Kuyper: Volkswagen gets off-roading help from Alltrack

The Volkswagen Alltrack continues VW’s tradition of sporty action on the road. It is a wagon that masquerades as an SUV capable of doing some mild off-roading.
The Volkswagen Alltrack continues VW’s tradition of sporty action on the road. It is a wagon that masquerades as an SUV capable of doing some mild off-roading.

Introduced at the spring 2016 New York Auto Show as a 2017 Golf model, Volkswagen’s Alltrack filled a necessary niche in the company lineup.

With a raised suspension and standard all-wheel-drive, Alltrack serves as a Golf version of a wagon, but also functions as an SUV. It can actually do some mild off-roading. The 6.9 inches of ground clearance, instead of the 5.5-inch norm, was a necessity when it came to relatively deep ditches and riding over uneven terrain.

Alltrack continues VW’s tradition of sporty action on the road. The 1.8-liter, 170-horsepower, four-cylinder turbocharged engine is called TSI by VW for all the company’s direct-injection turbo engines. To ensure instant, even torque, the twin charger is fitted with a mechanical supercharger. Volkswagen uses TSI engines on 1.4-, 1.8- and 2.0-liter displacements. TSI engines also are found on Beetles and Jettas.

Alltrack’s drive modes include normal, sport, economy and off-road, which features steering angle, altitude gauge and compass. Hill descent control, which is standard on the $35,660 SEL, helps control brakes and speed when going down steep and slippery trails. Besides the SEL model, Alltrack also comes as a $25,955 S model and a $29,765 SE.

As one can see, the top-of-the-line SEL trim level is pricey. Wheels are 18 inchers and not 17s. Interior trim has “Marrakesh Brown” leatherette seating surfaces, aluminum pedals, an eight-inch touchscreen, VW Car-Net App-Connect connectivity, panoramic sunroof (five feet), navigation system, adaptive cruise control and LED headlights.

SEL amenities include a Fender sound system, pushbutton start, remote keyless entry, power front seat lumbar controls, power windows, exterior mirrors, door locks, and tilt and slide sunroof. Overhead are roof rails to accompany the maximum 66.5 cubic feet of carpeted and lighted inside cargo area.

Alltrack has 4Motion all-wheel-drive. This system transfers torque between rear and front wheels. In normal conditions, such as on a dry highway, drive power goes to the front wheels. When sensors detect less than ideal driving conditions (snow, ice, rain, sand, gravel, dirt, grass, uneven surfaces), the system directs 50 percent of the torque to the rear axle.

All-wheel-drive is not particular to VW alone as all major auto manufacturers offer some form of it. Subaru has power sent continuously to all four wheels. Other manufacturers choose to let a vehicle remain in front- or rear-wheel drive mode until slip occurs and then splitting the drive power between them.

A recently tested Alltrack SEL excelled with fuel economy, averaging 27.4 mpg of unleaded regular gasoline. Two adults were aboard most of the time in combined city and highway driving.

Although a compact vehicle, leg room is good for six-footers front and rear. The ride is quiet and stable. In fact, the insulation that produces that quiet is a hallmark of this vehicle.

As far as safety is concerned, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave the Alltrack a five-star rating. The NHTSA rates safety from one to five stars (safest).

Several years ago, Volkswagen was hit with a scandal. The company’s toxic emission claims for its diesel vehicles were false. Government officials took VW to task. Diesel sales were halted and VW settled with the U.S. government. Fines and a buyback plan totaled an estimated $14.7 billion.

Helping regain lost sales since then is VW’s expanded basic warranty coverage, which was introduced in 2017. The new basic warranty is six years or 72,000 miles, including powertrain. Routine basic coverage on most vehicles sold in the U.S. is three years or 36,000 miles and occasionally four years or 50,000 miles. Roadside assistance remains at three years or 36,000 miles.        


Vehicle: 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack SEL

Type: all-wheel-drive, five-passenger compact wagon

Price: $35,660

Engine: 1.8-liter, 170-horsepower turbocharged inline four-cylinder

Transmission: six-speed automatic

Fuel: regular

Fuel tank: 14.5 gallons

Turning circle: 35.8 feet

Cargo: 66.5 cubic feet, 30.4 cubic feet behind upright rear seat

Leg room: 41.2 inches front, 35.6 inches rear

Wheels (alloy), tires (225): 17-inch

Brakes: 11.3-inch discs front, 10.7-inch discs rear

Suspension: struts with coil springs, telescopic dampers front, multilink, coil springs, telescopic dampers rear, stabilizer bars

Wheelbase, length, width, height, ground clearance in inches: 103.5, 180.2, 70.8, 59.6, 6.9

Weight: 3,395 pounds Payload: 992 pounds

Warranty: transferable, bumper to bumper, 6 years/72,000 miles with 24-hour roadside assistance,

Assembly: Puebla, Mexico, engine and transmission from Germany


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