2016 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack review
Isaac Bober’s 2016 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: The Golf Alltrack is a higher-riding version of the VW Golf wagon, and is available in just one specification.
2016 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
Pricing $37,990 +ORC Warranty three years, unlimited kilometres Safety five star ANCAP Engine 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol Power/Torque 132kW/280Nm Transmission six-speed DSG Body 4578mm (L); 1799mm (W); 1499mm (H) Weight 1479kg Fuel Tank 55 litres Thirst 6.9L/100km
VOLKSWAGEN HAS BEEN selling jacked-up version of the Golf in the Fatherland since the 1990s, but this is the first time the German car maker has decided to produce a part-time all-wheel drive Golf for the world. You would have thought the brand had this segment already well covered with both the VW Tiguan and Skoda Yeti, but apparently not.
The Golf Alltrack, based on the Golf wagon, extends the Golf line-up and became the first model in the range to run the 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine (132TSI) it’s also, at 175mm, the highest riding Golf available.
What is it?
As mentioned, the Golf Alltrack is based on the Golf wagon and is really just a high-ish—riding part-time all-wheel drive (4Motion) version of that car. While Volkswagen would probably prefer we talked about it in the same breath as, say, the Subaru Outback, it’s more likely to be cross-shopped against top-spec variants of the Subaru XV, or even Forester and Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and the Mazda CX-3 and CX-5. And that’s a whole bag of stiff competition, some of which run permanent all-wheel drive (hint: Subaru).
But the Golf Alltrack is an odd one. See, it doesn’t look like a high-riding SUV and with only 175mm of ground clearance it isn’t very high riding. And, when you sit inside it you don’t get any of that commanding view of the road feel you get in some of its key competitors, like the Subaru XV. So, it’s less of a rough-roader like the Subaru Outback/Forester/XV and more of a road car that provides the added benefit of a quick-acting part-time all-wheel drive drivetrain.
The Golf Alltrack is available in one specification only and lists from $37,990+ORC. There are two extra cost option packages, the Driver Assistance Package $1300 and the Sports Luxury Package $2500, while metallic/pearl effect paint adds $500.
The Driver Assistance Package includes City Emergency Braking and Adaptive Cruise Control, it also features Park Assist which is intended to make parallel parking easier. The Sports Luxury Package adds 18-inch alloys, gearshift paddles and a panoramic electric glass sunroof.
The Golf Alltrack is pretty well equipped for the money, getting a leather interior, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, reversing camera and parking distance sensors as well as seven airbags and a five star ANCAP rating.
What’s it like?
The Golf Alltrack stands out from the rest of its family thanks to its raised ride height of 175mm wheel arch flares “for protection” and fake skid plates front and rear. It also gets a more aggressive looking front- and rear-end. Standard fit are model specific 17-inch alloys that look far too pretty to scratch on a gravel road. On the inside, the Golf Alltrack is more or less the same as a Golf wagon, although it does get a few unique touches, including a leather wrapped steering wheel with infotainment and communication controls, ambient lighting in the door trim and LED reading lights, it also offers Apple Car Play and Android Auto connectivity which can then be controlled via the 6.5-inch touch screen unit.
While we’re on the topic of Apple Car Play, a quick play with the functionality revealed a less then perfect experience with the odd drop out, the odd refusal to connect and the inability to get Car Play back when switching to the radio… the Polo GTI we recently tested, however, offered a totally different experience with seamless operation of Car Play.
Being based on the Golf wagon means the Alltrack gets 605 litres of bootspace when the rear seats are in place and 1620 litres with the seats folded down (although they don’t go completely flat). The bootspace itself measures 1055mm long by 1003mm wide with the rear seats up, making it plenty big enough for a family of four’s gear. There are some practical touches, like a cargo net which is good for keeping your shopping from sliding around, or in my case the half-a-dozen soccer balls I carry around for my son’s soccer training. There are also a couple of plastic carry hooks and some tie-down points as well as a 12V outlet.
A low boot loading height, makes it easy to load and unload the Alltrack’s boot, although the space saver spare hiding beneath the boot floor is a disappointment for a car marketed at those who like to get their tyres dirty. The space also seems more than deep enough to carry a full-size spare.
