2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack - First Drive By Larry Nutson
2017 Golf Alltrack
Taking you outdoors
By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
The Auto Channel
For the last 30 years, or maybe even 40, it’s been said that Americans don’t like hatchback cars. This in spite of the hatchback’s versatility, ease of cargo carrying and shorter length for easier maneuvering compared to an equivalent size sedan.
Well in actual practice Americans discovered how wonderful a big rear hatch can be. To wit, all the minivans and SUVs and now compact SUVs and crossovers with their large opening rear hatches that are so popular in the market.
Another hatchback of sorts is the station wagon. Not too many are offered on the U.S. market these days, but VW has had one in their lineup for a while. First badged as the Jetta SportWagen it was rebadged in 2015 as a Golf SportWagen. A pairing of this larger hatchback within the Golf lineup, if you will.
Now VW has taken the Golf SportWagen, added some unique exterior and interior design features, raised the ride height 0.6 inches for more ground clearance (6.9 inches), added 4-Motion all-wheel-drive and wants you to go-anywhere without needing to have an SUV.
VW’s Golf Product Manager Megan Garbis says, they’re looking for a piece of the pie that Subaru has been enjoying with its Outback. To help with the task, the 2017 Golf Alltrack is priced at $26,950 (DSG-equipped) and should be in dealer showrooms in mid-October, just in time for winter weather.
On the invitation of Volkswagen I was among a group of auto journalists and writers who drove the new Golf Alltrack around the environs of Seattle. Bainbridge Island and nearby Olympic National Park provided a beautiful backdrop, some twisty and hilly roads, a long stretch of gravel-surfaced road and even the ability to test out the Golf Alltrack’s off-road creds.
Powering the Alltrack is a 170HP 1.8-Liter turbo and VW’s DSG dual-clutch transmission. I’ve driven dual-clutch transmissions on a number of different vehicles and really like the crisp, quick upshifts as well as smooth, automatic downshifts. Recently I drove the ultimate Golf, the Golf R, and that car is just a joy to drive and lots of fun.
The Alltrack will also be available with a six-speed manual, but not until early 2017. Base price on the manual is $25,850. There are three trim levels being offered…S, SE and SEL. The S and SE can be had with either transmission and the SEL only comes with DSG priced at $32,890.
On the fuel economy from the Allrack is rated at 30 highway mpg in the EPA test cycle, and 22 city mpg. VW bumped up the fuel tank capacity to 14.5 gallons form 13.2 on the SportWagen which will give you a bit more driving range.
On the outside the Alltrack has redesigned front and rear bumpers and added underbody guards, a matte-aluminum low-profile grille crossbar extending into the headlights, a lower silver crossbar that incorporates standard foglights and unique black honeycomb grilles. Body cladding on the side sills and around the wheelarches carries over to the lower areas of the redesigned bumpers. Silver roof rails, Reflex Silver side mirrors, lower window chrome molding, dark-red taillights and dual chrome exhaust outlets round out the Alltrack.
The 2017 Alltrack has been given a 5-star overall safety rating from NHTSA. On the S and SE, VW offers a well-priced driver assistance package for $845 that adds Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking, front and rear Park Distance Control, and Parking Steering Assistant. The Alltrack SEL can be equipped with the Driver Assistance & Lighting Package ($1,995), which includes these systems and adds an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Lane Departure Warning system, High Beam Control, and Bi-Xenon headlights with the Adaptive Front-lighting System. VW told me that all of this is available on manual transmission models too.
High-tech features include a standard 6.5-inch touchscreen with rearview camera, Volkswagen Car-Net App-Connect and an available Off-Road HMI section for the MIB infotainment platform
With the Alltrack’s all-wheel-drive and increased ride height an occasional adventure off the beaten path is made much easier and safer. The Alltrack has an Off Road Mode setting that alters the ABS system and accelerator pedal character and activates the hill descent function. The available Off-Road HMI that is part of the navigation system displays compass, steering angle, and altitude when driving off-road.
If you really drive in lots of deep snow I would recommend a set of four winter tires, which VW makes available through their dealer accessory program. The standard 17- or 18-inch mounted all-season tires don’t always cut it in winter extremes.
So how did it drive you ask? The 1.8-L engine develops gobs of low end torque and I found acceleration, highway merging and passing ability to be quite good and satisfactory. The suspension has some unique tuning and like all VWs it’s meant for confident curve-carving. The 4-Motion system adds greatly to the curve-carving especially on compromised road surfaces, be it on rain, snow, or an unpaved surface. As for off-road, well, it’s not for rock crawling but the Alltrack can handle uneven paths to some extent.
Admittedly I am a station wagon fan. I like sliding down into the driver’s seat of a car while also having the big rear cargo space. I often had wagons to give my dogs a place to hang out on road trips.
The Alltrack is sized for urban use and yet roomy and versatile for weekend getaways with your bike or kayak on the roof and all your gear loaded in the rear. And it will get you there no matter the weather with all-wheel-drive.
There’s lots of fun factor in the new Golf Alltrack and it’s pretty refined to boot.
© 2016 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy
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