill. This is an annoyance we’ve experienced on several of the Golf platform-mates. The high door sill will catch your heel on the way in and out of the car. We might not have noticed it once or twice, but it happened frequently enough for us to make a note of it. There is, of course, also the issue of price. The Alltrack is nearly $4,000 more expensive than the Golf SportWagen and our as-tested price was several thousand more than the competitive Subaru Outback.
There’s very little you could throw at the Golf Alltrack that it couldn’t handle. Four adults, plenty of storage space, and, of course, that long roof for any sort of racked accessories. And that’s only its cargo capabilities. With it’s raised platform and 4Motion AWD system, there’s also very few weather conditions that could prevent you from getting to your destination. This is, hopefully, the first of many new products that VW can steady itself on. With a new Tiguan and all-new Atlas on the way, it could go a long way to getting VW back on track.
|2017 VW Golf Alltrack SEL
|Driver Assistance & Lighting||$1,995|
|As Tested MSRP||$35,705|