It’s not exactly a response to the Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5 or Hyundai Tucson, but the new Alltrack has its charms
Most automakers focus their energy on tall wagons, but Volkswagen also keeps the traditional wagon fires burning with the Sportwagen and the new offshoot called Alltrack.
The Alltrack is essentially a Sportwagen that’s modified to be more capable on rough back roads and in sloppy weather conditions. The changes include increasing the ride height by 1.5 centimetres and installing all-wheel-drive and protective body side cladding as part of the vehicle’s standard equipment.
If this approach seems familiar, you’re probably thinking of the Subaru Crosstrek, which is essentially an Impreza hatchback with additional ground clearance.
Both the Crosstrek and Alltrack have similar purposes and capabilities, but there’s a world of difference between the two. For one thing, VW’s lifted wagon has a much roomier cabin and cargo area. It also comes with a significantly more powerful engine and more sophisticated automated manual transmission than the Subaru’s optional continuously variable unit.
Understanding that you really do get what you pay for, a wellequipped base Alltrack costs about $10,300 more than the Crosstrek and is less fuel-efficient. So if compact wagons of this sort are your thing, it boils down to brand preference and price.
As for styling, there’s no denying the Sportwagen-based Alltrack is one handsome carryall. The lines are clean and totally gimmick-free, which isn’t surprising since it emanates from the same gene pool as the Golf hatchback. Along with the extra exterior trim, the Alltrack shows off a distinctive grille, bumpers, fog lights and off-road-style front and rear underbody protection. Those changes along with the raised stance make the Alltrack appear to be a more substantial vehicle than it actually is.
Counter to its rugged silhouette, the interior looks downright inviting. The user-friendly dashboard and control panel has actual knobs and switches for the ventilation system (in addition to a 16.5-centimetre touch-screen display) that are angled toward the driver. The number of steering-wheel-located controls has been kept to a minimum and an old-style but effective parking-brake lever is used instead of an increasingly common electronic e-brake switch.
The heart of the Alltrack is a turbocharged 1.8-litre four-cylinder with 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque. For now, this peppy powerplant — common to a number of VW models — is connected to a six-speed automated paddle-shift manual transmission with automatic mode. Fuel economy is pegged at 10.6 l/100 km in the city and 8.0 on the highway. Volkswagen says that a six-speed manual transmission will become available in early calendar 2017.
Also standard is the latest version of VW’s 4Motion all-wheeldrive that puts 100 per cent of power to the front wheels in normal driving conditions, but can instantaneously divert up to 50 per cent to the rear wheels when slip is detected.
A base Alltrack (there’s only one well equipped trim level) will set you back $37,000 including destination charges. That gets you all the power-operated basics plus a multi-mode selector with Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport, Individual and Off-Road settings that fine-tune the engine response, transmission crispness and steering effort.
All Alltracks come with a panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control and leather-covered seat that are power-adjustable and heated in front.
Key options include a 12-speaker Fender audio system, pivoting headlights (to follow the turns in the road) plus active-safety technology to help avoid collisions with other vehicles.
It all makes for a wagon that’s not too tall, but lets you sit tall in the saddle while heading pretty much anywhere you like.