By on August 5, 2013

AR-308059950

VW, whose growth in the U.S. market has not gone quite according to their optimistic plans, may take a page from booming Subaru’s playbook and introduce an all-wheel-drive station wagon to compete with the Subaru Outback, Fuji Heavy Industries’ best seller in North America.

Automotive News reports that VW has approved an AWD version of the next Jetta SportWagon that will be sold in the United States starting next year and that the Wolfsburg based automaker is considering a version with higher ground clearance and body cladding, like the Alltrack concept shown last year.

Last year in the U.S., Subaru sold 117,553 Outbacks, about five times the number of Jetta SportWagons that VW sold. The proposed Outback-fighter would also add a pseudo-crossover model to VW’s lineup, and would act as a stopgap until VW can add more crossovers to its range – something its beleaguered dealer body has been crying out for.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

57 Comments on “VW Weighing Jetta SportWagon Variant to Compete With Subaru Outback...”


  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Wait Jetta Wagon… with optional TDI… and manual of course… brown as an optional color… OMG!

  • avatar
    FuzzyPlushroom

    Sounds great! That way, they can kill the more efficient, cladding-free wagon while selling the new model as a ‘truck’ for CAFE purposes.

    I need more coffee.

  • avatar
    Landcrusher

    What they need to approve is a new Jetta for 21st century people. There is plenty of room in the car, yet they somehow manage to make the driver’s seat feel cramped. Is giving up on the over six footer market really still a viable plan in the US?

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Yeah, cause the Allroad sells so well – let’s have a VW variant?

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      Excellent point. Can Audi keep its price premium with competition from VW? I can see the Outback going upscale and leaving the low price, low margin field to VW, while stealing sales from Audi.

  • avatar
    banker43

    Well, this is a picture of the Euro-Passat wagon “alltrack”. I’ll assume this has nothing to do with any future AWD Jetta. If it did, we’d have Jettas on 3 seperate platforms.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Something Outback-ish would probably be well received. If you want a wagon, your only choices are Subaru or a Sportwagen/Golf wagon in North America. And if you want a manual diesel wagon, well there’s a whole one offering to choose from. Subarus have horrible fuel economy, so I know of some people that ended up buying a Jetta TDI wagon because of the thirstiness of the Subarus. But then you lose the ground clearance and AWD. If VW could offer a taller 4Motion TDI wagon, I would imagine they would sell. The FWD TDI wagons sell well as it is, but the gas ones tend to linger on the lots.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      You know VW these days might have less reliability problems than Subaru, after all the crap I read on here about Subaru issues.

    • 0 avatar
      Slocum

      Subarus no longer have horrible fuel economy. The Outback with the 2.5 is rated 24/30 and the Forester with the same drive-train is 24/32. Even so, an Outback-like 4WD wagon with a diesel would be welcome — as long as it wasn’t a VW…

  • avatar
    FractureCritical

    I have heard that Audi has had good success with the SUV-ification of the a4 Avant into the allroad (though they don’t break the allroad or avant numbers out separately in the press reports from the A4, so I can’t confirm that). So this might be a smart move for VW. and maybe if it works well, we’ll get a like model of the Passat from the under-used Chatanooga plant.

    Given just how horribly ugly the outback has become, the VW will get sales from people who want an Outback, but can’t stand the styling.

    • 0 avatar
      hreardon

      Actually, Fracture, Audi has been stating allroad sales separately. They’ve been averaging between 400-600/month for the better part of the last year. Now – ask me what percentage of those are dealership loaner cars that then get sold as demo units and I’ll tell you that the number is probably close to half of the total.

      • 0 avatar
        FractureCritical

        Lol. I have a picture somewhere of an Audi dealer’s home and out front are parked matching Scuba blue and Volcano red allroads. Both with dealer tags.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Given they already sell the Golf Wagon with AWD in Europe, seems like a no brainer to sell it here to all the idiots who think they “need” AWD. And the four people who actually do. And since the same idiots seem to go for the jacked up faux SUV look, why not do that too? $50 worth of ugly black plastic = $5K in added price. P.T. Barnum was right.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      What makes you think that “need” is a significant factor in most people’s auto choices?

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Between snow and rain conditions, and the ability to do a dirt trail as needed, tell me which Americans (or others) shouldn’t have a choice of AWD?

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Sooo many people actually take their shiny $30-60K station wagons up dirt trails.

        If the difference in ground clearance between an Outback and a regular station wagon makes a difference in the snow or rain you are driving in, STAY HOME, the roads are too bad to be out on. Otherwise, since all the other cars on the road are likely making it just fine, you have wasted a ton of money. Somehow I manage to get by just fine all over Maine in the winter with a RWD BMW with good snow tires currently, and a succession of FWD Saabs before that. I love passing slow moving Subarus in the snow, kind of a hobby of mine.

