2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack TSI SE 4MOTION Review

The sporty wagon gets mildly outdoorsy


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Handsome exterior, seriously great driving dynamics, practical cargo space, crisp interior design, spits in the face of moderate snow and gravel.
Negatives: Small controls and display screen, cramped second-row seats, no available leather seating.
Bottom Line: Volkswagen takes its excellent small station wagon and gives it a small lift. The result isn't a gimmick but a wagon permutation that provides an extra bit of mild off-road prowess, a thrilling driving experience and a refreshing diversion from the ubiquitous crossover. For those families who can put up with a smaller second row but want a great vehicle for urban commutes and weekend or vacation jaunts where roads may end should take a serious look at this spectacular station wagon.
 View Our 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Overview
The small wagon segment is, well, small. In fact, prior to the release of the Alltrack, the Volkswagen SportWagen was really the only affordable small station wagon on the market. No, we don't count wagon-like crossovers like the Kia Soul or the Subaru Forester as real station wagons because they don't really fit the segment due to their taller shape. Now, the SportWagen is joined by the slightly taller, slightly brawnier Alltrack. VW knows that only taller wagons really do well here in the states, so the Alltrack is designed to join the ranks of the Volvo V60 Cross Country and the Subaru Outback, both of which are more expensive.

The Alltrack might seem like a bit of joke with its mildly elevated ride height and its faux skid plates and "ruggedized" body trim, but it doesn't claim to be a real off-roader anyway. It's angled toward the American market, and it presents another way to escape from the boxy crossover trend. We drove it for a week to see if it warrants your hard earned money. Read on for our in-depth review.
 

Driving Experience

9.2

 

We didn't think we'd love to drive the Alltrack as much as we actually did. The car seems lighter than it actually is, and everything about the Alltrack's driving dynamics makes it a truly fun automobile. We never drove it fully loaded with people and gear, but we expect that it'll manage bigger loads well, with perhaps some detriment to the acceleration.

Ride Quality: A great blend of sport and comfort. The Alltrack absorbs bumps well and also maintains good road feel.

Acceleration: Solid acceleration for a turbo four, hitting 60 mph in about 7.5 seconds. The throttle response was good, and the 175 hp moves the car nicely when you need it to.

Braking: Good, progressive brakes, but because of the added weight (260 lbs) over the stock Golf SportWagen, braking distances are a little longer but not much.

Steering: The Alltrack's steering is on the light side but nice and accurate for placing it in turns. Good steering feedback, as well, makes it a pleasure to helm.

Handling: Even though the ride height is a couple of inches taller, the Alltrack manges itself well in turns. The body roll is minimal and controlled. You never wonder what's going to happen.

Technology

7.7

 

Don't look to Volkswagen to blow your mind when it comes to the Alltrack's tech, but it's still very competent. It's one of those no-nonsense cars that won't disappoint but also won't wow you in terms of on-board tech. The infotaimnet system is easy to use, and the controls in the car work quite well, albeit a bit on the visually unimpressive side. At least there's Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to up-level the infotainment look and usability.

Infotainment System: The 6.5-inch touchscreen is on the small-ish side for us, but at least it's clear and easy to operate. We also wish the fonts were bigger and the screen was set a bit higher on the center stack.

Controls: Good physical knobs for climate control and audio, but we do wish the audio knobs were a bit bigger.

Bluetooth Pairing: Quick and easy. Our Apple iPhone 6S Plus stayed paired without issues during our review.

Voice Call Quality: We experienced good clarity and uninterrupted transmission.

Styling

8

 

The Golf SportWagen already looks great, so it's no surprise that the Alltrack also gets high marks when it comes to styling. The sleek wagon still looks lean, even with the body cladding and raised clearance. We like that VW didn't try to do anything weird, instead opting for subtle changes to set the Alltrack apart from its more urbane brother.

Front: It's one of our favorite fascias thanks to its clean styling. The thin honeycomb grille that ties the big headlights together bucks the huge grille trend nicely. The lower fascia is similarly clean and well-executed.

