By Barbara and Bill Schaffer
San Jose, Calif. — Even with the remarkable success of the Subaru Outback and Subaru Crosstrek, no other manufacturer has come up a similar competitor. The only vehicles coming close are a couple of more expensive European wagons.
That?s changed, however, with the introduction of the 2017 Golf Alltrack introduced recently by Volkswagen. On a recent trip to California, we borrowed the new Alltrack for a few days to check it out.
Volkswagen has made several attempts at the wagon market with other Jetta and Golf variations, but we think the new Alltrack may be right on target to pluck a share of the Subaru market.
Volkswagens have often been revered by driving enthusiasts for their handling and performance, and the new Golf Alltrack has those same attributes plus a few more. We could say that the VW Alltrack is like the VW Golf Sportwagon in steroids, but that would be wrong, it?s more like it?s been spending quality time at the gym.
Numerically the enhancements translate to a ride height lifted by about 0.6 inches using longer springs and shocks. Tire size are bumped up an inch from 15-inch to 16-inch and 16-inch to 17-inch. Those changes raise it by 1.4-inches to 6.9-inches of clearance. Although that?s still far short of the Subaru equivalents, which have 8.7-inches of clearance, it means less scraping on things in the road and the ability to go through deeper snow. It?s best to avoid rocks and hard obstacles though, because the Alltrack has no skid plates. On the other hand, the roof is several inches lower than the Subaru making the job of strapping things (bikes, skis, kayaks, etc.) on top easier.
Off-road, in these vehicles, usually means in the mud, snow or dirt roads. These are not rock climbers or log jumpers, and the biggest obstacle they might face is crossing a small creek.
While we were in California we didn?t have time to try more than a dirt road, where we found it had good traction and much better dimensional stability than its front-wheel drive counterparts.
Under the hood of all trim levels is Volkswagen?s 170-hp 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline (TSI) engine with VW?s excellent six-speed DSG? double-clutch automatic transmission. (A six-speed manual transmission will be available by mid-2017 for a $1,000 deduction in price.) Buff magazine testing lists a 0 to 60 mph time of 7.4 seconds, but it feels faster than that. The turbo lag is minimal and it has good passing power. The EPA rates fuel economy at 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined. We averaged 24.7 mpg with mostly highway driving.
The latest generation of Volkswagen 4Motion permanent all-wheel drive system is standard. A control unit continually calculates the ideal drive torque for the rear wheels and sends as much as 50 percent to the rear axle when necessary.
There are no surprises in the interior, the Alltrack is pure Volkswagen with the standard design interior and durable V-Tex leatherette seating surfaces. The interior space works best for four adults, but three fit snuggly in the rear seat when necessary. Cargo space is 30 cubic feet with the rear seats in place but expands to 66.5 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. A bicycle fits in the rear without taking off the front tire.
Our S test vehicle was nicely equipped with a full complement of safety equipment, 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lamp, heated side mirrors, paddle shifters and heated seats. The 6.5-inch touch screen mounted at the top of the center stack displayed the view from the backup camera along with audio, communications, and some vehicle functions. The system has Bluetooth, SiriusXM satellite radio and offers users the ability to run certain smartphone apps directly on the vehicle?s display through services like Apple CarPlay?, Android Auto? and MirroLink?.
The Car-Net Security & Service suite gives owners access to their vehicle remotely through vw.com/carnet as well as a smartphone app. It provides access to the features available from virtually anywhere a mobile device is connected to wireless internet.
Available security-related features include Automatic Crash Notification, which notifies an operator who can contact first responders in the event of a collision; Manual Emergency Call; a feature that allows for quick access to customer specialists at the touch of a button; Roadside Assistance; and Stolen Vehicle Location Assistance to assist law enforcement with locating your vehicle if it is stolen.
In addition, Volkswagen Car-Net Security & Service offers layers of convenience, such as remote vehicle access, remote door lock and unlock, remote honk and flash (of lights), last parked location information, and remote status check (doors and windows).
The 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack comes in three trim levels: S, SE and SEL. Pricing starts at $27,770, including the destination charge for the S trim level, and the SE and SEL have base prices of $31,350 and $33,710 respectively. The only available option on the SEL is a $1,995 Driver Assistance and Lighting Package which adds Bi-Xenon headlights with LED Daytime Running Lights and an adaptive front lighting system, along with Adaptive Cruise Control, Park Distance Control, park assist, Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking. Both the S and SE have optional ($845) Driver Assistance Packages available with fewer features. A ?loaded? SEL is priced at $35,705 plus Volkswagen does offer a substantial list of aftermarket style accessories.
The 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is fun to drive, practical and should be a strong competitor for the competitors.