By on December 22, 2016

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack – Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack SEL

1.8-liter I4, DOHC, turbocharged (170 horsepower @ 4,500 rpm; 199 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm)

Six-speed dual-clutch automatic, all-wheel drive

22 city / 30 highway / 25 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

10.6 city/ 8.0 highway/ 9.4 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

31.0 mpg [7.6 L/100 km] (Observed)

Base Price: $26,770 (U.S) / $37,020 (Canada)

As Tested: $35,705 (U.S.) / $39,940 (Canada)

Prices include $820 destination charge in the United States and $1,725 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada.

If only I’d thought ahead.

If only a day earlier I had instructed the Department of Transportation to position cameras across the length and breadth of Nova Scotia and installed a few in-car GoPros, I could have sold footage from our first full day in the 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack to Volkswagen for the prototypical all-wheel-drive commercial.

Bitterly cold temperatures had made the snow-clearing efforts from the Friday before a hit and miss affair. Our 150-minute drive from the Atlantic coast, in Eastern Passage, to the Fundy coast, in Cornwallis, turned into a 200-minute drive because of messy roads throughout the Annapolis Valley.

That was only the beginning. The next low began to pass through just after the noon hour, and by the time our 4 p.m. departure time rolled around, we knew we were in for a long drive home. With the confidence inspiring, brand-new Continental WinterContacts at all four driven wheels, we steeled ourselves for what would become a 270-minute drive home.

Four Cains, fast-falling snow, freakishly heavy traffic: this calls for extra ride height. Just a very little bit of extra ride height.

ON TRACK
We managed to stay on the straight and narrow. The Contis may not have the most tenacious winter bite, but they’re fine winter tires and do a noteworthy job of replicating conventional all-seasons in dry conditions. Volkswagen’s Haldex 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is reactive, not always-on as in a Subaru Outback.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack fishing boats - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

Consider this scenario. The roads are covered in unplowed snow. You’re at a stop sign, perched on the side of a hill, intending to turn left, heading farther up a steep slope. As you pull away, that momentary, subtle lapse in front-wheel traction is overcome as power heads rearward. But as you turn left, you dip into the power a little more and suddenly you’re into power oversteer as the Golf attempts to figure out what you’re doing, where you’re going, and where to send power. Another moment later, all is well. Your friend in a front-wheel-drive Rogue on winter tires makes slightly slower progress with less flair, the winter-tired Outback makes similarly quick progress with slightly less drama, the Mustang on all-seasons turns around, the 328i with winter rubber has the most fun.

But last Saturday’s scenario isn’t an everyday occurrence. On a normal day, the Golf Alltrack does a spot-on impression of a Golf SportWagen. The 1.8-liter turbo is not waylaid by the 4Motion’s extra weight. The marginally elevated ride height wouldn’t be noticeable if you could drive the pair back-to-back while blindfolded. The slight elevation does not allow you to sit up high and look down upon Jetta-driving plebes.

There are two key differences. The Alltrack isn’t fitted with the regular front-wheel-drive Golf’s six-speed automatic but rather Volkswagen’s superb dual-clutch gearbox. Shifts are smooth enough to be imperceptible yet quick enough to impress. Second, the Alltrack’s increased height isn’t noticeable until you exit the car, which is low enough to require a climb up and out but high enough for a step over and down. It was the biggest complaint Mrs. Cain, a lifelong Volkswagen fan, had with the Alltrack.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack offroad - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

In all other accounts, however, this is little more than a typical wagonized Golf. Engaging handling, quick steering, torquey turbo, exceptional ride quality, a quiet cabin, comfortable front seats, high perceived levels of build quality — all present and accounted for.

Tight rear legroom, diesely engine sounds, too many signs of yestertech, jarring price tag? Also glaringly obvious.

INFOUNENTERTAINMENT
Not only does Volkswagen’s infotainment cluster (which can be overridden by plugging in for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto) appear graphically ancient and operate like the phone you had before your first smartphone, it hardly worked in this test car. I’ve driven a large number of Volkswagens with these unfortunately antiquated touchscreens, but at least they always worked.

The first sign of trouble in this Alltrack came when the system froze up but continued to play SiriusXM’s NHL Network. The touchscreen wouldn’t work; the tuning knob and volume knob and quick access buttons didn’t work. The screen continued to display and play but was unresponsive for roughly five minutes. It then turned off on its own and, after a delay, booted up of its own accord. Slowly.

Then came the buggy navigation system. “Checking navigation data … ” the Alltrack’s nav screen said. It was still checking half an hour later and has not stopped checking since. Fortunately, other menus were working during this unnavigable period. Sort of. The screen kept turning off, taking audio with it, and turning back on a couple of minutes later to MSNBC. Okay, I’ll confess to some Morning Joe fondness. But ‘tis the season for Holiday Classics and Country Christmas, no?

