Review: 2019 Volkswagen Alltrack
If you’re a young family with a sense of adventure, then this is absolutely a vehicle to consider.
THE PROS & CONS
- What’s Good: Car-like drive, small CUV-like capability
- What’s Bad: It’s not going to be around for much longer
When the news came down earlier this year that Volkswagen was about to kill off the Golf Alltrack and its Sportwagen sibling, I did what any self-respecting car journo would do: I convinced my editor to let me test one. This was going to be my last chance to drive something that does such a good job of standing as the bastion of all that is good and holy in the car world: a vehicle that drives like a car, but can haul like a CUV and doesn’t ask you to break the bank as it does it.
Indeed, since the Alltrack stands as the top trim of the Golf this side of the GTI and R (and doesn’t act as a model unto itself with multiple trims as it does in the US) it’s not the least expensive way into Golf-dom. It does, however, cost about the same as a similarly-specced Tiguan, the vehicle with which it’s always battled for buyers and one of the main reasons VW just can’t justify the Alltrack (or any Sportwagen, for that matter) for our market any longer, just a short two years after it debuted.
Thing is, while they’re similarly priced, they’re actually similarly-sized as well, with the Tiguan having 2,081 L of cargo space behind the front seats and 2,863 L of passenger volume, and the Golf 1,883 L and 2,670 L, respectively, but with less of a lift to get it up and through the tailgate. The rear seats fold completely flat in a 40/20/40 split, meaning you can pack a pair of skis without losing either the right or left seat. I Love that.
With the Alltrack you will lose a little bit of legroom in the second row, but I managed to get a rear-facing child’s seat in there without too much of a hassle or overly affecting the front-seat passenger. Unless they’re a centre on a basketball team, they’d probably be perfectly comfortable there on longer journeys.
Baby seat or not, they – like the driver or any passenger, for that matter – will find the Alltrack’s interior to be an open and airy one. Being a wagon, the side windows are large to begin with, while the full-length panoramic sunroof lets even more light into the cabin. Add my tester’s light-coloured seats, door cards and transmission tunnel surround (or don’t, if you plan on regularly testing the Alltrack’s added off-road capability; off-roading can get dirty), and the levels of serenity are kicked up yet another notch.
Of course, you can go ahead and kick all that serenity to the curb by adding an eight-speaker, 400W Fender audio system if you so please – eight might not sound like a whole lot, but it sure sounds great, even when talking MP3 playback as I was doing through standard Apple CarPlay. Android Auto is here, too, and while I did have a little trouble at first connecting my iPhone, it was fine once that was all taken care of. The 8.0” display screen you get, meanwhile, is responsive to touch commands but doesn’t have the most spectacular graphics, this side of the changing background you get when moving through the drive modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport, Custom, and Offroad), which can also be done by just prodding a button mounted to the left of the shift lever.
While the Alltrack’s plastic cladding and higher ride height over standard Sportwagens suggests that it’s fixing to be an off-road star (and I suppose for it to have ever have had a chance against the Tiguan, it would have to be, right? Because so many people go off-roading in their Tiguan…), I spent most of my test in Eco and Sport because Offroad mode or not, the Alltrack is a Golf and Golfs have been the driver’s compacts for quite some time now.
What that means is like all other Golfs, the Alltrack has a responsive, pointy steering rack, punchy 1.8L turbo engine good for 168 hp and 199 lb-ft of torque and of course, 4Motion AWD that can disperse power as it sees fit to help the Alltrack rotate quickly through corners in the dry, and find the best possible grip allotment in more adverse conditions.
While the Alltrack may ride 0.6” higher than a standard Golf Sportwagen, you’ll only feel that in the most aggressive of right-left-right scenarios. Otherwise, this right here drives like a Golf should, make no bones about that. The Tiguan, for its part, drives well. But not like this. Not like this.
Then, as the goings get slicker (or steeper), the Alltrack has a few little tricks up its sleeve in addition to the 4Motion.
For starters, there’s an actual hill-descent system the likes of what you see on actual off-roaders. It handles the throttle and brake inputs on descents, so you can focus on steering ‘round that gnarly-looking pothole or slippery boulder. It doesn’t help when it comes to creeping up hill, but then that’s the kind of stuff reserved for hardcore off-roaders such as the Toyota Tacoma TRD Pro and so on. How much will it be used by most Alltrack drivers? Hard to know, but nice to have nevertheless.
A feature I’m sure will get used much more often by your average Alltrack driver is the “Offroad” drive mode. It’s the only Golf to get it and it smooths out throttle inputs and adjusts traction control for more dusty/muddy/snowy work. It’s a boon to have in Canada, what with the winters that most of our nation gets.
In addition to that great turbo’d ‘plant, the Alltrack can be had with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed dual-clutch auto, as my car had. Typically, I wouldn’t think twice – manual for me, all the time when it comes to a car like this – but the DSG is so responsive and well-tuned that it makes it a little easier for me to accept. Of course, it also gets a pair of paddle shifters for at least a quasi-manual feel, which I found myself using more regularly during my time with the Alltrack more than I typically do with vehicles like this.
But yet, with all those strengths, it appears there just wasn’t a business case for the Alltrack in the age of the SUV and CUV; maybe it rides too low. Maybe those few extra litres of interior space were just too much for buyers to ignore. Maybe VW just didn’t do a good enough job of showing what the various Sportwagens were capable of. I’m not sure, but the bottom line is that if you’re a young family with a sense of adventure, then this is absolutely a vehicle to consider. Just consider it quickly.
2019 Volkswagen Alltrack
Body style: 5-seat station wagon
Configuration: Front-engine, all-wheel-drive
Engine: 1.8L I4, turbocharger, 168 hp @ 4,500 rpm; Torque: 199 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
Cargo capacity: 861 L behind second row, 1,883 L behind first row
Observed fuel economy: 10.2L/100 km
Price: $31,200 (base), as tested $38,420
Website: Volkswagen Alltrack