Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: March 27, 2019
The appeal of the station wagon is varied all across the world but unlike the expansive six-lane freeways we have here in North America, the vast majority of Europe is blanketed in smaller, narrower roads. A vehicle with the proportions of a sedan or hatchback reigns supreme, blending the best of maneuverability and cargo space together into one compact package. However, what if you need a bit more trunk space than those body trims can offer, and don’t want to sacrifice these smaller platform’s ride and handling characteristics? Well this is where the wagon enters the playing field with an extension to the trunk and subsequently the roofline. It’s the closest thing to an SUV without being, well, an SUV.
Yet somehow, the pragmatic appeal of the wagon seems lost on North American shoppers who have a penchant for purchasing large, unwieldy crossovers. As such, most wagons that cross the pond are almost always discontinued due to lack of sales. So much so that there are only a handful that you can purchase new: Subaru Outback, Volvo V60, and Mercedes C-Class, just to name a few. Volkswagen hopes to buck the trend with the Golf Alltrack and after spending a solid week behind the wheel, it might just be the ticket to success.
Let’s start with the basics. The Alltrack is an extension of the Golf family and is essentially a beefed up Sportwagen with a one-inch suspension lift, plastic body cladding, and standard 4MOTION all-wheel drive. While the front bumper is visually distinctive with its own unique satin silver finish, the front fascia is still very much a Golf MK7.5. The rest of the bodylines follow the same design cues too with the rear quarter receiving the bulk of the visual changes to accommodate for the added length of the wagon. I wish Volkswagen would have deviated from the Golf playbook here and added a more aggressive profile. It would’ve sacrificed some of the head room for rear passengers but would have made the Alltrack much more visually remarkable. Think of a sporty, sexy, and upscale Audi Allroad but scaled down in proportion. Now that is something I want to see.
The interior is nothing new and standard across the Golf lineup. Be that as it may, the cabin fit and finish remains top notch in its segment, with plastics covered up as glossy black panels and durable feeling touch points. The infotainment has been updated for 2019 to a larger 8-inch screen that’s both intuitive and responsive. It’s definitely a better unit than anything coming from Ford and Subaru. A few creature comforts like a heated steering wheel and wireless charging are missing from the roster, even on the top end trim, but in an interior this well put together, the absence isn’t sorely missed.
The Alltrack’s relation to the Golf family isn’t just skin deep, as it shares the same underpinnings as the much sportier Golf R and Audi TT RS. Unlike the Sportwagen, AWD comes standard, as does a 1-inch lifted ride height. It’s a stiff chassis, and this wagon’s on-road mannerisms demonstrates that beautifully. In the punishing streets of downtown Toronto, the Alltrack handles every pothole gracefully without relaying any harsh reverberations to the occupants. Despite the lifted ride height, the Alltrack doesn’t betray any of its roadgoing capabilities, keeping body roll to a minimum under heavy cornering. The 4MOTION AWD system is biased towards the front wheels but works hard shuffling power to reign in understeer. It tucks in neatly and settles down as it carries through long sweeping turns.
Under the hood sits Volkswagen’s 1.8L turbocharged inline four. The power plant remains unchanged from standard Golfs and produces a middle-of-the-pack 170 hp. Power gets redirected to all four wheels via a six-speed dual clutch DSG, or an enthusiast approved 6-speed manual. Peak torque of 199 lb-ft comes low down in the rev-range at 1,600 rpm, and together with the lightning quick gear changes, the Alltrack zips off the line without hesitation. Throw in its strong driving dynamics and you’ll will be cracking a smile every time you hit the B-roads. Not bad for a lifted wagon with a loaded boot.
Prices for the Alltrack start at $31,200 with two trim lines to choose from: Highline and Exceline. Our Peacock Green Alltrack Exceline includes the $1,750 Driver Assistance Plus that adds autonomous emergency braking, park distance control, adaptive cruise, and blind spot detection, bringing the total for our tester to $38,420, which isn’t a huge ask for an almost no-compromise daily driver. The lifted ride height is a solid bonus, injecting a little “just in case” practicality. But the biggest threat to the Alltrack comes from its Sportwagen stablemate, offering near identical performance for $1,850 less. The question comes down to whether that extra road clearance and tough outdoorsman look is worth that chunk of change. And if you aren’t even into wagons in the first place, Volkswagen will happily sell you a Tiguan or Atlas, but expect a larger price tag and the inevitable eye roll as you blend your way into North American traffic.
Model: 2019 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
Paint Type: Peacock Green Metallic
Base Price: $36,670
Price as Tested: $38,420
Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,578 / 1,799 / 1,515
Curb weight (kg): 1,930
Engine: 1.8-litre turbocharged inline-four
Horsepower: 170 hp @ 4,500 rpm
Torque: 199 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed dual clutch automatic
Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, AWD
Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway / Combined ) L/100km: 10.7 / 8.0 / 9.4
Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 14.4 (we tested the Alltrack with only 400 km on the odometer so our observed mileage may not reflect the actual mileage once the engine has been fully broken in)