2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack 4Motion
Why buy a crossover when you could have this?
Words by: Adam Allen
Those familiar with the Carpages Garage know we take every opportunity to profess our love for wagons, especially now that the endless drudgery of crossovers permeates roads and driveways across our great country. We understand that the market wants more of them, but we always wonder aloud why common sense doesn’t prevail and that more buyers aren’t embracing this body style. To wit: wagons handle better, are quicker, get better fuel economy and in some cases are even more practical than their CUV counterparts. We’re not sure about you, but that sounds like more than a few good reasons to put a wagon in the driveway over a car on stilts. After the remarkably beautiful B6 Passat wagon ceased production a few years ago, that began a dark time when VW wasn’t selling any long roof versions in their portfolio. Now you can have two!- the tamer Golf SportWagen or the butchy-er Golf Alltrack you see here.
VW’s SportWagen and Alltrack are pretty much the same. What gives?
This is not an attempt by Volkswagen to confuse you, but rather offer two wagons that are very similar yet are distinctly different in their own way. The SportWagen would be better suited to an urban environment- hockey players will swoon over all the cargo space you get when you fold down the seats making it very goalie friendly, what with their plethora of gear they need to lug around. If you like, you can get all-wheel drive to give your SportWagen the ability to traverse snowy streets and highways with an extra degree of confidence. The Alltrack follows a similar recipe but makes good use of bolder flavors imparted by a 36 millimeter increase in ground clearance plus an off-road driving mode. Parked next to a SportWagen, it exudes a sort of Jack Palance-like ruggedness thanks to its body cladding and increased ground clearance. It uses the same oily bits as the SportWagen including VW’s accomplished 4Motion all-wheel drive. The Alltrack is distantly related to its Audi cousin, the Allroad, which uses a similar formula of giving a car based wagon a little more attitude. Actually, both the Alltrack and Allroad owe their existence to the Subaru Outback, the one that started this gnarlier wagon genre back in 1995.
This year the Alltrack bagged Canadian Car of the Year honors. How’d it do that?
It’s widely accepted that Volkswagen has a real gem on their hands where the Golf model range is concerned. Wildly popular in every market it competes in, even the most basic iteration all the way up to the rip-snorting Golf R at the pinnacle, every single configuration manages to feel special, or at the very least feel much more expensive than its price tag would suggest. There’s an unmistakable solidity to them, and build quality is spectacular no matter how it is spec’d. You don’t even need the Golf R’s 300-plus horsepower to have a blast on a twisty road- few front wheel drive cars are as rewarding or as easily flogged when you show it some corners. Even with the modest increase in ground clearance, the Alltrack suffers none of the nautical body motions that some of its competitors are beset with- instead, it handles like any other model in the Golf range. We Canadians are a craggy bunch, so perhaps that’s why the AJAC judges became smitten with the concept of a Golf wagon with all-wheel drive that can go places lesser Golf’s wouldn’t dare. No matter what theory is tossed around as to why the Alltrack walked away with top honors, anyone can agree that this is a pretty darn good car.
What might go wrong?
There will always be a chorus of buyers who will wonder why the Alltrack exists when you can have a SportWagen with the same 4Motion AWD system for less money, and unless you really intend on doing some mild off-roading the Alltrack might feel a bit unnecessary. We were wondering why VW specifies its excellent dual-clutch gearbox for Alltrack duty but then doesn’t include paddle shifters so the driver decide when to shift while taking advantage of the super snappy gearchanges. And even though the 1.8 litre turbo four’s 170 horses are strong, we’d like to see a little more power (at least a little more than what you get with the SportWagen.)
Should I buy an Alltrack?
Those with cottages or who find themselves heading out of the city core to explore the road less travelled would be the ones to most likely benefit from the Alltrack’s distinctive features more than they would a SportWagen. That said, if you’re thinking crossover, we empathically suggest that you think otherwise and check out the Alltrack.
2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack 4Motion — Specifications
- Price as tested: $35,295
- Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger wagon
- Powertrain Layout: Front engine/all-wheel drive
- Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
- Engine: 1.8 litre turbocharged inline-four, DOHC, 16 valves
- Horsepower: 170 @ 4,500 rpm
- Torque (lbs-ft.): 199 @ 1,600 rpm
- Curb weight: 1,586 kg (3,497 lbs)
- Observed Fuel Consumption: 10.9L/100km (22 mpg)