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Review of: 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack 4dr Wgn
2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack: Wagon attraction
By Chris Chase
Jan. 19, 2017
As the balance in new vehicle sales continues to swing toward crossovers and away from cars of all sizes, automakers are seeking out new ways to set themselves apart. That’s especially true for smaller SUVs and crossovers, which continue to erode sales of compact and subcompact sedans and hatchbacks.
With Volkswagen about to introduce an all-new compact Tiguan crossover that’s grown to allow an optional third row of seats, the German manufacturer went looking for an economical way to fill the resulting gap near the bottom of its vehicle line. Its answer: the Golf Alltrack, a variation on the Golf Sportwagen that adds AWD and a lifted suspension.
Pros & Cons
- + Traction
- + surprisingly spacious interior
- + Visibility
- - Price
- - Fuel economy
- - Touchy safety systems
The Alltrack also gains some black body cladding to toughen up the wagon’s looks. The effect is that of a budget-priced Audi A4 Allroad, a vehicle that’s similar in concept, in that it creates a crossover out of a compact wagon.
VW positions the Alltrack as the top model in a range of AWD wagons that are new for 2017. It’s a $35,295 proposition, but if all you want is a wagon with four driven wheels, VW will also sell you a regular Golf wagon with that drivetrain for as little as $26,045 in Trendline trim.
Inside, the Alltrack differs little from a Highline-trimmed Golf Sportwagen: there’s leather seating (heated up front), auto-dimming rearview mirror, 12-way power driver’s seat, panoramic sunroof and dual-zone automatic climate control.
Like all Sportwagens, the Alltrack is spacious and comfortable. The only interior space deficit you’ll notice relative to a compact crossover is in headroom; the Alltrack’s standard panoramic roof amplifies that, so if you’re taller, you’ll want to make sure you’re happy with how you fit under it.
You could accuse VW of taking few chances with the Alltrack’s styling, but that conservatism pays practical dividends: the view out is great through the decent-sized windows all around. VW wisely stays away from the tiny rear quarter windows that are in vogue now; they may look good as a styling exercise, but they can create blind spots.
That said, one of our few complaints about the Golf is that its side mirrors are tiny and have to be set just right to give you a full view of what’s around the car.
Safety-wise, the Alltrack’s tech highlight is standard blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert, an item shared with the Golf Sportwagen Highline but optional in the mid-range Comfortline wagon.
Our tester was further loaded up with a driver assistance package that effectively makes the Alltrack semi-autonomous with adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking and lane keeping assist. As in most cars with these active safety bits, the Alltrack will basically drive itself for short periods before it barks a warning to put your hands back on the wheel. Maybe it was our imagination, but we felt little pulls and tugs in the steering wheel even when we were in full control of the car and paying perfect attention to our lane positioning, suggesting there might be room for a little fine-tuning to this feature.
Other useful tech items included in the Alltrack are passive keyless entry, Bluetooth and smartphone integration using Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink.
Volkswagen’s confirmation of the Alltrack for Canada came shortly after Volkswagen’s diesel emissions scandal erupted and effectively killed the brand’s reputation for compact diesel supremacy. That sadly sent North American gearhead dreams of an AWD diesel station wagon up in smoke.
So with its torquey and efficient TDI diesels out of the picture, Volkswagen was left with its 1.8 TSI engine, a turbocharged gasoline mill that’s less torquey and efficient than the diesel, but still delivers decent amounts of both.
In fact, in AWD Golf wagons, that engine gains an extra 14 lb-ft of torque for a total of 199 to back up 170 horsepower. That’s good, because the all-wheeler hardware adds up to 163 kg to the car’s weight — the equivalent of two adults — and the extra punch helps mitigate that increase in the car’s power-to-weight ratio.
AWD means automatic transmission in the Golf — you can’t have it with a stickshift — but we’re okay with that when the automatic in question is VW’s dual-clutch six speed, a gearbox nearly flawless in its operation.
Our time with the Alltrack included a pretty serious snowfall, so we hardly need to tell you we appreciated the quick responses and added traction of the 4Motion AWD system.
Fuel consumption takes a hit in the transformation to all-wheeler: Natural Resources Canada’s estimates for the Alltrack are 10.6/8.0 L/100 km (city/highway), compared to 9.3/6.9 for a FWD wagon with the automatic transmission. We saw an average of about 12.0L/100 km in wintry city driving, about what we’d expect from a bulkier compact crossover in similar conditions.
At $38,215 as tested, our first impression of the Alltrack was that it seemed expensive, and it is if you think of it as a wagon. But line it up against the five-seat compact crossovers it was conceived to compete with, and that’s a fair amount. If you’re willing to give up the Alltrack’s ground clearance, a downgrade to the Highline wagon with its standard AWD will save you $1,500, and an AWD Comfortline brings the starting price below $29,000.
Where we see buyers turning away is when they realize the Alltrack’s raised suspension isn’t enough to provide the significantly elevated seating position that crossovers achieve by combining that extra ground clearance with a larger, taller body.
Alltrack will be a winner in the eyes of those who have long bemoaned the lack of spacious, family-friendly small cars as an alternative to the ubiquitous crossovers. If you’re after something a little different in a family vehicle, the Alltrack and its AWD Golf wagon siblings should be on your list.