The Golf Alltrack provides a true alternative to the sea of crossovers and sedans on the road. It’s A) a space-efficient wagon, B) only available in AWD, and C) offered with a manual transmission on all trim levels. Once beyond the sheet though, it is not all roses with a floaty ride and a mixed bag of features. Still, compared to many crossovers at this price, the Alltrack doesn’t disappoint with its solid structure, upscale looks, and attention to detail.
The VW Alltrack SE is the middle child of the trim range. Arriving just shy of $34,000, it includes notable features such as a fast-reacting 8-inch touchscreen with XM that’s played through a very good Fender sound system, heated faux-leather seats, ambient lighting, heated mirrors and with integrated turn signals, and a large panoramic sunroof that allows for some amazing mountain views.
Proximity entry, parking-steering assist, a hidden (aka clean!) backup camera, parking sensors, lane keep assist, and adaptive LED headlights help avoid any unplanned urban adventures. Automatic air conditioning is not available on this trim which is only bad news to those who love auto-air conditioning – yours truly, being one of them.
Power and Efficiency
VW’s 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is well matched to Alltrack’s mature outside appearance. It is smooth, refined, and operates with good throttle calibration, though it is heavily reliant on the engine’s turbo-boost for any moderate sense of motivation.
Not helping the matter are the widely spaced first few gears of the six-speed manual transmission. It might help in terms of efficiency but in stop and go traffic, first gear must be wound out before a modicum of acceleration is at the ready in second gear. At cruising speeds, the gearing is more appropriate and keeps the engine within its powerband and rarely requires a downshift. This seems to suit the transmission just fine, unfortunately. The tall shifter and rubbery-feeling engagement doesn’t feel designed for an enthusiast and prefers a slower, more calm action. The clutch is easy to use and lightly communicates the engagement point.
The Alltrack will return a respectable EPA estimates of 21 mpg City, 30 Highway, and 24 Combined. In my time of commuting and exploring the engines smoothly spinning nature while running errands, I easily managed 25 mpg which felt fair for the power, capability, and size of the Alltrack.
Ride and Handling
On the open road, the suspension’s softer side glides over dips and isolates passengers from most bumps (even with five people onboard). When the road gets twisty through the mountains, however, body roll becomes notable in high-speed curves. Despite the body motions, the Alltrack’s fast and predictable steering and the additional weight transfer from the rear cargo area help add a bit of entertainment in the twisties – though passengers will likely not enjoy it so much.
The suspension feels more at home among urban streets where potholes and steep entry ramps make use of the Alltrack’s soft ride and improved approach angle.
Style and Size
The Golf Alltrack adds a bit of spice to the Golf SportWagon upon which it’s based, by slapping on additional “rugged” body trim, black plastic fender flares, unique bumpers, and roof rails. Together, they bring a subdued sense of adventure which fits neatly with its subdued overall styling.
Inside, the restrained design continues and the small details provide visual interest. The analog gauge cluster is an example of impeccable detail but the button-blanks on the center console are a reminder of what options you didn’t order.
The front dash panel layout is practical and small cubbies can be found throughout. The overall interior space is good for four while the raised floor tunnel encroaches the rear middle seat.
Upfront, the central touchscreen is angled towards the driver and most surfaces are nicely padded. With the exception of the HVAC controls and a rotating power symbol on the volume knob, the interior is practically laid out and the touchscreen is fast reacting. Overall it carries a high-quality feel.
Doing what wagons do best, the extended roofline provides generous headroom and a large interior volume without losing much sense of athleticism – though the Alltrack pushes this theory. VW’s rear cargo area is commendably large and easy to load with a low floor height and a tailgate that swings clear of any forgetful heads. The area is also treated with high-quality materials and a power outlet.
The VW Golf Alltrack is a handsome and soft riding wagon that is undeniably practical. However, the engine, transmission gearing, and ride go about their missions with different orders. Travel at a more leisurely pace and Golf Alltrack’s high-quality materials and attention to detail will leave a lasting impression that’s vacant in so many of today’s crossovers.