Paging Puebla, warning Wolfsburg: this is one cruel pre-Christmas hoax.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack SEL interior - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

(I took the Golf Alltrack to our local Volkswagen dealer for what would hopefully be a quick fix. A return to factory settings initially seemed hopeful, but the system couldn’t actually remain healthy long enough for factory settings to be restored. Exhaustive threads at VWVortex, VWGolf.net.au, Piston Heads, and GolfMK7.com make very clear the frequency with which similar problems appear in MIB II systems.)

OUTBACK OUTFRONT
A malfunctioning infotainment unit would be an embarrassment to a Volkswagen sales consultant during a test drive, but it’s more likely to be the kind of situation not discovered until after an Alltrack owner takes possession. This specific Alltrack has around 6,000 miles under its belt.

More obvious to the prospective Golf Alltrack buyer ahead of the purchasing decision will be the obvious comparison with the larger but similarly priced Subaru Outback, a tall wagon that’s generated record U.S. monthly sales output since the Golf Alltrack’s arrival in America.

17-percent more cargo capacity behind the rear seats, 10-percent more with the seats folded, 11-percent more passenger volume, 2.5 additional inches of rear legroom, and 3.4 additional inches of rear shoulder room set the Outback apart, particularly since the real-world space gap feels larger in every aspect than the specs suggest. The Outback’s truly SUV-like 8.7 inches of ground clearance allows the Subaru to stand head and shoulders above the Alltrack, too, which Volkswagen says provides 6.9 inches of clearance.

Maxed out with Alltrack SEL-matching equipment — leather, sunroof, navigation, lane keep assist, adaptive cruise, auto high beams — the $36,870 Outback 2.5i Touring also adds a power tailgate, a heated steering wheel, and heated rear seats.

Of course, size and features aren’t the only factors.

The Golf Alltrack is the kind of car that urges you to drive faster, that constantly showcases its ability to hustle down a twisty road, that possesses a transmission and a Sport mode seemingly designed to egg you on.

The Outback is the bigger car, sure, but it’s far more comfort-oriented, far less engaging to drive, significantly less eager off the line, and distinctly less nimble.

Jacked-up wagons with all-wheel drive and cladding, they both may be. But these two vehicles represent strikingly different approaches. The fact one finds nearly 14,000 American buyers per month while the other, still slowly ramping up, has yet to top four digits in a given month does not mean you have to follow the masses.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack front - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

ALLPAY
The masses may prefer to spend less than $35,705 on a compact wagon. And they can. Golf Alltrack pricing starts below $28,000. All-wheel-drive Golf SportWagens, also new for 2017, start at $25,750. Next year’s availability of a manual transmission will lower both MSRPs. (Don’t look forward to a TDI.)

As features are added, however, Volkswagen’s high opinion of itself becomes more obvious and the Golf’s compact dimensions are less easily counterbalanced by its exemplary on-road behavior. And when those features, such as a navigation system that doesn’t navigate, are rendered useless; and when one rear-facing Graco Snugride and one front-facing Diono Radian push two front occupants forward, the thrill of driving quickly evaporates.

Then you’re just spending a couple of extra hours driving in the snow with the steering wheel too close to your chest, intermittently listening to Tamron Hall instead of Deck The Halls.

Bah humbug.

[Images: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars]

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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87 Comments on “2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Review – Alltrack Is On Track But Can’t Find The Next Track...”


  • avatar
    WalterRohrl

    There should be a Passat wagon and then there should also be a Passat AllTrack. Except for the infotainment system issues which are not acceptable, all others issues are solved.

    Also, based on my understanding from you and Mark, your delivery guy, Gary, drives quite a distance to deliver these cars to you. I assume he has seen this particular car before. If he has noticed these infotainment glitches during his drives, the media distributor that handles this car should have it corrected and/or replaced. It is worthless to VW to give you a car and then have you explain to the readership how vital components are not functioning correctly. I want to like this car, but if the nav and infotainment have constant issues on your TEST car, then why would I want to possibly go through that on one that I would be paying $30k+ for?

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      We had the car for more than 48 hours before we began to notice issues. Who’s to say anybody who ever drove the car before me noticed anything?

