First Drive: 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

Four-wheel-drive crossover good start for German maker's comeback.

by on Oct.07, 2016

The all-new 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack gives drivers the off-road capability they've been longing for in a small crossover.

The fallout from Volkswagen AG’s diesel test scandal has been blamed for the company’s woeful sales performance in the U.S. during the past year.

But while VW still can’t sell vehicles with diesel engines in the U.S., the VW brand also has been hurt by the huge shift that has moved more than 11 points of market share from the passenger car column of the sales ledger into the truck and utility vehicle column.

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It was as if Volkswagen’s product planners were preparing to play soccer when the game on tap was American-style football for which shoulder pads and helmets are required.

However, Volkswagen has come up with an impressive vehicle to move with shift in consumer preferences by endowing one of the brands most important and endearing passenger cars, the Golf, with some of the most salient characteristics of a utility vehicle.

The 2017 Golf Alltrack comes to showrooms with a rugged four-wheel-drive system that can actually be used off road and a beefy four-cylinder engine that delivers ample horsepower and torque at critical points in the driving cycle.

The basic versatility of the Golf hatchback, which has been popular with buyers around the world also re-enforces the utilitarian nature of the 2017 Alltrack by offering space adequate for all sorts of chores that require toting packages, suitcases or other types of equipment.

The new Alltrack gives buyers another wagon-based all-terrain option for buyers.

(“Resounding” majority of VW owners taking settlement offer. Click Here for the story.)

The exterior of the Alltrack has been given distinctive styling cues out front and the interior design also has been refined with a new selection of materials of varied textures that are also softer to the touch to give the vehicle more a premium feeling if you sit in it for even a moment or two or for an entire afternoon.

At its introduction, the Alltrack’s powertrain will include a 1.8-liter TSI engine that will produce 174 horsepower and 199 foot-pounds of torque and a new six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission. A six-speed manual transmission is scheduled to be added to the Alltrack line early next year. The combination is nicely balanced and the Golf Alltrack moves through the shift points during a long drive quite smoothly and efficiently.

In both power and torque, the Golf Alltrack also matches up well with the Subaru Outback, which is the one vehicle that Volkswagen’s product planners have targeted as the Alltrack’s key competition. However, I suspect shoppers looking at vehicle such as Jeep Renegade or even the slightly larger Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 or Ford Escape might want to have a look at the Golf Alltrack with its impressive array of German-inspired hardware.

But what sets the 2017 Golf Alltrack apart is its impressive capability. On the road, the Alltrack showcases the ability of VW engineers to assembly a solid chassis and suspension that delivers impressive ride quality and vehicle dynamics. The steering on the Alltrack is taut and responsive while the brakes have ample stopping power and give the driver confidence the vehicle’s overall capability.

Moreover, the it not only performs well on the road but also is impressive off road as well. After leaving the pavement in the rugged country outside Seattle, the Alltrack demonstrated an impressive ability to maneuver even over unpaved trails and dirt tracks.

The Alltrack provides occupants with plenty of comfort as well as access to an impressive array of infotainment features.

(VW facing $9 billion in investor claims over diesel scandal. For more, Click Here.)

Lots of crossover-type vehicles really can’t handle moving off pavement, but the Alltrack we drove certainly can with the help of its very capable all-wheel-drive system, which offers extra grip and pull when needed. The 4Motion system on the Alltrack engages before any wheel spin but under routine conditions, the front wheels are driven and the rear wheels are decoupled to save fuel.

One drawback off roaders should be aware of is that the Alltrack comes with some protection underneath the vehicle for cross-country travel and vehicle’s unique front bumper, which was designed for driving beyond the pavement.  But the Alltrack is not equipped with skid plate.

Nevertheless, the Alltrack overall capability made a very good impression while traveling off road. In addition, it comes with a “Five Star” safety rating and is equipped with driver assistance features such as adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking and lane departure warnings are available on higher trim levels.

VW’s MIB II infotainment system is standard on the Alltrack, serving as the foundation for the next generation of Volkswagen’s Car-Net connected vehicle services platform. One drawback at higher trim levels, however, is the graphic display on the on-board navigation system in the vehicle my partner and I drove looked outdated.

Prices for the base model Volkswagen Model Alltrack S with an automatic transmission start at $26,850 an additional $820 for the destination charge. The price of the SEL model with available driver assistance features runs $32,890 the destination charge.

(In wake of diesel scandal, VW reorients its U.S. operations. To find out more, Click Here.)

All in all, the Golf Alltrack builds on the Golf’s reputation for sportiness and maneuverability by adding another dimension of capability. It is small and compact but it clearly has many of the attributes for which today’s buyers are searching. The Alltrack is good starting point for a VW comeback.

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One Response to “First Drive: 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack”

  1. Edward T Barron says:

    The new 2017 VW Alltrack drives, handles and feels just like the 2013 Jetta Sportwagen I had for the last 3 1/2 years. But it comes with a whole bunch of goodies – All Motion drive, rear view camera, driver assistance by Adaptive Cruise Control which has proximity braking, lane departure avoidance, and automatic parking. An excellent trade up.

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