Test Drive Notes Library
- Fun to drive. If you’re wondering what a Golf Alltrack is, think Jetta Wagon with some plastic moulding around the wheel wells. VW is trying to Subaru Outback-ize it’s Golf Wagon (now known as the Golf SportWagen) — trying to make it look a little more outdoorsy. The good thing is the donor car, the Golf SportWagen, is a fun car to drive. So the Alltrack has a sporty, zippy quality that you won’t get in the Outback.
- The 1.8 liter, turbo, 170 hp four-cylinder is plenty for the Alltrack. It gives you all the pep you need, and works well with the dual clutch six-speed automatic. The transmission comes with a manual mode and paddle shifters that increase the fun when you feel the urge (and are driving alone — don’t put your passenger through it). A manual transmission is available, too.
- Ride. Despite the sporty nature of the handling, the ride quality is good, and reasonably quiet. It’s that typical VW Golf firm-ish comfort, with a supple suspension and supportive seats. Overall, it’s a really nice balance that gives you both a fun-to-drive quality, and comfortable ride for a smallish car.
- Visibility. In some ways, this car feels like a throwback. It’s simple, airy, and uncluttered inside. Visibility, both front and front-side, is excellent. It makes the Alltrack easy and pleasant to drive. You always feel like you know where the edges of the car are, and it’s confidence-inspiring and relaxing to feel like you can see the road (and pedestrians) so well. Even the view out back is pretty good. The Alltrack comes with an adequate rear camera. It’s not as helpful at night as it could be, but since the camera lives hidden under the pop-up VW emblem on the rear hatch, it stays dry in rain storms (which make a mess of lots of rear view cameras).
- Versatile. While most people are opting for crossovers these days, the Alltrack (and SportWagen) offer much of the same utility, with far better handling. So you still get room for four people, and cargo space in the back. Plus it comes standard with all-wheel drive.
- Clear, simple controls. Three, clear knobs for heating and ventilation, a volume and a tuning knob, and a nice, uncluttered dashboard and console. The small touch screen does what it needs to do.
- Mileage. 22 City, 30 highway. 25 overall. Not bad.
Test Drive Notes Library
- It’s a pretty small car. It’s fine up front. In fact, the head room up front is notably good. But it’s narrower than a lot of cars these days. Those "wide of load" may notice that. The back seat is adequate for adults, but a little tight. There’s cargo room in the back, but not copious amounts of it. It’s a small wagon, smaller than the Outback in pretty much all dimensions. As a versatile car for two people, a baby and a dog, it’d be perfect. Add another baby or another dog, and things are going to start to get cozy.
- It doesn’t look much different from the Golf SportWagen. The idea was to take the slightly homely looking, but lovable Golf SportWagen and make it look rough and tough, to appeal to potential SUV buyers. It still looks like a sensible shoe. They added a few pieces of black, plastic trim around the wheel wells and bumpers, and raised the thing up an inch or so, but to our eye, there’s not a big difference. Maybe you’ll feel differently, but we think Subaru has done a more credible job of "beefing up" the Outback with styling.
- Safety equipment. This doesn’t necessarily belong in the “dislike" column, but it requires explanation. We want to give VW credit for sending us a base model (S) for evaluation. Most carmakers send us cars with every conceivable option, hoping the 48-speaker stereo will distract us from the buckboard ride. But VW sent us the most basic Golf Alltrack you can buy, to show us what a nice car it is. It even uses a key! How quaint! And what you get for your $27,700 is everything we describe above — a fun and easy-to-drive, comfortable, versatile, easy-to-see-out-of car.
- What you don’t get are the current state of the art safety features.To get forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, you have to get a higher level trim, and add the Driver Assistance Package. Then you’re into the low $30’s. Oddly, blind spot monitoring, which we highly recommend, is not available on the Alltrack, but is available on the SportWagen.
- USB Placement. Possibly the worst USB plug placement in the industry. It took VW a while to catch on to the fact that people want USB outlets in their cars. But the USB outlet in the Alltrack is directly in front of the shifter, in a cubby that your hand can’t fit into. So you have to place the end of the cable between your index and middle finger, and then, with your hand sideways, you have to slide it into the cubby, and try to push it into the outlet with just those two fingers. If that’s not bad enough, when in Park, the shifter is right in the way. If you have to plug and unplug a USB device frequently, this isn’t the car for you.
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