      As for the distance, drives between people who receive these cars on the east coast can be as short as 5-10 minutes.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    Well VW should have fixed the damm Screen w 6,000 miles on it I am sure your not the first to have this issue, a black eye for VW for sure at a time when they do not need it, I am one who sees very little need for a and wagon and I live in metro NY and travel to New England and GTA for work but I have snow tires that go on my TDI wagon, I am not a outback fan for the same reason, I test drove the golf wagon and was disappointed w it as a replacement for mt TDI wagon, they lack of the DSG tranny in the Golf front wheel drive wagon vs the DSG in my TDI wagon was a major minus. I think VW will do ok with sales as there are plenty of folks who want a wagon and most see the outback as more of a suv and just bigger. I think the VW is better on fuel as well.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      Why are you sure?

      • 0 avatar
        seth1065

        For a lot a vw drivers the outback is just to big and to high, my TDI wagon works space wise great, I drove my friends outback and to big, also you can get a Golf wagon w a stick witch is a plus as the TDI wagon and golf wagon stick take was pretty high, plenty of folks are trading in the TDI wagons and if the deals are right will default into a golf wagon or a all track, I am not one of those as I have no need for a alltarck but they are plenty of VW fans who will.

        • 0 avatar
          Trane_Engineer

          I’m taking the cash and giving back an absolute piece of garbage that VW sold to me. The host of electrical and drivetrain problems is unacceptable. The manual transmission is the worst I’ve ever driven. I do not know why anyone who does their own maintenance would by a VW. I do not have a good word to say about VW.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    Volkswagen’s mistake is in positioning this against the Outback.

    It is an Impreza competitor in size and should be sold as such.

    The Passat Alltrak would be the Outback competitor, and that won’t be here until closer to 2019 at the earliest.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The Golf wagon doesn’t compete well with the Impreza either. It has more cargo capacity and far more power than an Impreza, with a more upscale feel and price. The VW is an odd in-betweener which is probably going to make conquest sales difficult even before Subaru loyalty and popularity are factored in.

      • 0 avatar
        whynot

        Yes, Subaru’s AWD and price competitiveness (Crosstrek is about same price as regular Golf Sportswagen) comes at a cost- namely material quality and power. The Subaru being “gutless” is an extremely common complaint, you will never hear that about the Golf. VW could drop a less powerful base engine in their US golf lineup and still be competitive with everyone.

        The AWD, and the reputation Subaru has built around it, is a huge selling point however, so hard for VW to compete while working with their more European focused lineup.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          OTOH, I’ve driven an Outback Limited with the 3.7, and the interior quality is great – and it’s zippy.

          Last I priced, they were barely more expensive than this thing.

          The only negative would naturally be fuel economy.

          • 0 avatar
            30-mile fetch

            Depends on how you option it. The VW is $27K to start and you get a solid amount of standard features. A similar feature set can be found in a $27K 2.5 Premium Outback but then you are stuck with that powertrain. 3.6R Outbacks start at $36K.

            I’d personally have a hard time cross shopping these two; at the $27K price point I like the VW, at the $36K level I’d prefer the Subaru.

        • 0 avatar
          mshenzi

          I just drove a 2017 Impreza 5 door a few days ago, shopping to replace a TDI Golf. Yes, noticeably less power in the Subaru, but the new Impreza significantly closes the refinement gap in solidity, handling, and interior qualities. It maxes out around $27K (USD) with all the bells and whistles– plus the greater likelihood that they’ll ring and toot when they’re supposed to.

          • 0 avatar
            midwestTDI

            Must agree. Didn’t think I would step outside of the VW lineup but have placed an order for the 2017 Subaru Impreza Sport. Very solid feel and may take some time getting use to the CVT (7 steps). The DSG in my TDI is great and very responsive but the Subaru edged out the VW GTI by $2000 + AWD + better mileage.

            Now had I picked up the phone when the VW dealer called before the end of year, I maybe sitting in a GTI Sport, but was busy at the Subaru dealer, LOL. VW came back with 17% offer on the GTI Sport.. NICE!! But again, still $2000 more than an AWD Subie Impreza Sport 5-door + all the bells and whistles (for just over $25k).

            Worse that can happen? Pay the Subie off and start the process again. I did like the Jaguar XE, but couldn’t see putting a hitch and my bike rack on such a nice car.

      • 0 avatar
        hreardon

        I’m going for the class comparison: Impreza and Golf are more likely to be cross-shopped than Golf and Outback.

        When talking about ‘core customers’ – the Subaru enthusiast would not buy a Golf or Passat just as a VW enthusiast would not purchase the Subie. Subaru has greatly broadened its market appeal, and those “nouveau-customers” are going to be more likely to consider the competition.

        • 0 avatar
          whynot

          Look at the price of these things.

          The Golf Alltrack and Outback are very similar in price; the Alltrack is much more expensive than the Crosstrek (Impreza). I think there would be more cross-shopping between the Golf and Outback among “casual” customers than you think.