The front seats are swathed in leather and while they look cool, aren’t particularly comfortable. There’s little under thigh support and getting the back rest at the right angle for me to feel comfortable was impossible, which meant I had to drive the thing with the seat back laid back more than I would normally. Over in the back seats there’s plenty of room for two kids or two adults, I say two because although there are three seatbelts back there, the transmission tunnel is so intrusive that it would be thoroughly uncomfortable to be sat in the middle seat in the back.
In typical VW fashion, the interior feels like it comes from a car in a price bracket above, with all of the controls and switchgear crafted from high-quality plastics that look to be hard wearing and relatively resistant to grubby finger marks.
When launched at the end of the last year, the Golf Alltrack became the first Golf to run VW’s 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with 132kW at 4500rpm and 280Nm of torque from 1350rpm to 4500rpm. This engine is mated to a six-speed DSG which is far more robust than the seven-speed DSG that’s caused VW so many problems over the years. Fuel consumption is a claimed 6.7L/100km although after our week of more than 600km, our combined average was 7.3L/100km.
Sadly, there’s no diesel option for the Golf Alltrack which might have increased the appeal of the vehicle for regional buyers, although in Europe it can be had with three diesel options. That said, the petrol engine is a very liveable and given its near flat torque curve from just above idle to 4500rpm means overtaking or tackling long, steep hills is a cinch.
The six-speed DSG is good and while there were paddles on our test car, why you’d ever feel compelled to use them in this sort of vehicle is beyond me. One thing I did notice about the Golf Alltrack that I don’t get on my identically-transmissioned Skoda Octavia is the in-gear roll back when parked on a hill, which can be especially disconcerting when you’ve just reversed into a parking spot and then selected D for drive to go forwards a touch yet the vehicle roll back a foot or so before catching and driving forwards.
Elsewhere online I’ve read articles praising the Golf Alltrack’s dirt road ride but on our excursion onto our favourite gravel roads, the Golf Alltrack was less than comfortable. Banging and crashing noisily into lumps and bumps in the road and chattering across some corrugations. And, disappointingly, despite having an Off-Road mode, this doesn’t actually lock the Alltrack into all-wheel drive, which means it continues to behave as a front-wheel drive vehicle until it detects wheel slip. And, only then does the latest-generation Haldex 5 coupling engage the wheels with the ability of sending 100% of torque to the rear end.
So, on dirt, what you end up with is a vehicle that’s competent but not quite as fluid feeling as competitors from Subaru. But then, Subaru isn’t the norm in this segment with other competitors offering part-time all-wheel drive models as well as front-drive only variants.
So, what does the Off-Road mode do? It softens the throttle pedal to dial out bumps from your foot as you buck about on a rutted track, and it loosens the ABS pulses allowing the wheels to lock up momentarily and build a wedge of dirt in front of the tyres, it also activates downhill descent control which will control downhill speeds at up to 30km/h.
There’s a Sport mode that sharpens the throttle response and see the engine rev a little higher than in Normal mode, but with a virtually flat torque curve there’s little advantage to the higher revving… and the Eco mode softens the throttle and aims to go for fuel saving by plumping for a higher gear more quickly.
Away from the dirt and back on the bitumen, the Golf Alltrack feels more at home. It sits just 20mm higher than the standard Golf wagon, or 2cm, or one adult’s finger width higher… and that’s bugger all in the grand scheme of things. This means it rides and handles very much like any other Golf, meaning its firm but always feels very well planted on the road. There’s almost no body roll and the steering wheel feels meaty in the hands and is both well weighted and direct in its action.
But, as the road surface deteriorates so to does the Alltrack’s ride, although that could have more to do with the 18-inch alloys on our test car than the suspension tune as such. We’d suggest the extra inch of tyre the standard-fit 17s afford would help settle the ride a little. The brake pedal feels pretty lifeless under foot but has a longer action than the Polo GTI we tested recently and so can be modulated a little more easily without having your passengers head-banging either the dashboard or the seat in front of them.
In terms of safety, the Golf Alltrack piggy backs on the rest of the Golf 7 range with a five star ANCAP rating (tested back in 2013), part-time all-wheel drive (4Motion), seven airbags, ISOFIX mounts in the back seat, traction and stability controls with an Off Road mode that tweaks the ABS response.