By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
An offshoot of the popular crossover and sport utility vehicle categories is group of smaller sport wagons being built by nearly a dozen manufacturers. We’ve driven most of them over the last couple of years and one of our favorites is the Volkswagen Golf. The popular Volkswagen wagons are now available in three variations: Golf SportWagen 1.8T, Golf SportWagen 4Motion and Golf Alltrack.
Recently we had an opportunity to drive the two all-wheel drive versions: the SportWagen 4Motion® and the new Alltrack. Both models have virtually identical dimensions and all the same drivetrain components, but the new Alltrack, which is designed and equipped more for off-road use, sits 1.2-inches higher and has 1.2-inches more of ground clearance (6.7 inches). The other defining factor are some equipment variations.
Both VWs are powered by the company’s impressive 170-horsepower 1.8-liter turbocharged direct injection four-cylinder engine. This is the same engine used by the rest of the seventh-generation golf family. The engine is paired with a five-speed manual (in the S trim only) or the quick-shifting DSG® automatic transmission. The pair drives Volkswagen 4Motion® permanent all-wheel drive system which activates before any wheels start to spin.
The all-wheel drive versions have an EPA fuel economy rating of 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. We averaged 25.1 mpg in SportWagen and 23.7 mpg in the Alltrack.
The SportWagen is a bit quicker than the Alltrack registering a 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of 7.0 seconds. The difference is due to the little bit of extra weight of the Alltrack.
The powertrain drives the front wheels under normal conditions with the rear wheels decoupled under light loads or coasting situations to save fuel. However, when sensors indicate that traction is about to be lost, a control unit calculates the ideal drive torque needed and shifts an appropriate amount of torque to the rear wheels (up to 50 percent). The system also employs the electronic stability control to briefly brakes a wheel that might be slipping to transfer the drive power to the wheel on the opposite side, to help maintain traction.
Volkswagen has enhanced the safety technologies by expanding the standard equipment on the SEL to include Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert, and Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC). An available SEL Driver Assistance Package ($1,995), adds front and rear Park Distance Control, Parking Steering Assistant, Bi-Xenon headlamps with High Beam Control, Lane Departure Warning, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. A rearview camera now comes standard on all models.
At 180 inches long and 71 inches wide, the Golf SportWagen and Alltrack are larger than the VW Jetta wagons previously offered by the company and about nine inches shorter than the Subaru Outback. They are built on VW’s new MQB architecture which moves the front wheels further forward to give the vehicle a better look and lower center of gravity.
The 2017 Volkswagen SportWagen is offered in four variations including the TSI S, S 4Motion®, TSI SE and TSI SEL. Base prices range from $22,400, including the destination charge for the TI S up to $30,790 for the SEL. All the available option packages will take the SEL price to $32,785.
The Alltrack comes as an S, SE or SEL trim level with prices ranging from $26,670 for the S up to $33,710 for the SEL. Fully equipped, the SEL price can go as high as $35,705.
Setting the Alltrack apart from the SportWagen is standard 4Motion® all-wheel drive, Hill Descent Control, Alltrack-exclusive “Off Road Mode,” and increased ground clearance.
The Alltrack is never going to be a rock or tree climber but it’s perfect for those ventures off the beaten track to a better fishing spot, trekking through deeper snow or other mild off-road driving owners do. We recommend the available driver assistant system with adds all the extra technologies – they make driving easier and safer.
The Volkswagen Golf wagons should be on a must-drive list of anyone shopping for a small SUV. We like that they drive more like a sport sedan with the attributes of the Golf rather than the typical SUV. The VW wagons all have a light agile feel with quick fun-to-drive responses. We especially like the interior layout, the better than average visibility and the performance attributes.