2017 VW Golf Alltrack Long-Term Update: Infotainment
Our long-term VW Alltrack has been with us over a year now and just passed the 17,000-mile mark on its odometer, many of those logged by me. I continue to relish the attributes of this car, big and small. Depending on your priorities, one of its systems could be considered both: infotainment.
The term "infotainment" has been around for decades, but more recently it's taken new relevance in the car world. A combination of "information" and "entertainment," this means everything having to do with audio, navigation, and phone-control systems. While in past years VW wasn't exactly cutting-edge in this respect, but it's caught up quickly and appreciably.
All three 2017 Alltrack trims come with VW's MIB II infotainment system. Base S and mid-trim SE models such as ours use the Composition Media unit, while the top-line SEL model is outfitted with the Discover Media unit. Both are based around a 6.5-inch touchscreen, but the Discover Media unit adds navigation, one-shot voice destination entry and other mapping tools. If you want an Alltrack with standard navigation, the SEL is the only way to get it. That system also includes the Off-Road Monitor, which when engaged displays the vehicle's altitude, steering wheel angle and a compass.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, standard
No matter which Alltrack you go with, one of its most notable infotainment traits is its smartphone compatibility through its Car-Net system that works with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. This is laudable for a couple of reasons. The first is that it's not only there to begin with--some automakers are still just getting on board with CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity--but it's standard. The other is that, since navigation is only available on top-line Alltrack SEL models, this enables you to use the nav functions on your smartphone in the others trims.
I primarily use this system with an old iPhone 5S, and CarPlay connectivity has always been seamless. The system does a good job relaying text messages over the speakers, and general responsiveness is quick.
One especially neat feature in the VW Alltrack is the touch-screen's proximity sensor. As you move your finger closer to the screen, it "senses" your hand and brings up additional features on screen. For example, put your finger near the bottom and before it makes contact a submenu will appear with additional functions for source selection, previous and next tracks, pause and more.
One of the few gripes I have with the system is the resolution of its 6.5-inch screen. At 800 x 480, it's not very high, and some text and images can appear grainy. Thankfully VW has already improved this. For the 2018 Alltrack, VW has given SE and SEL models a bigger, brighter and faster-operating 8-inch screen (S trims retain the 6.5-inch unit).
All forms of audio playback
On the audio side of the equation, the 2017 Alltrack can play just about everything, from subscription-based SiriusXM satellite radio and free digital HD Radio channels to Bluetooth streaming audio and CDs. Yes, unlike other new cars that have abandoned CD players, the Alltrack still happily spins ‘em. You may not know it from first glance, though. The VW Alltrack’s CD player is hidden in the glovebox.
For traditionalists, there’s also an AM/FM radio. Rounding out the inputs are an SD memory card reader that you can also store audio files on, and finally a simple AUX-in port. Using a cheap plug with the latter, you can play anything that has a headphone output. So maybe you’ll be glad you kept that old Walkman tape player after all.
Sonic Easter egg
If you appreciate higher-quality music, the Alltrack boasts a sonic Easter egg in its ability to play FLAC files via its USB input. Abbreviated for Free Lossless Audio Codec, FLAC files have the same audio resolution as a compact disc and sound equally as good. With a USB drive, you can store hundreds of songs, essentially making the VW a higher-resolution jukebox. I loaded up a thumb drive with a bunch of FLAC files I had previously ripped from CDs, and the VW's infotainment system played them flawlessly, even importing album art where available. Of course, the system plays the more widely-known but lower-res mp3 files, too.
Easiest for most people will be to just stream tunes via Bluetooth or play by connecting a phone via a USB cable. I’ve found Bluetooth to work just fine via my iPhone, and sounds even better wired-in and using the Music app in CarPlay or the Amazon Music app, which also offers the advantage of charging the phone.
Fender audio system
Alltrack SE and SEL models further benefit from Fender premium audio. The system puts out 400 watts through 8 speakers, plus a subwoofer. It sounds good, and sometimes great, depending on the source material. With some digging in the menus, you can also access an equalizer to fine tune bass, midrange, treble and the subwoofer. No matter what music source you go with the Alltrack is likely to play it, just another way in which it makes the miles fly by with ease.
See Past Reports for our Long-Term 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack:
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