2017 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF ALLTRACK REVIEW
2017 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF ALLTRACK REVIEW BY AUTO CRITIC STEVE HAMMES
One of VW’s shining stars is the Golf Sportwagen; it’s fun-to-drive, versatile and affordably priced. And now, following the hulked-up wagon trend is this all-new Golf Alltrack, with more ground clearance and all-wheel drive.
Are wagons back? It seems as though more and more of them are making their way to our shores and the formula being followed is to produce one for the road and one for the trail. Case in point, the Alltrack; raised suspension, underbody protection, rugged styling, standard 4Motion all-wheel drive…when you like the Sportwagen but want more capability, the Alltrack’s ready to step in. Of course, there’s a price premium…about $2,000…but the attraction to the Alltrack’s added swagger is understandable. When you live where I do, having all-wheel drive and nearly 7” of ground clearance is added peace of mind. Swap out these 18” Contis for a set of winter rubber and you’re good to go.
Similar to the new quattro system on the Audi A4 allroad’s, this latest generation of 4MOTION completely decouples the rear wheels under low road or coasting conditions to better gas mileage, though the alltrack still loses 4mpg in combined driving as compared with the front-drive Sportwagen with the same powertrain. Up to 50% of the available torque can be routed to the rear wheels, which activates before any wheelspin occurs. Furthermore, an electronic differential lock can briefly brake a slipping wheel, transferring power to the wheel on the opposite side.
And within the Driving Mode Selection is an Off Road setting altering ABS and the character of the gas pedal while also activating hill decent control, a feature which moderates vehicle speed leaving you to simply steer it down the trail. Additionally, a special off-road display on the optional navi system shows a compass, steering angle and altitude. It’s not going to tackle the Rubicon Trail and it doesn’t possess the same level of off-road chops as the similarly priced and larger Subaru Outback but the Alltrack’s package of exploring tools provides its owners with a satisfying level of added capability. Plus, its roof rack is easier to access and for the driver in you, there’s a sweet 6-speed dual clutch automatic transmission with sport mode and paddle shifters. With its own unique suspension tuning and a 1.8-liter turbocharged engine making 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque, gas mileage is rated at 22mpg city/30mpg highway. It’s also equipped with the XDS+ Cross Differential System from the GTI, acting like an electronic substitute for a mechanical limited slip differential helping improve handling and cornering performance. Off road, it feels stout and surefooted though its approach angle is limited.
On road, it drives with the typical Golf verve; spirited and willing to capitulate to your backroad follies. The added weight and higher center of gravity does affect its fun-to-drive nature to a small degree, but if there’s one aspect that surprises me it’s the steering…it’s just not as connected and that’s a VW hallmark that can’t be devalued. It firms up in Sport mode but there’s still a wee lack of feeling that’s unusual for the brand. However, I’ve logged lots of miles in the Alltrack both on the highway and off the beaten path and it’s a wonderfully engineered ride allowing you to feel the road but keeping comfort in mind.
Plus, features such as radar-guided cruise control, lane keep assist and adaptive Bi-Xenon headlamps with automatic high beams provide a concierge level of driving ease. There’s also a rear backup cam tucked away cleverly under the badge and a parking assistant for both perpendicular and parallel parking. I love the way VW integrates all of this tech too – so easy to access and interact with. And though their Car-Net infotainment system may not look like much, it’s in fact pretty awesome with gesture recognition, Apple Car Play – an absolute must have for me these days, SiriusXM info like weather, sports and traffic and special driving features like eco-driving feedback. The navigation system also displays speed limits and offers 3 drive routes for every destination.
But a wagon needs to be a Swiss Army knife to be worthy and it’s great how VW didn’t just create a box in the back. Pull up this Muddy Buddy which covers the entire cargo area when the rear seats are laid flat and the cargo floor can be lowered and divided while the underfloor storage can be sectioned off with various configurable parts. There are also 2 power outlets, a multistage cargo cover and remote handles for lowering the splitfold seats. Now this is how you add smart to a wagon. The rear seats don’t slide or recline yet offer deep seated comfort under a huge panoramic moonroof. Bravo for the choice of this Marrakesh Brown interior…leatherette and not leather if you care about such things. With lots of small cubbies and a cooled glove box, the Alltrack is a great roadtrip companion.
An attractive small wagon, the 2017 Golf Alltrack is offered in 3 trims with a starting MSRP of $27,770 while this fully equipped SEL is priced at $35,804. VW’s best models are all derived from the Golf and the Alltrack is yet another winner.