        The automakers love these “Outback version” wagons because idiots will pay thousands for some black plastic and slightly longer springs. Meanwhile those of us who actually LIKE TO DRIVE have fewer and fewer choices.

        • 0 avatar
          Landcrusher

          Sooo many people? Well me at least.

          Stay Home? Great plan, you are so smart. Do you ever leave home? What happens then? Just because that works where you live it doesn’t for every one. I dont think you get what we call rain. Besides, height has other advantages.

          Wasted money? Not here. Though, I do miss my truck and think the extra up front cost and reduced comfort may have been a better decision when I go out to buy wood.

          Interesting hobby. Why would we care? If I lived in Maine I might care about potentially hurting myself trying to rescue you when fate catches up, but luckily I don’t live there. Your attitude is common among now dead pilots. I suggest you relook at risk assessment.

          Interesting how people who buy things you think they don’t “need” are idiots, while you having a hard time finding what you “like” is evidence the world is screwed up and unfair. May I suggest a more “live and let live” outlook?

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            If you need ground clearance, get a truck or SUV that has ACTUAL ground clearance. These cladded up station wagons are neither fish nor fowl, and are the most commonly seen vehicle in the ditch here. That extra 3/4″ gets you nothing in actual bad weather. The problem is for every person who is smart enough to know that snow tires are still needed with AWD, there are 50 who think they can get by with “no-seasons”. I can’t even tell you how many times I have driven up hills past Subarus spinning their wheels helplessly in a couple inches of snow, their all season tires having all the grip of a cat on linoleum. We too get that lovely “winter mix” where you end up with a sheet of packed ice with standing water on it. Fun stuff.

            And as it happens, I have a vehicle that has ACTUAL ground clearance, and locking 4wd, and serious snow tires for when the weather turns really foul. Which it does here, fairly frequently. But I generally stay home, because there are too many idiots sliding around out there to take my chances. Unless you are the plow driver or a brain surgeon, you are better off at home when Mother Nature is getting testy. These AWD cars just give you a false sense of confidence, right up until you end up in the ditch.

            I commuted from Yarmouth to Portland on I-295 for years, every snowstorm there would be a large number of vehicles in the ditch, 90% of them SUVs, Audis, and Subarus. Hilarious. I should make a video sometime.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            I think I see a pattern here. I point out all the problems with what you are trying to convince us of, and you ignore me and say similar things with similar problems.

            I have lived in the Rockies and in Canada. While I never noticed any particular difference in the kinds of cars people mostly had and were mostly having accidents, I didn’t have any agenda or prejudice about it. If your assessment is correct, I would think it is due to coincidence. I would have chosen AWD if I still lived in an icy area, though I believe traction control and proper tires are more important.

            My car has less clearance than i would like, but as much as I will likely use given our floods and the soft roading we do in the patch. It also has a much more comfortable ride and very good highway manners beyond what you can get in a truck at twice the price. It’s a good compromise for my wife and I given how we mostly have used it so far. Why you seem to think I am an idiot for buying it, it’s just fine for me.

            Now I did make an idiot purchase. I bought an airplane in a country full of foolish people who hate people for having things they don’t think other people need. One day, you are going to be on the wrong side of those fools, and then maybe you will figure out that we need almost nothing, and the way to getting what you want isn’t by trying to argue about what other people need or ought to have.

          • 0 avatar
            CJinSD

            Maybe people should accept that conditions vary by region and local government. What’s right for you might not be right for everyone, and might not even be right for you if you lived somewhere else. Just a thought.

            I was paying attention when FWD became common. People stopped using snow tires where I lived at the time as a result. That’s how much better they were in the snow. Things change. RWD cars are more likely to have even weight distribution, traction control and stability control now than they were 35 years ago. FWD cars are more likely to have 250+ hp, weigh 3,500+ lbs and have 225+ cross section tires. It isn’t like it was some marketing stunt that saw Saab popcorn poppers and Mini Coopers clean RWD cars’ clocks in snow rallies fifty years ago. FWD is inherently better in low traction conditions than RWD, combining most of the traction advantages of rear-engined, RWD cars with far better stability. I know many modern FWD cars are too compromised by non-existent ground clearance, wide tires, and excessive weight to be as unstoppable as the econoboxes of 30 years ago, but I also know what it’s like to go from driving a FWD Jetta to a RWD BMW in winter conditions. Was the BMW as good as the Jetta once it was fitted with Pirelli Winter tires? Maybe. Of course I never even thought about buying winter tires for the Jetta. It got everywhere easily with P44s.

