The wagon seems to have disappeared from a market saturated by crossovers of all sizes. Buyers want SUVs that are car-based. Just when we thought wagons were dead, many automakers have reintroduced long-roof options, which is a clear indication that they are still in demand. Volkswagen is one such automaker, and just recently released a new version the Golf Sportwagen. The Golf Alltrack is its name. The Alltrack follows Audi’s allroad formula of increasing ground clearance and enhancing the undergarments to make it a more versatile vehicle. Volkswagen provided one to me for review, as I am part of the ideal buyer demographic and potential buyers of the Alltrack.
Annual consumer spending in the US outdoors industry amounts to $887 billion. The National Park system manages over 420 sites on 84 million acres, where people can enjoy outdoor activities. Americans didn’t create the idea of enjoying the outdoors in the wild. They have tried their best to make it available to everyone. The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack costs between $25 and 35K. It is the European ‘everything wagon. You can use it for recreational climbers, campers and anglers as well as bikers/bikers, hikers/skiers, hunters, backpackers, geocachers and many other purposes.
While there are many similarities to Subaru’s offerings, the VW offers something different. The white VW stands out, despite its subtle but attractive lines. It can be found in Vermont’s mountains and valleys. It’s clear that it isn’t a Subie. Volkswagen has a strong chance of making an impact on the Outback/Crosstrek markets. Here are the reasons.
It has many desirable features that aren’t necessary for New Englanders, just like the Subaru wagon options. The Alltrack offers an alternative and (mostly) it avoids cluttering the interior with unnecessary items that functionally-minded people don’t really need. The Alltrack has 7.5 inches of functional ground clearance. This Golf is a business-oriented golfer. It has part-time 4MOTION all wheel-drive, radar-guided cruise controller, and practically continuous plastic skid plates beneath.
The car dominated steep, unpaved, single-lane, class IV thoroughfares over a weekend of torrential rain. The car was able to overcome water bars, intermittent streams, as well as soft surfaces. The Alltrack rides 1.2 inches higher than the standard Golf Sportwagen and can reach trailheads, portage sites and rugged camps that a Sportwagen or even the standard Subaru Impreza could not. The Alltrack can do everything that a Crosstrek and an Outback set out to do on four-season offroad capabilities.
The Outback’s rear seats can be folded flat, and the cargo space is only seven cubic inches smaller than that of the Outback. For those who want to camp out in their car, this makes it possible to do so. Even though you might expect things like one-liter Nalgene compatible cup holders to be found in an outdoor vehicle, they are not. Rubber floor mats extend to the back of the seats. This shows that there is some attention to detail. It’s okay to take the seats out and throw a damp mountain bike or two in there.
Outside of a WRX or a BRZ, Subaru’s line is not driver-focused–including the CVT-only Outback. Six-speed Alltrack transmissions are available in manual and dual-clutch DSG varieties. The best feature of all is the angle of the center console towards the driver. It reminds me of my passion for vintage BMWs and drivers’ cars. Our tester, equipped with the DSG was sometimes indecisive about shift points. The Drive, Sport, or Manual modes all worked 90% of the times. The’veedub is there, no matter what the meaty at the controls wants to do.
The Alltrack weighs in at 3,400 lbs and is 100-300 lbs heavier than the Outback, depending on the configuration. While the Subaru’s suspension is straightforward about its gravel road focus, the VW’s gives positive feedback when it is wound tight on a paved surface. The Alltrack’s suspension travel is more than adequate and does not get distracted by buckling asphalt. But when presented with a washboard dirt road or loose gravel, its suspension becomes incandescent–writhing around like an angry child does after it has projected its cereal onto the nearest wall. This is not a problem, but it’s annoying when compared to the decades of Subaru dirt road brilliance.
The Alltrack is the only option for us humans. The VW provided a refuge from the cold and wet trek of backpacking and offered a safe haven with its durable and attractive surfaces. The heated seats on all trims were very much appreciated, as they heat up in less than two minutes. You can glide home or explore the twisty roads. It’s a pleasure to drive the car and make a satisfying noise. The Alltrack proves that the wagon segment is alive and well, even if Buick does not join the fray with its Regal TourX.