If you want to discover the true nature of a car and your relationship with it, there are few ways better to do so than with a road trip. Want to delve even deeper into the human/automobile relationship? Add family members and a dog to the mix.

That's exactly what I did over the Christmas holiday, logging nearly 3,000 miles round trip from Orange County to my parents' house outside of Dallas, Texas, in our 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack long-term test car.  Admittedly, this trip would have been far simpler and far faster via an atmospheric highway. A plane ride of under three hours is usually preferable to a car drive of two days, but the deciding factor here was our beloved dog, Parbar. We didn't want to leave him at a pet hotel, nor did we want to subject our 85-pound fur-son to the rigors of air travel. 

Packing it all in

While we have a stable of long-term cars at KBB that I could have used for this journey, I had a keen eye on the Alltrack for a couple of big reasons: First, it's all-wheel-drive which would allow us to handle a variety of roads and weather conditions. We ended up facing our share of both. In nearby San Diego County alone we would travel from the Pacific coast, through snowy mountain passes and then through desert with Glamis' famous dunes as a backdrop.

The other reason is the fact that the Alltrack is a wagon, and wagons can hold a lot of stuff. And we had a lot of stuff to pack in the Alltrack. We had roughly a week's worth of luggage for my wife Christine and I, Christmas presents for extended family, and Parbar's treats, bedding and other supplies. The VW Alltrack adeptly swallowed it all, with the majority of our gear nicely fitting behind the rear seat's copious 30-plus cubic feet of space.

If we had folded the rear seats, we could have more than doubled that space to an SUV-like 66.5 cubic feet, but pretty much the entire rear seat would be Parbar's domain. To make sure he'd be safe and secure -- and keep the VW from being carpeted with his hair -- we used a seat cover specially designed for dogs. Secured via the front and rear headrests, it created a hammock and a doggie dorm room.

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Easy access

With gear, snacks and everything else packed, it finally came time to load Parbar. As we would find many, many times during the trip, the Alltrack's slightly lower ride height compared to, say, a Subaru Outback, was instrumental for helping him easily get in and out. While the Alltrack sits higher than the car it's based on  -- the VW Golf Sportwagen -- this rugged little wagon isn't so far off the ground that Parbar needed to do the equivalent of a high jump to get in. Rather, he just clambered in and out with relative ease. Once there, Parbar slept comfortably for the majority of the trip, and didn't once ask: "Are we there yet?"

One thing we didn't think about were sunshades. Even though our trip took place in winter, we got quite a bit of sun and heat while traveling through the desert. And while the VW's screen over the panoramic sunroof did a good job shading the top, Parbar was unprotected from the sun's rays coming into the sides. If you attempt a trip like this, buy some stick-on sunscreens or the shades available as accessories from a VW dealer.

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More road-trip features

Our Alltrack had another couple of tricks up its sleeve that benefits road-trippers. One is a cooled glovebox. While not quite a refrigerator, if you open the vents in the glovebox, this feature enables you to keep snacks such as veggies, candy bars or cheese sticks cool. Just don't forget about them after you get out.

Another great feature is a 115-volt AC outlet in the rear. Standard on midtrim SE models like ours as well as the top-line SEL trim, this outlet provides juice while the car is running and can be used for a travel refrigerator or to charge a computer or other gadgets.

We learned quite a few other things about the VW Alltrack over our 3,000-mile journey, particularly about the excellent way it handled each and every mile no matter the road or weather condition. Stay tuned for another post on that in the coming weeks. In the meantime, we're still relishing the memories we made packed into an Alltrack.

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