            My parents live at the bottom of a steep cul de sac that doesn’t always get plowed within the first couple days after a major snowfall. Often their power is out during the same period. I’ve been unable to convince them to buy a generator, so it is a great comfort to me that they have a CUV that has driven up the hill through almost a foot of wet snow without difficulty or my father changing four wheels in a freezing driveway. Now they stay in a hotel when the power is out and the house is freezing. Works for me.

        • 0 avatar
          wmba

          The worst winter condition here in Nova Scotia is not a snowstorm or even just ice. No, it’s when there is 2 to 4 inches of snow and this combined with road salt turns the resultant sticky mess into a winter tire-cleat filling mixture. Happens often, and when it does, FWD cars are at a disadvantage compared to both RWD and AWD cars, even if they are all wearing winter tires.

          At such times, the front tires become merely cleatless round objects with virtually no grip. FWD cars sit there spinning their front wheels, and when they do eventually move, the steering is useless. Spent 15 years dealing with that – my Audi Coupe FWD couldn’t out accelerate a Mustang at stop lights. Then I got the same basic car with AWD, a Audi 4000 quattro. Absolute night and day difference. That car was amazing in all winter conditions. The front wheels might spin, but they cleared the snow out of the way for the rear wheels to bite on almost clear pavement.

          So I have always purchased AWD cars for the last 25 years. The worst in deep snow was a 99 Subaru automatic, which was as tail happy as a poster above describes in deep snow, especially on uphill corners, but you just back off, straighten out and boot it. In the greasy conditions I describe above, it was fine.

          At rush hour here in Halifax, in greasy conditions, I’ve seen FWD cars just unable to move from rest on uphill stop and go traffic. I’ve watched them understeer off the road on the curvy two laner I live on, and know the feeling – my FWD Audi Coupe did that too.

          On pure unplowed, not too deep snow, all drive configurations work fine. The snow compresses, the winter tires grab a bite, and off you go. But when the snow plow goes by, removes the snow, and adds salt together with continued snowfall, I’ll take AWD every time, thanks all the same.

          I must say, I do get a bit of a laugh from all the virtuoso drivers who post and boast here about how wonderful FWD or RWD is in true winter conditions. Perhaps they are fine where you live. Not here if you have an ounce of self-preservation and enthusiast blood in your veins. The scariest part of driving in winter is sharing the road with nincompoop drivers who think that FWD and winter tires is the ticket in certain kinds of bad weather. Those are what I see in the ditch, time after time. That’s what I see stuck on hills when all I need to do is release the brake pedal at idle to gently move from a stop then gradually add gas. I’ve almost forgotten what wheelspin is.

          And that’s the truth.

          • 0 avatar
            Summicron

            I’ve never seen anything more descriptive and accurate written about snow-diving.

            His scenario is truly the achilles heel of FWD. You *won’t* get up that hill.

          • 0 avatar
            johnny ro

            Good NS stub article.

            In NH what you see in ditches is large SUVs, they are on almost clear roads, are yelling at kids or watching TV or whatever, drift a few inches off center, run into a line of slush, and do the natural “hit the brakes and swing the wheel”panic and then over they go.

          • 0 avatar
            Landcrusher

            Johnny,
            I have never seen that in NH.

            Of course, I have never been there, but I will say my experience is just as valid as yours. OTOH, if you have some unbiased statistics showing a disproportionate amount of such accidents by SUV’s that might be interesting.

          • 0 avatar
            Carrera

            Amen to that brother. I live in Halifax as well and I have to be at work at 5 AM every day. My Ridgeline saved my butt many times. Also when I had to park uphill downtown to go see a show at the theater. Come out in two hours and the snow is 4-5 inches. Yeah, FWD or RWD good luck with that when the grade is 18-20% up hill.

          • 0 avatar
            johnny ro

            Sorry no stats, this is anecdotal and my anecdotes to boot.

            The memory is riding north on 95 from Boston to NH, then Rt 16 north. Its not anecdotal that they stay in Boston when its not snowing, to the snowy snow mountains’ great regret.

            There are some hills on Rt 16, SUV off to the side ridden up on the berm each winter.

            My memory is about 1-2 a winter. I don’t remember seeing small cars off to the side. This goes back 25 years.

          • 0 avatar
            el scotto

            @ johnny ro. No small cars off to the side? I call BS. Unless drivers of small cars where you live are above average in many ways. Including snow tires. Anecdotal evidence from driving my nurse gf to work in the Midwest and well, just about every D.C. metro snowstorm.

