2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Review – Preview Drive
Paul Horrell’s preview drive 2018 VW Golf Alltrack Review with specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.
In a nutshell: the Alltrack lacks the outdoors style, family-friendly cabin or the off-road smarts of a good crossover. But there are compensations: the road manners and economy are better than crossovers. And as an estate it prioritises load-carrying and towing, with all wheels driven.
PRICE $NA WARRANTY 3 years/unlimited km ENGINE 1.8L turbo petrol 4cyl POWER 132kW at 4500-6200rpm TORQUE 280Nm at 1350-4500rpm or 2.0L turbo diesel POWER 135kW at 3500-4000rpm TORQUE 380Nm at 1750-3250rpm TRANSMISSION 6-speed DCT (TSi) or 7-speed DCT (TDI) DRIVE all-wheel drive BODY 4567mm (L); 1799mm (W EXC MIRRORS); 1515mm (H) TURNING CIRCLE 10.9m KERB WEIGHT 1479kg (TSI) 1576kg (TDI) SEATS 5 FUEL TANK 55 litres (TSI) 50 litres (TDI) SPARE space saver (both) THIRST 6.9 L/100km (TSI) or 5.2 L/100KM (GTI) combined cycle FUEL petrol (TSI) diesel (TDI)
SIMPLY PUT, it’s a Golf estate, with its body jacked up a bit extra, running all-wheel-drive. A bit of cladding protects it, or rather gives the appearance of protecting it, from low-lying bush and gravel rash.
In the past 40 years, VW has churned out 33 million Golfs, but not many of them have been Alltracks. It’s a car with a specialist appeal. Maybe an admission by VW that its range of proper crossovers wan’t very strong. But even even though VW is now fielding a recently renewed Tiguan, and will soon launch a more compact crossover too, it’s still expanding choice in the Alltrack range.
For the new model year, the petrol-fuelled powertrain continues, but in two trim levels now, and it’s joined by a powerful diesel edition. The petrol has a six-speed twin-clutch auto transmission, the diesel a new seven-speeder.
What’s the interior like?
Sitting in the front seats, the basic layout is as per any other mid-to-high-spec Golf. Clear controls and sensible ergonomics abound. Simple lines are saved from looking dull or cheap by the quality of materials and precision of assembly.
If you’re cross-shopping with crossovers though, you’ll notice that it doesn’t have the sort of deep storage bins they mostly provide.
In the back, headroom is improved over the Golf hatch, but not legroom, which is a bit ordinary for a car this long. Vents and reading lights are provided, and seatback pockets. The bench is shaped for three, but because of the transmission tunnel it’s better for two, and they’d then have a fold-down armrest with more storage.
Behind that, the black cavern of a boot is 650 litres in seat-up configuration. It’s a space that’s deep front-to-back as well as top-to-bottom, and usefully wide aft of the wheel-arches. A space under the floor accommodates the roller-blind load cover – a lot of estates fail to give you anywhere to store it. Solid tie-down points add to the impression this thing really is meant for load-carrying.
To fold the seats, drop the head restraints – they don’t need removing – and pull little levers in the boot. The backrests flop forward. This leaves a usefully long space, all the way to the front seats. But because the back seat cushion doesn’t hinge up from its front edge, you have no bulkhead to stop loose stuff sliding between the front seats. And then you notice the seatbacks don’t quite fold flat.
To the front again. VW Australia offers two trim levels for the Alltrack, base and Premium. The diesel is available in Premium only. This includes an eight-inch sat-nav, stereo and connectivity system that offers all you’d want.
Premium trim also includes good-looking perforated leather seat facings, and supportive sports seats.
You can pay extra for a 9.5-inch infotainment screen that comes paired with VW’s virtual TFT-screen instruments. The big screen means there’s no room for the eight-inch system’s two hardware knobs, so all inputs must be done by finger-sliding or idiotic mid-air gestures. It’s all too gimmicky. At least the climate control system is still run by hardware controls and hasn’t migrated to the screen.
Still, that optional infotainment bundles with it an epic 400W Dynaudio hi-fi, so you might want to take the plunge for this reason.
What’s it like on the road?
We tested the new diesel engine this time. The petrol hasn’t changed with this year’s minor facelift, and nor has the suspension. We remember the petrol as a smooth unit, with more than enough response through the rev range.
The TDI has twin balance shafts which manage to do away with much but not all of the diesel shake. The seven-speed transmission gives a low first cog for pulling away with a trailer. At the other end, its high top means you can cruise with a whisper of engine noise and a sip of fuel.
You never lack for pulling power. The engine makes loads of torque across the everyday rev range, and the autobox shifts smartly to make to most of it. This is a decently quick car: 7.8 seconds for 0-100km/h.
