Test Drive: 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

*2017 Canadian Car of the Year (CCOTY) by the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC)

VW’s new Golf Alltrack may just be the $35,295 ($38,215 as tested) German-Swiss army knife of automobiles.

The Alltrack’s list of implements include spirited European driving dynamics, the convenience of a mid-size wagon, and the confidence to play outdoors thanks to an elevated ride-height and re-worked 4MOTION all-wheel-drive traction.


The Alltrack is essentially VW’s much-lauded Golf SportWagen reimagined for life off-tarmac. The relatively modest overhaul includes an increase in ground-clearance (now providing 169 mm of free space), larger wheels, 4MOTION all-wheel-drive with off-road mode, and a few styling tweaks to look the part.

While sounding fairly insignificant in scope, the alterations trigger a seismic shift for the SportWagen, opening it up to a whole new segment of buyers; those whose adventures are found on the path less travelled, or those simply wanting a safe journey to the ski hill with a couple of “shredders” in-tow.

For reference, the 5-seat Alltrack is slightly smaller in size than Subaru’s venerable Outback, which is its closest competitor. They differ as well in price and driving dynamics; the Alltrack costing more but supplying a more upscale Euro-like driving experience.

The metamorphosis from SportWagen to Alltrack didn’t gut it of the impressive characteristics inherent in VW’s new MQB platform. Those attributes include an exceptionally stable ride combined with crisp steering and well-sorted sportiness in the corners.

While the ride quality could best be described as taut, the Alltrack’s underpinnings absorb the ravishes of an unkind winter with notable grace and poise. Potholes and the like do not jar the comfortable cabin or deliver it objectionable noises, and I like that quiet sense of solidity.

In fact, Volkswagen engineers put tremendous effort into reducing road noise as well, while also improving the Alltrack’s operational refinement, and it shows. The vehicle conveys quality verging on that of its premium Audi cousin.

The familial DNA extend under the hood as well, where a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine bolts to a 6-speed dual-clutch (DSG) transmission. In the Alltrack’s case, it’s a 1.8L TSI mill producing 170 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque.

As the sole engine source, the turbocharged bantam performs exceptionally well, delivering a wealth of low-end torque sufficient to believe that a diesel is doing the cooking. But alas, diesel-speak is verboten these days within the walls of VW.

Despite diesel bereavement, VW has made great gains in the functionality of its dual-clutch transmission, which is now refined to the point of performing as smoothly – or even more-so – than a typical autobox.

The DSG’s shifts are lightning-quick yet are free of the jerkiness and unpredictability that accompanied early dual-clutch setups. Unfortunately, the Alltrack isn’t equipped with shift paddles, and, those preferring to shift by a manual stick will have to wait until next year.

The great snow of 2017 in Vancouver had succumbed to rain and mild temperatures the week before the Alltrack came home with me. As such, I never found the opportunity to throw it into a snowbank to check the effectiveness of its 4MATIC’s off-road mode, which locks the real differential for added traction while also engaging a downhill-descent program.

Nonetheless, the Alltrack gripped wet pavement with flawless tenacity, nary spinning a wheel or exerting even a modicum of torque-steer. The added ground-clearance over the standard Golf SportWagen will no doubt be of benefit when Old Man Winter chooses to lay it down.

Without sufficient ground-clearance, snow can accumulate beneath a moving vehicle until it unweights the wheels, leaving them spinning like stationary tops. This is not a good situation, which I can attest to after spending hours freeing an AWD Infiniti sedan several years ago.

While the Alltrack isn’t intended as a rock-crawling mud-fording off-roader, I have no doubt that it’ll deliver most recreationalists with suitable access to the great outdoors while also providing them with the day-to-day practicality of a reasonably fuel-efficient wagon.

The Alltrack is rated at 10.6L/100km in the city and 8.0L/100km on the highway. During my week behind her wheel, the best fuel-economy I saw in town was 11.2, which is respectable for a turbocharged engine under the tyranny of my right foot.

The Alltrack may seem a little pricey when compared to the ask for a Subaru Outback, which starts at $27,995, but the Alltrack is very well equipped in base form, with only two option packages available: those being the Driver Assistance Package at $1,310 and the Light and Sound Package at $1,610.

With or without the option packages, the Alltrack will spoil its occupants with a notably comfortable high-quality cabin from which to view nature through its panoramic sunroof and the sweeping sheets of glass that wrap around the vehicle.

The unobstructed visibility contributed to the ease of driving this week’s tester, which BTW won the 2017 Automobile Journalists Association of Canada Car of the Year Award.

Overall, VW’s German-Swiss army knife is a superb alternative to larger SUVs. It’s also a more spirited AWD wagon than its primary competitor.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
Price as tested (before taxes): $38,215
Freight: $1,625
Configuration: front engine, all-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 1.8L turbocharged I-4 / 6-speed DSG automatic
Power/torque: 179 hp / 199 lb-ft
Fuel-economy ratings (L/100km): city 10.6, highway 8.0
Observed fuel-economy (L/100km): 11.2
Warranty (basic): 4 years / 80,000 km
Competitors: Subaru Outback, Audi A4 Allroad

Related links:
Volkswagen Canada
Motor Trend

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