The 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack has all the attributes that make the regular Golf so good, then adds all-wheel drive and more cargo space. These attributes include a classy yet understated design both inside and out, excellent cabin materials for the class, sensible ergonomics and a comfortable ride quality balanced with fine control.
Another way to look at the Alltrack is as a Golf SportWagen with a slightly raised ride height (0.6 of an inch), SUVlike body cladding and hill-descent control to help the driver negotiate tricky slopes, paved or unpaved. The Alltrack doesn’t fit into the usual vehicle categories, but that’s where its appeal lies. For someone who doesn’t necessarily want to follow in the tire tracks of the crossover/SUV herd and prefers a little more finesse to their driving experience, here’s an intriguing choice.
What’s New for 2018?
In common with the rest of the Golf range, the Alltrack receives LED daytime running lights and taillights, automatic headlights, Volkswagen’s Car-Net telematics system (integrating Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirror Link), and a new 6.5-in touchscreen for the infotainment system (in the S trim). The SE trim has a new 8-in touchscreen, plus forward-collision mitigation (blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert and pedestrian detection are arriving midmodel year). The SEL trim gains LED headlights and a host of previously optional driver aids, including parking assistance. The transferable New Vehicle Limited Warranty is now 6 years/72,000 miles (whichever occurs first).
What We Like
Golflike driving manners; all-wheel drive; cargo space
What We Don’t
Having all the advanced safety features means buying the pricey top trim
Propulsion comes from a turbocharged 1.8-liter/4-cylinder engine making a reasonable 170 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is the default setup, with a 6-speed automatic (VW’s DSG dual-clutch transmission) available as an option for the first two trims, but standard in the top trim.
All-wheel drive (referred to by VW as 4Motion) is standard.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption with the manual transmission at 21 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in combined driving. With the automatic, those figures change to 22 mpg city/30 mpg hwy/25 mpg combined.
Standard Features and Options
The 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack compact wagon comes in S, SE and SEL trim levels.
The S ($26,805) has 17-in alloy wheels, roof rails, LED daytime running lights/taillights, heated side mirrors, heated windshield washer nozzles, a self-dimming rearview mirror, heated/6-way partially power-adjustable front seats, leatherette seating surfaces, single-zone climate control, selectable driving modes (including an off-road mode), LED ambient cabin lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel/shift knob/brake lever, a rearview camera, a 6.5-in touchscreen, an 8-speaker audio system, Bluetooth, Car-Net telematics, HD Radio and a USB port.
The SE ($30,615) adds a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry/ignition, a 115-volt outlet, rain-sensing wipers, forward-collision mitigation with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection (later in the model year), blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, an 8-in touchscreen, a CD player, satellite radio and an auxiliary audio input.
The SEL ($36,510) includes 18-in alloy wheels, LED headlights, automatic high beams, adaptive front lighting (that moves with the steering), a 12-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, a Fender-branded audio system upgrade, navigation, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, parking sensors front and rear and a semiautomated parking feature for parallel spaces.
With the rear seats in place, cargo space is a massive 30.4 cu ft., expanding to 66.5 cu ft. when they’re folded flat. Conveniently, there are seat-release levers in the cargo area.
As well as all the mandatory safety equipment, the Alltrack (along with every other VW) has something called an Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. After an accident, the car will apply the brakes to stop a second accident from happening, or at least prevent it from being worse.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the Alltrack its top 5-star overall safety rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave it top marks (Good) in most major categories of its crash-test program, except the passenger-side small-overlap front crash test, where it was awarded the second-highest score of Acceptable.
Behind the Wheel
Volkswagen’s XDS Cross Differential System was originally developed for the excellent enthusiast-focused Golf GTI and comes as standard here. It’s really a computer-controlled way of subtly braking one front wheel at a time to tighten the cornering line in an attempt to mimic a mechanical limited-slip differential. It actually works well, giving the Alltrack a sportier attitude than is usually found in run-of-the-mill compact crossovers.
Under normal circumstances, the all-wheel-drive system favors just the front wheels, optimizing fuel consumption. When conditions dictate, however, 50 percent of the engine’s torque can be directed to the rear wheels within milliseconds. Select off-road mode and a display gives altitude, steering-wheel angle and compass direction readouts.
Engine output of 170 hp in a car of this size and weight is far from breathtaking, but progress is quick enough for most tastes.
Other Cars to Consider
2018 Subaru Outback — The closest all-wheel-drive wagon/crossover rival to the Alltrack. Updated for 2018. Offers more engine choices and greater ground clearance. But comes with an unpleasant continuously variable transmission (CVT).
2018 Mazda CX-3 — A straightforward compact crossover, but with sporty driving abilities and the option of all-wheel drive.
Used BMW X3 — Great engines, excellent chassis, luxury cachet. Also quite generously proportioned in the luggage area.
At the very minimum, select the SE for a higher level of equipment. And you’ll probably want to spend the extra $1,100 for the automatic transmission.