Wörthersee, Austria -- The mad dash toward the utilitarian family car is in full swing, but if you aren’t in a rush, I would recommend you wait roughly 14 months. You see, by late 2016 Volkswagen will introduce the Holy Grail. This most coveted of proper cars will answer 95% of the average consumer’s needs and wants -- and will please many auto critics as well.
This car is a station wagon; the original family car. It is compact, efficient, user-friendly, pleasing to the eye and to drive. I took the new Golf Sportwagon for a quick run a little while back and loved it. This time around, it’s all about versions of this most excellent vehicle. Reviews on the highly anticipated Golf R wagon (with a few comments on the GTD wagon) are also available. This story is centered on the Alltrack, the version best suited for the Canadian market.
The Golf Alltrack Sportwagon offers all the elements that will make it become -- if given the chance -- a go-to car for burgeoning families that are mindful about weather and driving conditions, fuel economy, comfort, and safety. All possible biases aside, Volkswagen’s Sportwagon takes the small crossover segment head-on (and to the cleaners) with a few exceptions such as the Mazda CX-3 and the Jeep Renegade.
It might seem easy to knock it given Volkswagen’s spotty reliability history; and yes, it’ll probably be a little pricey, but I would suggest that judgement be reserved post test-drive.
What makes it good?
Power and efficiency are becoming synonymous these days. The tested Alltrack featured the most excellent 181-horsepower 2.0L TDI engine and its sublime 280 lb-ft of torque. To it was mated the equally superb 6-speed DSG automated manual gearbox. At the end of these elements, and before the wheels, is VW’s permanent 4MOTION AWD system.
When the car hits our shores, it will be motivated by VW’s very popular 1.8TSI that is good for 170 horsepower, along with 200 torques. Transmission options are as of yet undecided for Canada, however, both the 6-speed manual and DSG will be available in the USA. A TDI option is possible, but little more can be said about it other than if we do get a diesel, it’ll be the 150-hp version.
The widely used MQB platform is what underpins this car and is what brings it all together. The Golf Alltrack’s suspension is set with 20mm more ground clearance than the standard Sportwagon. An impromptu off-road excursion put the car to a little test and it passed with ease. At the time, I was at the wheel of the R and attempted to follow up a steep makeshift mud and rock road, but quickly bottomed out while the Alltrack climbed and climbed.
Alltrack means all-track
The supplemental wheel travel never affects the Alltrack’s driveability. A number of portions of the roads we travelled between Munich’s airport and Wörthersee were of the twisty kind with numerous sharp turns and elevation changes.
The caravan of Volkswagen Sportwagons included the aforementioned R along with the Alltrack. Although the R is considerably faster, on the roads we tackled and given the limits, the Alltrack performed very well. The extra height does not negatively impact body roll; the compact station wagon handles beautifully and maintains a comfortable ride.
The Alltrack’s TDI is marvellous. Its gobs of torque are available over a generously large powerband that works perfectly with the DSG’s gearing. Its twisting power also comes in handy when we headed off the beaten path. To note, my tested Alltrack included hill-descent control, which came in handy when we reversed our way back down the hill.
On the Autobahn, the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack was stable and secure at speeds exceeding 170 km/hr. The electric steering felt true and precise. I would have loved more natural feedback from the wheel (especially through the switchbacks) but that dream has faded. The brakes were strong and thankfully lacked the excessive pedal travel that my weekly tester Jetta TDI suffered.
Drive modes are a recent addition to Volkswagen products. I first encountered them in the new 2015 VW GTI. Normal and Sport are accompanied by “off-road” in the Alltrack. It recalibrates throttle mapping and ABS to aid in loose-surface driving, and it really works.
Although product planning at Volkswagen Canada has yet to finalize what the Alltrack will “be” when it gets here, one thing is certain: it will and must look the same, all the way down to the optional gorgeous 18” Canyon wheels. The cladding, badging, and fascia are also non-negotiable. As is the availability of Tornado Red -- ‘cause mine will be that colour.
As for the interior, I pray that leather not be standard as the Alltrack upholstery is very hospitable and comfortable. The seats share the same adjectives and a sunroof should not be standard. The dashboard is typical Golf fare with fine ergonomics and terrific fit and finish.
As tested, this 2015 (Euro model-year) Volkswagen Golf Alltrack retails for nearly £34,000. This is a hefty sum when converted into Canadian dollars. My best guess will be that the starting CDN price for a base Alltrack will be around $32k, toping out close to $40k with options.
Out to get me, and you
The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack has a huge boot, is miserly on fuel and is loads of fun to drive. It’ll fit into nearly all parking spaces and will look great in the process. Its downsides are its potential pricing and the fact that it does not have that commanding driving position that everyone craves. Truth be told, the driving position is barely millimetres off most current small CUVs.
The Golf Sportwagon combines one of the largest trunks, most spacious cabins, more powerful and economical powertrains and is trendy (in my opinion). If we take these enumerated items, we have the makings of the people’s car.