        • 0 avatar
          Skink

          You obviously have some strong feelings about this, Rhodes, but compared to life where I live in the upper Midwest, you’re quite detached from and ignorant of reality here.

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          Sometimes you don’t have a choice on when to drive.

          “I commuted from Yarmouth to Portland on I-295 for years, every snowstorm there would be a large number of vehicles in the ditch, 90% of them SUVs, Audis, and Subarus.”

          There’s a saying back home in Connecticut…I call bullshit.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      @krhodes, the new MQB production line in Puebla can handle AWD, and US market was one of the factors for that.

      Now, few people really *need* AWD, but then few people really *need* an SUV, or a convertible, or a V8, or a touch-screen system. If people want to pay for it, why not sell it to them?

      (In the interests of full disclosure: I have AWD. Not because I desperately need it, but because I enjoy driving with it in the Ontario winters.)

  • avatar
    Acd

    As long as they price it competitively this seems like a winner. I’m surprised other manufacturers haven’t copied Subaru’s Outback formula.

  • avatar
    buck-50

    Traded my Subaru in for a VW jetta sportwagon, AWD for front wheel drive. Here’s what I learned after an incredibly snowy wisconsin winter: AWD sucks. My Subaru was a high-strung handful. Understeer and oversteer at the same time in the snow and ice. 10 years I had the subaru and for ten years I believed that it was the best handling car I could have for wisconsin weather.

    Then I got the FWD jettawagon. It was… eye opening. in a way-above-average snowy winter, I felt like I needed AWD exactly once. Here’s what didn’t happen- at no time during the winter, going around a curve, did the back end of my FWD car decide that it wanted to get there first. Unlike the subaru. Also, this didn’t happen- at no time did the front wheels break loose, transferred power to the back wheels and sent me into a spin. Again, I had the Subie for 10 years. I knew how to drive it, but it was always a handful.

    Maybe if you live in the woods you need AWD. Maybe. But if you live in a city that actually plows the roads in a timely fashion, it’s stupid.

    That said, happy to see that there are definitely plans to continue selling the JSW in the USA.

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      I suspect the difference isn’t AWD vs FWD but the modern traction control vs poor or non existent traction control. Did your old subie even have traction control?

      • 0 avatar
        buck-50

        Nope. Even taking that into account, the Subie was highstrung, tail happy and AWD has been, so far, utterly un-needed.

        One thing I constantly found myself doing when I had AWD (and I suspect this is something many folks do) is seeing 8 or 10 inches of snow on the ground and suddenly manufacturing a need to go to the grocery store because “I know we already have a gallon of milk but what if we need more? I should totally go to the store right now and thank god I have AWD so I can make it there!” You find yourself looking for reasons to justify the crap-tastic gas mileage and extra cost.

        Without AWD, I relax, sit in the house drinking a nice cup of coffee, wait for the plows to come through and then realize there’s no earthly reason that I need to go to the store after all.

        I suspect that AWD encourages and rewards that kind of (and I hate to call it this because I did it all the time) stupid behavior.

        • 0 avatar
          grzydj

          I enjoy this kind of stupid behavior with my AWD Subaru, which is shod with winter tires for the snowy months. I always find a reason to go out and play in the snow and I have a great time doing it.

          My Forester handled the way you described your Outback handling, until proper snow tires were installed, which made all the difference in the world.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Waingrow

      Had a similar experience. Traded my 2009 Audi A4 Quattro for a 2012 VW Golf TDI. Not only do I like the Golf better, but I’d say it handles better than the Audi did in both Winter and Summer. I think AWD is overrated, and no question, deadens the steering.

    • 0 avatar
      wsn

      @buck-50:

      1) Seems that you don’t understand what AWD is for. It’s not for handling an icy curve. It’s for pulling out of deep snow and not getting stuck. Trust me, your Wisconsin winter isn’t that snowy at all. Even if it does snow, it melts quickly. FWIW, I live in Canada.

      2) It makes no sense to compare two cars 10 years apart. It could be the traction control, or the tire, or whatever. Did you try a brand new Outback vs. 10 year old Jetta? That will open your eyes too.

    • 0 avatar
      nickoo

      FWD with snow tires is all one needs. I lived through years of Maine winters and never had a problem in the old buick. Now, if it’s AWD vs RWD then of course the AWD wins.