Rear: The only difference between the Alltrack and the SportWagen here is the faux skid plate and Alltrack badging. Otherwise, the look remains clean and uncluttered.

Profile: The black trim around the fenders and underbody give it a more rugged look, but it's not overdone. We like the banishing of chrome trim around the windows, too.

Cabin: Volkswagen's interiors can feel and look a bit cheap at times, and the Alltrack could use a bit of sprucing up in terms of visual panache. There's a lot of shiny plastic, but the fit and finish is very good. Overall, it's a handsome cabin, albeit pretty conservative.

Comfort

8.2

 

The Alltrack is very comfortable, and only the second row passengers will feel a bit cramped due to the small-ish legroom. Overall, the Alltrack is a great place to enjoy a drive with good seats all around. Only 6-footers will complain on longer trips.

Front Seats: You'd never know this was vinyl seating since they actually feel better than some manufacturer's leather. How these black vinyl seats feel in the dead of summer is another question. No cooling feature is available in any trim level.

Rear Seats: Legroom suffers here, but it's not all bad news. Most sub 6-footers will be just fine.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Alltrack is well built and keeps noise at bay. It's a pretty quiet ride, though you can hear the engine when you work it hard.

Visibility: Very good visibility all around with an excellent driving position. This makes the Alltrack easier to drive than most crossovers.

Climate: We would've loved the SEL's automatic climate control, but the system in our tester worked just fine, heating up quickly during our cold spring.

Safety

7.5

 

Even with the added weight, the Alltrack still gets good safety scores. It doesn't have as many accident avoidance features as its top trim level does, but anyone will feel safe toting his family around in the Alltrack.

IIHS Rating: It gets a Top Safety Pick, just missing the top award because of its "poor" headlights and "acceptable" LATCH system.

Standard Tech: The standard rearview camera is a great feature, as are the automatic headlights and daytime running lights.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

8.5

 

The Alltrack is everyday usable, and though its cabin doesn't have voluminous storage options, it's more than enough to carry small items that you need to access regularly. The cargo section is plenty big, though it makes the second row suffer a bit.

Storage Space: There's a convenient binnacle just in front of the shifter with a nice retractable door. The armrest is good for small items, as well, and door pockets are also spacious enough to hold daily gear. None of it's huge, but they're all convenient to access.

Cargo Room: With all seats in place, the Alltrack has 30.4 cubic feet of cargo space with a flat and wide load floor. It's a few cubic feet shy of the bigger Subaru Outback but still plenty big enough for a weekend trip with all the gear.

Fuel Economy

7.5

 

The diesel version of the SportWagen, which is no longer sold thanks to the VW diesel scandal, would nail 45 mpg highway without even trying. The regular SportWagen gets 25/36, and the Alltrack is rated at 22/30 due to its increased weight, all-wheel drive system and taller ride height.

Observed: 23.8 mpg combined.

Distance Driven: 213 miles.

Driving Factors: We drove in Sport mode locally and on highways and only hit our city EPA number, but even slightly more conservative should provide much better numbers without a problem.

Audio

8.5

 

The Alltrack SE gets the Fender premium system that's actually standard at this trim level. It's a great system that's clear, full and without distortion at high volumes. We love the fact that it comes with other upgrades at the trim level including keyless access/remote start and a panoramic sunroof.



Final Thoughts

We didn't expect to like the Alltrack as much as we did. Taller wagons always seem like a bit of an afterthought when they're based on regular wagon versions, but the Alltrack is phenomenal. It's a seriously good alternative to modern crossovers and drives far better than even the benchmark CX-5. Though we'd improve the rear seat space, there are limitations to the Golf platform on which it's based. The interior could use improvement, as well, but it all works very well and manages to pull off the tall wagon look beautifully. We highly recommend the Alltrack with some minor reservations, and it will prove to be a feather in VW's cap and much needed, at that.

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