2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack SEL with 4MotionPosted on September 15th, 2016
Active lifestyle wagon with German performance
By Nina Russin
Volkswagen’s new Golf Alltrack sport wagon is the masculine yang to the Subaru Outback’s more feminine yin. Athletic performance comes from a turbocharged 1.8-liter engine and available six-speed manual gearbox on all grades. Like its Subaru competitor, the Alltrack boasts a versatile easy-to-clean interior with a spacious cargo bay for larger gear, and enough ground clearance to clear the tea kettles on unimproved roads.
VW product planners hope the Alltrack’s available panoramic sunroof and slightly lower roof height than the Outback will lure existing Subaru owners into its showrooms. Roof rails are standard on every Alltrack grade to facilitate overhead cargo carriers and roof racks.
The Alltrack is based on Volkswagen’s popular Golf Sportwagen. Although its sibling is available with Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, the Alltrack’s higher ground clearance makes it more capable on uneven trails. A drive-select mode system automatically engages downhill descent control when the driver chooses the off-road setting.
The standard 1.8-liter turbocharged engine develops 170-horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque from engine speeds as low as 1600 rpm for excellent low-end acceleration. The DSG automatic model that launches in October starts at $26,950 excluding an $820 destination charge while the six-speed manual version available in January, 2017 is priced from $25,850.
Test drive in Seattle
At a recent media event, I had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of two Alltreck models: the upscale SEL and volume leading SE. Our on and off-road routes around Bainbridge Island included winding two-lane thoroughfares, town centers and lower-speed highways.
The fact that the Alltrack is available with manual transmissions on all trim levels is a big selling point for driving enthusiasts frustrated by the dwindling number of crossover-type vehicles that come with sticks. Subaru limits its manual gearboxes to base models or sports cars such as the WRX and BRZ. Having said that, the take rate for manual transmission is shrinking as well: below ten percent of the current market.
Buyers who want to tow trailers will want to choose the Outback with 2700-pound towing capacity. The Alltrack isn’t rated to tow. What the Alltrack does best is exactly what its engineers have promised: deliver peppy performance in a practical package.
Turbocharging enhances the Alltrack’s fuel economy, with a 30 mpg highway rating according to the EPA. The 1.8-liter direct injection engine is peppy and responsive at all speeds, with smooth, linear acceleration. A timing chain with automatic tensioner eliminates expensive timing belt replacement during the car’s lifecycle.
The DSG gearbox has a slight hesitation shifting between the lower gears. It isn’t particularly noticeable except at wide-open throttle. If you aren’t planning to take your Alltrack to the drag strip, it isn’t something to worry about.
An electric power steering system offers plenty of low-speed assist for maneuvering around rocks and tree stumps on dirt trails. On-center response is a bit soft but certainly liveable.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of a strut-type setup with lower control arms in front and multi-link in the rear. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat in the corners. Larger rims on the SEL give it a fatter footprint for better performance at speed.
While the Alltrack is off-road capable, lack of a two-speed transfer case makes it more difficult to crawl up rocky grades. The downhill descent control system maintains a constant speed to help the driver with directional control.
Visibility around the perimeter is good. A driver assistance package on the test car adds blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and park steering assist. A rearview camera is standard on all models.
Leatherette upholstery makes the Alltrack’s interior easier to clean than leather. Unfortunately, cloth is not available and would be a better option for buyers living in climates with extreme hot summers. Keyless entry and start on the test car enables the driver to enter the vehicle and fire the ignition without fumbling for the key fob.
Both the driver’s and front passenger seats have enough lower lumbar support for trips several hours in duration. The gauge cluster and center stack screen have bright, easy-to-read graphics that show well in bright sunlight.
A small center console bin holds cell phones, wallets and small packs. Vents behind the center console keep rear occupants comfortable in temperature extremes.
Rear seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor, making the Alltrack bicycle friendly. A standard pass-through allows owners to stash skis or a snowboard inside with outboard second-row seats in place.
An undersize spare tire is mounted under the cargo area. There is additional space under the cargo floor for smaller items. A standard tonneau cover on the test car keeps cargo out of sight.
The Volkswagen Alltrack comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, stability control, traction control, tire pressure monitoring and Volkswagen’s intelligent crash response system that cuts off the fuel supply if the vehicle is involved in a serious collision.
The Alltrack received a five-star crash test rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and is an IIHS top safety pick.
The Alltrack rolls into Volkswagen dealerships in October.
Like: Appealing styling and sporty performance melded with a versatile interior makes the Alltrack a logical choice for driving enthusiasts with active lifestyles.
Dislike: Cloth trim is not available.
Model: Alltrack SEL DSG with 4Motion
Base price: $32,890
As tested: $35,705
Horsepower: 170 Hp @ 4500 rpm
Torque: 199 lbs.-ft. @ 1600 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 22/30 mpg city/highway2017, Best Value 2017, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, Alltrack, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety, Volkswagen