The simple brilliance of taking an all-wheel-drive wagon, jacking it up, and positioning it towards counter-culture hippies and soccer moms planted Subaru’s iconic Outback. We should really give American Motors credit for beating Subaru by a decade with its Eagle wagon, but automakers as diverse as Volvo, Audi, and Mercedes-Benz have copied the all-road/no-road formula. Now, Volkswagen takes its shot as it drives its Alltrack through the Outback.
While most automakers have taken to fortifying their mid-size wagons, Volkswagen started with the compact Golf Sportwagen. Ride height was elevated 0.6 inches to make it easier to clear rutted trails to a favorite fishing spot or nature overlook, and the Alltrack comes standard with Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system for sure-footedness on- and off-road.
Styling is more rugged, expressed with redesigned bumpers, underbody guard, satin silver side sills, and black honeycomb grilles. Foglights put a shine on it. Designers went further with silver roof rails and side mirrors, panoramic sunroof, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Dark red taillights, dual chrome exhaust outlets, LED Daytime Running Lights, and a raft of Alltrack and 4Motion badges set the story.
Interiors are less flamboyant. Heated V-Tex leatherette seats will take any outdoor activities while keeping your undersides warm and cozy. Exotic “Marrakesh” brown upholstery is available, but our car looked suave in black under a black headliner. Stainless steel kickplates and aluminum-look pedals add sportiness, but manual climate control and seat sliding on our car keep it simple.
As with other SportWagens, Alltrack carries up to 30.4 cubic feet of cargo behind the rear seats, or 66.5 cubic feet with them folded. Settle in, press the starter button, and crank up the crisp Fender audio system. Pay attention the rearview camera when backing out.
Blitzing Muddy Inclines
Exhibiting its Autobahn-bred heritage, the Alltrack is as happy blitzing the left lane as crawling up muddy inclines. It employs a 1.8-liter turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder engine that flows out 170 horsepower and 199 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s not ridiculous amounts of power, but it’s plenty for a compact wagon.
In typical German fashion, the car won’t race muscle cars off the line, but comes alive at speed. A six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission can be paddle-shifted to get the most out of the engine. Select “Off Road Mode” to configure the powertrain for adventure. Expect fuel economy ratings of 22/30-MPG city/hwy.
But, what I like the best about the Alltrack is what I like best about all Volkswagen SportWagens. It’s a roomy and comfortable wagon that’s engineered to glide over rough pavement and seems very happy running virtually any speed on the Interstate. Swish it through corners and it’s willing to play. Jacking it up and fortifying it for a semblance of off-road capability – or competence in deep snow – seems a natural thing.
Convincing those who already admire its cars is not Volkswagen’s challenge. It must make a case that the Alltrack is a better soft-road wagon than the Subaru Outback, Volvo V60 Cross Country, and any number of compact crossovers. That remains a challenge, but I still like it. A base price of $26,950 - $31,350 as tested – puts it in the hunt.
2017 VW Golf Alltrack
- Five-passenger, AWD Wagon
- Powertrain: 170hp 1.8-liter Turbo-4, 6-speed auto trans
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 17”/17” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Comfort, Quality
- Fuel economy: 22/30 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Puebla, Mexico
- Base/as-tested price: $26,950/31,350