2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack SEL 4Motion Review

Family sportiness with some traction thrown in for good measure


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Great steering and handling for a taller wagon, standard all-wheel drive system is just right, improved infotainment system
Negatives: Some cheap interior bits, no optional leather seats, back seat is tight for taller adults.
Bottom Line: We almost forgot how much we enjoyed the Alltrack the first time around. The top trim SEL is loaded (but no leather), and it shows that the Alltrack really is at the top of its station wagon game. It drives like a dream, gets better tech, and should be at the top of buyers' lists when it comes to great station wagons.
The Alltrack is in its second year, and we've grown quite fond of it. It's now entrenched with the likes of the Subaru Outback, the Buick Regal TourX, and the Volvo V90 Cross Country, all-wheel drive wagons that present great alternatives to small crossovers.

The Alltrack impressed us the first time around, and though it's only changed a little bit, we still had high expectations. We drove it for a week in the cold Chicago spring to see if we'd get the same warm fuzzies about it the second time around. Read on for our in-depth review.
 

Driving Experience

8.8

 

Another VW that drives like a sporty car, the Alltrack is superb. 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 manages itself well in turns. The body roll is minimal and controlled. You never wonder what's going to happen.

Technology

8.8

 

The one issue we had with the last Alltrack we tested in 2017 was the infotainment system. Though it was fine, it just seemed dated and uninteresting. The 2018 model gets a better system that's not beautiful but much better to use.

Infotainment System: The 6.5-inch touchscreen is on the small-ish side for us, but it's clean and crisp. The proximity sensor picks up your hand before it touches, and the menus rise in response. It's quite good.

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

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: The upgraded climate control system that's standard on the SEL works very well, providing automatic adjustment and improved controls.

Safety

7.2

 

Even with the added weight, the Alltrack still gets good safety scores. The top trim SEL gets added standard features, and it's a solid set.

IIHS Rating: It misses the Top Safety Pick for 2018 due to tighter standards. The passenger side small front overlap now scores only an "acceptable".

Standard Tech: The top trim Alltrack gets a host of great features, including Rearview camera, Parking Steering Assistant, automatic headlights and daytime running lights, Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking , High Beam Control, Electronic Differential Lock, and Engine Brake Assist, Electronic Brake-pressure Distribution, Hydraulic Brake Assist, and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System

Optional Tech: No Monroney provided.

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

7.7

 

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: 20.7 mpg combined.

Distance Driven: 132 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

The Alltrack continues to be a compelling option to a small crossover. Not only does it drive better than just about every one of them, it looks very attractive, especially with the SEL wheels. The one issue we do have is with the lack of any leather seating options. At this price point, it should at least be available. Aside from that (and a bit of a tight second row), the Alltrack is simply an excellent vehicle that's perfect for an active couple or a small family with mid-range cargo needs.
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