  • avatar

    Outback’s success is not based on its body type, but rather mystique of Subaru as a scrappiest Japanese brand and a decent reliability (despite all that viscous coupling and boxer engine stuff). It’s like noticing that a supreme court judge drives a PT Cruiser and deciding that buying PT Cruiser would make you a supreme court judge. If WV want to follow Subaru, they need to work on building cars that are not disposable garbage instead of focusing on a specific body type or even AWD. Not that there’s anything wrong with AWD.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    “VW Weighing” is correct. The reason jacked up Subies, Audis and Volvos have sold well, is not because of their quasi-truck_yet-still-a-polite stationwagon appearance. It’s because a car that is jacked up three inches is a helluva lot easier for ingress/egress than a stardard car.

    That’s all there is too it. The challenge is “How do you jack up a car and make it look legit?” And that’s it. Body cladding, a faux bumper guard, a roof rack. Bingo. Car for plus-sized Americans.

    • 0 avatar
      Lorenzo

      You’re right about ease of entry, but it’s not just plus-sized. It’s about the trend in car design that hems in the driver and front passenger, and provides far too low rear seats to sit down normally. It’s not enough to have a big door, when the seats are so low and the elbow room tight, a raised car is needed for just about everybody to get in without resorting to body contortions.

      That’s especially important for the over-40 crowd, the kind of people who have money to buy cars. If it weren’t for needed aerodynamics to shave CAFE numbers, automakers might be making more models that are easier to get into and more comfortable to sit in. The real problem is government mandates warping the market.

  • avatar
    lon888

    Uh, hate to be Johnny Raincloud here, but i don’t think following Audi’s Allroad is such a good idea. Per goodcarbadcar.net, Audi sold a whopping 462 Allroads in July. Let’s check the competition – CR-V 27226, Highlander 10908, Pathfinder 8428. The possibility of only selling 6000 cars a YEAR seems very real. How’s about a re-think V-Dub?

    • 0 avatar
      moorewr

      The A4 Avant was selling poorly, which explains why they dropped it for the allroad, but I think they misjudged their market. For the US market the A6 & S6 Avant probably make more sense.. still only 5000 sales, but more profit per car.

    • 0 avatar
      th009

      Somehow I don’t think the Allroad is competing with a CR-V. Are you also comparing 5-series sales numbers to the Accord?

  • avatar
    moorewr

    Your headline confused me, since in Europe the Jetta SportWagen is the Golf Variant. That left me with the Golf Variant Variant.

    If the result is anything like the Passat Alltrack, it’s a bad idea. The alltrack is a seriously limited soft-roader, like the Audi A4 allroad, priced way above where it could sell in our market.

    Incidentally, I missed out on a real good bet.. I should have started a business to lower A4 allroads and replace the cladding with body-color trim (ie, turn them back into Avants).

  • avatar
    bludragon

    Isn’t the Outback a class bigger than the Jetta? So really a 4wd Jetta sportwagon would be competing with the XV Crosstrek, or in other words, the jacked up Impreza, only it would have an extended ‘estate’ posterior rather than the Impreza/Crosstrek hatchback and so would have more cargo volume with the same cabin volume. So not really directly competing with Subaru at all then…

    • 0 avatar
      moorewr

      Here’s VW’s problem – they’d be selling a Crosstek-sized vehicle at Outback prices. It might work in Europe but it will be a touch sell in our market.

    • 0 avatar
      Skink

      Blud: No, the Impreza-based Crosstrek is a smaller car, tighter inside, compared to the Jetta wagon. With its 8.7″ ground clearance a much greater space, the Forester would be a much closer match to this mythical Jetta AWD wagon.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Subarus are the goto choice for many who live in the snow belt, closely followed by AWD volvo wagons. I don’t think VW is going to be able to carve out a niche, rather they will just be taking sales away from their more profitable Audi AWD wagons.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Uh no, real 4WD trucks and SUVs are the choice for many who live in the snow belt. Sipping coffee, heated seats, watching the econoboxes slip sliding away. Both these vehicles are more ghastly than socks with sandals to me. Go large or stay home.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      There might be some truth to that, but in snowstorms I see at least as many full-size 4X4 SUVs and pickups off in the snow-covered weeds or sitting on their door panels as I do econoboxes. Driven by people who have badly overestimated their tank’s abilities. They went large but they should have stayed home…

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I think Subaru’s sales of the Outback have more to do with its reputation (and not because people really like wagons). Call me the Devil’s Advocate or whatever, but I think Volkswagen should just go ahead and release that Passat crossover, and call it a day.


Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Subscribe without commenting

Recent Comments

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Staff

  • Authors

  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Marcelo De Vasconcellos, Brazil
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • J & J Sutherland, Canada
  • Tycho de Feyter, China
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, Abu Dhabi
  • Mark Stevenson, Canada
  • Faisal Ali Khan, India