By Matt Degen
The 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is an all-new car, albeit one based on an existing model. The VW Alltrack is essentially a Golf SportWagen with slightly more ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive. Combined with rugged exterior aesthetics and an off-road driving mode, the new Golf Alltrack can be thought of as the SportWagen's outdoorsy twin. With its admirable list of standard features, eager turbocharged powertrain and premium flair, another way of viewing the Alltrack is as the Everyman's Audi Allroad. Like that luxury cousin, the Volkswagen Alltrack combines the surefootedness of all-wheel drive with the versatility and cargo spaciousness of a small wagon. As with the Subaru Outback, the more fun-to-drive VW Golf Alltrack makes an excellent alternative to a bulkier SUV.
If you want an all-wheel-drive station wagon that has frisky on-road manners and great traction on dirt or weather-compromised roads, the new VW Golf Alltrack is an enticing option. Unlike the Subaru Outback, the Alltrack offers a manual transmission and comes standard with a turbocharged engine.
The slightly larger Subaru Outback offers more ground clearance for improved off-road capability, has more interior space, and earns better fuel economy. The Outback also offers a stout 6-cylinder engine. If you're hoping for a diesel Alltrack, sorry: That's mere wishful thinking in light of VW's emissions scandal.
Brand-new, the 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is based on the versatile Golf SportWagen. Extra ground clearance and standard all-wheel drive (AWD) make it a welcome, efficient alternative to an SUV. Initially offered with an automatic transmission, a manual version is set to arrive in early 2017 -- with a lower price, too.
The new Golf Alltrack is rewarding and surprisingly adept on road and off. On pavement, it drives much like a standard Golf SportWagen: quick, nimble and compliant. The 6-speed dual-clutch...
... automatic transmission is mostly smooth. We like its traditional shift points more than the continuously variable transmission (CVT) used by Subaru. The Alltrack is fun to throw into corners, and its steering firms up nicely after initial softness at lower speeds. The Alltrack is well-suited for dirt roads and is capable of light off-roading. Treated as a rally car, the Alltrack is a blast to fling around, and it can make an amateur look like a pro. Pushed hard, the Alltrack will slide just enough for grins until traction and stability controls kick in. The Haldex 4Motion AWD system aptly puts power to the wheel where it's needed, and the built-in hill-descent control helps ease the car down steeper grades.
Although Americans tend to dismiss station wagons, we can all appreciate their versatility for carrying stuff. The 2017 Alltrack boasts over 30 cubic feet of room with the rear seats up, and 66.5 with them folded. That's more than some small SUVs, including Volkswagen's own Tiguan.
TECH AND SAFETY FEATURES
The Alltrack bests its own small SUV sibling in other ways. Unlike the Tiguan, the Alltrack comes standard with VW's Car-Net smartphone integration that's Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible, and is available with active safety features like blind-spot monitoring, autonomous emergency braking and lane-departure warning.
The 2017 VW Golf Alltrack's interior nearly mimics that of the SportWagen: The 5-passenger cabin is well laid out with VW's minimalist Euro sophistication. Upholstery is V-Tex Leatherette. Buttons for climate and audio are easy to see and use, and the 6.5-inch center-mounted touch-screen display is a helper, not a hindrance. The front seats are supportive and there’s an adjustable center armrest that does double-duty as a console lid. At 35.6 inches, rear legroom is acceptable but not vast. Fold the seats and you'll open up more than 66 cubic feet for gear. The glove box even has a cooling feature.
With 6.9 inches of ground clearance vs. the SportWagen's 5.5, it's not as though this VW is lifted, but the extra height indeed makes the Alltrack appear the more capable of the two for traversing a variety of roads and conditions. Unique front and rear bumpers, and body cladding along the side sills and wheel arches add to the tougher look. Roof rails come standard, and compared to the Subaru Outback are easier to reach. The rear hatch opens nice and high, but you won't find a power-operated option here as you will on an Outback or many small SUVs.
The 2017 VW Golf Alltrack comes in three trims: S, SE and SEL. The least expensive Alltrack S is still completely recommendable. It includes faux-leather upholstery, heated front seats, heated side mirrors and windshield-washer nozzles, 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, 8-way partially power-operated driver's seat, rearview camera and a 6.5-inch touch-screen infotainment system with AM/FM/CD player with HD Radio, USB and Bluetooth connectivity. The standard Car-Net system works with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone apps.
Stepping up to the mid-trim SE brings automatic headlights and rain-sensing windshield wipers, push-button start, Fender premium audio system and panoramic sunroof. Top-line SEL variants add dual-zone climate control, upgraded infotainment system navigation and off-road data, 18-inch wheels and 12-way-power driver's seat. For less than $850, the Driver Assistance package is an excellent value. The safety system bundles forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and park-distance control. It's optional on S and SE Alltracks, while SEL models offer a pricier system that also includes lane-departure warning, bi-xenon headlights, and auto-dimming rearview mirror.
While the Subaru Outback offers a choice of 4- or 6-cylinder engines, the Golf Alltrack offers only one, but it shines: VW's 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder. Putting out 170 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque, this invigorating engine easily pushes the Alltrack and happily drinks regular unleaded. This new VW will initially be available only with a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. But if you're a manual lover with patience, it will be rewarded soon enough when a 6-speed manual transmission becomes available in early 2017. At up to 30 mpg, the Golf Alltrack has respectable fuel economy, but it can't quite match the 32-mpg rating of the Subaru. And unlike the Outback, the Alltrack is not rated to tow.
1.8-liter turbocharged inline-4
170 horsepower @ 4,500 rpm
199 lb-ft of torque @ 1,600 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 22/30 mpg (automatic)
Note: Due to changes in EPA testing to more effectively reflect real-world conditions, some 2017 models show slightly lower fuel-economy scores than their 2016 versions.
The new 2017 VW Golf Alltrack has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $27,770 for a base model with an automatic transmission. When the manual model becomes available, it will start $1,100 lower at $26,670. A loaded SEL model can pass the $35,000 mark. At these prices, the Golf Alltrack starts just above its main rival, the Subaru Outback. Those looking to spend less could opt for the smaller Subaru Crosstrek, or a less-rugged Volkswagen Golf SportWagen, which now offers all-wheel drive. Before buying, be sure to check the KBB.com Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying for their new VW. As the Golf Alltrack is all-new, it's hard to predict its resale value. But it will be quite a feat to topple the Outback, which like other Subarus, enjoys outstanding resale value. Volkswagens, on the other hand, tend to trail others in holding their value.