The steering is positive and well-damped as Golfs always provide. You feel confident about placing it on the road. Road holding and especially traction are always stout and predictable.
But the ride isn’t as supple as other non-sporting Golfs. There’s a lumpy, thumpy quality to progress. It’s not that it’s harsh, just that it lacks fluency. I’ve been testing it on European roads, but our experience in Oz with last year’s car off-road showed that this characteristic meant it could get more punishing than it needs to be on outback tracks.
A drive selector switch that allows you to choose between an eco setting (less air-con, gentler accelerator map and lower gearchange points) through to an emphasis on sportiness. But it doesn’t change the suspension as the dampers are passive.
More relevant, the selector also has an off-road setting that re-tunes the ESP and traction control to give you the best chance of progress on slippy surfaces. It also provides hill descent control.
A bigger wow-factor is trailer assist. Basically, put the car in reverse and a rear-view camera looks at the trailer. Image-processing algorithms calculate its angle and possible paths, displaying the arcs as a plan-view on the main infotainment screen. Are you the type who can’t quite manage to steer the trailer in reverse-phase using the wheel? Just use the mirror joystick to aim the whole rig left or right, and even swing it round corners into quite tight parking places, and the system swivels the steering wheel for you. Just remember to brake.
What about the safety features?
The pre-facelift Golf was a strong performer in NCAP tests. Airbag count is seven, including curtain airbags along the whole sides, plus side bags for the front seat.
The new one builds on that passive protection package with new active safety accident-avoidance features. Among those is a driver fatigue detection system. Front Assist with City Emergency Brake (City EB) is also standard across the whole Golf range now, as is a rear view camera (RVC). All versions of the Alltrack get park sensors front and back.
An optional driver support pack includes Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) and Lane Assist, as well as Park Assist which I shouldn’t list under safety features, but is mentioned here to show what’s in the pack. It also includes TFT reconfigurable instruments – Active Info Display in VW speak.
The Premium trim level also has strong LED headlamps.
Why would you buy one?
Crossovers are everywhere these days… but there are good reasons not to want one. Their height, the very reason people like them, brings disadvantages. They present a bigger obstacle to passing through the air, which impairs highway fuel economy. They tend to rock around on bumps. And it’s a stretch to put cycles and so on onto their roofs. The Alltrack gives you the ground clearance and traction of an AWD crossover. But it’s body is much lower-profile than a crossover. So for the most part you’ve the manners of a hatchback plus the space and easy loading of an estate.
All three versions of the Alltrack are standard with 4MOTION all-wheel-drive.
Alltrack 132TSI equipment includes:
- 1.8 litre TSI 132kW/280Nm petrol engine
- 6-speed DSG
- Air Care dual zone climate control air conditioning
- Keyless Access, keyless entry and starting system
- Leather multi-function steering wheel with cruise control
- Driving profile selection with off-road mode
- Composition Media 8″ audio system with App-Connect
- LED interior ambient lighting
- Rear View Camera (RVC)
- 7 airbags and Driver Fatigue Detection system
- Multi-collision brake and XDL
- 17″ (Valley) alloy wheels
- Front Assist with City Emergency Brake (City EB)
- Front fog lights
- Automatic headlights and rain sensing windscreen wipers
- Automatically dimming rear-view mirror
- Parking distance sensors, front and rear
- LED tail lights and daytime driving lights
The Golf Alltrack Premium runs either the 132TSI 1.8 turbo petrol engine or the 135TDI 2.0 litre turbo diesel that produces 380Nm
Additional Alltrack Premium equipment includes:
- Comfort sport front seats
- Vienna leather appointed upholstery
- Heated front seats
- Discover Media 8″ satellite navigation system
- Media Control
- LED headlights with dynamic cornering lights
- Colour Multi-function Display (MFD Premium)
- Carpet floor mats
Optional to all Alltrack variants is the Driver Assistance Package:
- Active Info Display (with off-road configuration)
- Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
- Lane Assist
- Park Assist
- Proactive occupant protection system
Alltrack Premium customers can also access the Sport Luxury Package:
- 18″ (Kalamata) alloy wheels
- Steering wheel mounted gearshift paddles
- Panoramic electric glass sunroof
- Electrically adjustable driver’s seat with memory
- Electrically adjustable driver’s lumbar support
- Power folding door mirrors with memory function
- Dark tinted rear and rear side windows, 65% light absorbing
Further for Alltrack Premium owners is the Infotainment Package:
- Active Info Display (with off-road configuration)
- Discover Pro 9.2″ satellite navigation system with gesture control and voice control
- Dynaudio Excite 400W premium audio system with 10-channel digital amplifier and subwoofer