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2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack: First Drive Review

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author photo by Rob Nestora September 2016

Looking to combine off-road capability with a sporty driving experience, the 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack attempts to bridge the gap between those seeking an active lifestyle and those who enjoy careening through windy roads on the weekend. While this segment has historically been dominated by Subaru, Volkswagen takes aim at the one-time Paul Hogan favorite, the Outback, with their brand-new Alltrack offering. But really, how good could an off-road Golf SportWagen really be? With this in mind, VW invited us to Bainbridge Island to test the Alltrack's mettle in the heart of Washington's most idyllic scenery and challenging roads.

Exterior

If the outside of the Alltrack looks familiar, it should come as no surprise -- the exterior is nearly identical to the Golf SportWagen, albeit with some additional ground clearance and a few exclusive design cues. The front fascia is more aggressive thanks to sporty black mesh and silver accents, occasionally causing observers to forget that this is actually a wagon. In addition, the side mirrors have been painted Reflex Silver, as has the roof rack, evoking a much more mechanized look.

Black cladding has also been added along the door panels and wheels, protecting the body from stray rocks and other projectiles kicked up along the dusty trail. Even the wheels exude a rugged yet sporty vibe, which completes the Alltrack ensemble nicely. If this formula sounds familiar, that's because Subaru has used it for decades on the popular Outback.

Interior

On the inside, the Alltrack further distinguishes itself from its SportWagen sibling with aluminum-look pedals and kickplates with exclusive Alltrack branding. The seating is comfortable as well, with ample legroom and standard leatherette throughout the cabin. Meanwhile, the massive panoramic sunroof is easy to use and bathes the interior with light on sunny days, which is great for enjoying the rare cloud-free afternoon in the Pacific Northwest.

In addition to the attractive interior styling, the amount of available cargo space is also impressive. The rear of the Alltrack features a robust 30.4 cu ft. of space behind the rear seats and a whopping 66.5 cu ft. with the rear seats folded down. If that's not enough space for your gear, the standard roof racks allow for even more capacity. Given the fairly low roof height of 59.7 inches, loading and unloading kayaks or other gear to and from the roof rack should be no problem for most average-sized adults.

The On-Road

With its stout 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, the tiny Alltrack provides just enough power to keep things interesting. When prompted, the VW's 170 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque make for a bit more excitement than you might expect from a compact SUV, but not quite as much as you'd get from the GTI. The standard fifth-generation 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system also adds to the Alltrack's ability, providing traction seamlessly, regardless of surface.

The Alltrack was fun on the serpentine roads that traverse the hills of the Northwest, gripping corners with the surefootedness of a free runner on a parkour course. The selectable driving modes provide a bit of customization to your experience behind the wheel, with settings that include normal, sport, custom and off-road. The differences between settings are easily noticeable, and there's an appropriate mode for almost any driving situation.

The Off-Road

At one point during the drive, we were directed to pull onto a somewhat sketchy-looking trail where we immediately switched the 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack into off-road mode. Despite having a ground clearance of only 6.65 inches (169 millimeters, according to Volkswagen), the Alltrack was able to handle the trail easily, with no hang-ups or perceivable wheelspin. In fact, the Alltrack felt capable and downright poised even through the roughest terrain the trail had to offer.

Bear in mind that this was a prepared off-road course, chock-full of spotters and VW engineers. Nonetheless, the route was probably more challenging than most of the conditions that the average driver would likely experience.

The Skinny

After several hours of roaming Bainbridge Island in the Golf Alltrack, we were impressed at how well it handled virtually every circumstance so effortlessly. Given its starting price of right around $26,000, on par with the rival Outback, the Alltrack seems ready to change consumers' perceptions of VW and shake up the segment. While not everything was stellar with the Alltrack -- Volkswagen's wonky navigation system, for instance -- we think this is a solid all-around vehicle and a worthy addition to the Golf family.

To gain access to this information, Autotrader attended an event sponsored by the vehicle's manufacturer.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack: First Drive Review - Autotrader