          • 0 avatar
            heavy handle

            The competition for both the Outback and Alltrack are the millions of nearly-identical grey crossovers found in every parking lot in America.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          A more-natural comparison would be Subaru’s Levorg (Impreza wagon); unfortunately it isn’t sold here.

        • 0 avatar
          midwestTDI

          Can’t disagree but I am giving Subaru a shot. Still wanted to get the best mpg for the money, so with the 2017 Subaru Impreza Sport – new platform – loaded up and a group of sales people easier to work with than my VW Dealer, the Subie arrives in early February.

          What I would have preferred would be to find a 2015/2016 VW Golf TDI w/the recent fix, but just need the TDI process to end.

      • 0 avatar
        Stevo

        I tend to think the size of the Golf wagon is a sweet spot for those such as I that park in urban high rise garages, either as a residence or for work. The bloating width of cars (more shoulder room!) for the twice a year 5 passenger trip to lunch is not a benefit in (every) buildings with narrow parking stalls.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Volkswagen embarrasses themselves again. Not to the level of the TDI debacle, certainly, but whoever is responsible for the radio needs a new job.

    Also, the guy who’s responsible for maintaining the press fleet.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      The issues began to appear more than 48 hours after we received the car. There’s no telling who had ever noticed a glitch before or what kind of glitch they may or may not have witnessed.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      I seem to remember reading about infotainment glitches and problems across a wide range of vehicles during reviews. I don’t think VW is alone in this.

      • 0 avatar
        Timothy Cain

        VW is not alone in this.

        But of the dozens and dozens of new vehicles I’ve driven over the last few years, this was by far the worst encounter (I’ve personally had) with a glitchy system. Nothing else compares.

        • 0 avatar
          hreardon

          I’ll be the blatant apologist: My 2016 GTI is a year old last month and the only infotainment and nav issues I’ve had are the once in a blue moon need to reboot the unit by holding down the power button for 10 seconds.

          Still, stupid issue that’s flat out unacceptable, especially when one is trying to rebuild consumer confidence.

          • 0 avatar
            KevinC

            My ’16 Golf R has been flawless too. The ’17 models seem to be having tons of problems, particularly centered around nav & the SD card reader hardware. VW uses several suppliers to build the MIB2 units, perhaps a single one of them is having QC issues.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        The system is working fine… it detected it was in Canada and tuned to the NHL accordingly.

        I really fear the long term issues with these touchscreens and displays. Losing the radio or nav is bad but when your A/C and other more critical system require them its going to turn a perfectly good car into a worthless metal box. Most of these screens have no user serviceable parts, so you’ll have no choice but to pay a dealer for a new unit or pray the local junkyard has a similar model. I took one look at new Audis that have a fully digital dash and began to shake in fear.

        • 0 avatar
          whynot

          Fortunately the touchscreen/display and actual critical “black box” of the system are two separate things. Granted I imagine a replacement for either is still expensive, but we are the point where touchscreens and displays are pretty reliable in consumer products.

          VW fortunately doesn’t run the A/C through the touchscreen unless that changed with the MIB II.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            They don’t. On most Volkswagens, the infotainment system is plugged into the A/C computer, but the A/C computer is a wholly-separate entity, and doesn’t even rely on the infotainment system to display crucial information. This seems to be because—through 2015—VW was using networked double-din standalone infotainment systems and radios in its cars. The only instance I know of where crucial A/C and car functions were solely controlled through the infotainment system on a modern-ish VW is the weird-ass system in the Phaeton.

            This is compared to my friend’s 2013 Fusion Energi, whose MyFord Touch system glitched out and refused to kick on the heat until we disconnected the lead-acid battery in the trunk and hard-reset it.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            Kyree,

            If your friend still has the car there’s a update for the FICM software to address climate control freak outs like that.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            I meant FCIM, not FICM.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            He does, and I think they did perform that update.

        • 0 avatar
          Sigivald

          Screens tend to last.

          If the underlying logic board is half decently made it’ll last at least 20 years and 300kmi, which is all one can reasonably ask.

          (Plus, look at the aftermarket for replacement “expensive bits” for German cars.

          Any popular system will have a 3rd party replacement option, I imagine.

          See previous articles here about how every previous wave of “them electronics will kill all our new cars prematurely!” hasn’t turned out.)

  • avatar
    Click REPLY to reload page

    If VW wants to charge such a premium price, then the cars need to hold up their end of the bargain.
    Any auto company would be proud of the driveability, but even Daewoo would be embarrassed by the lack of quality control.

  • avatar
    Wunsch

    The thing that puzzles me is that you can get AWD on the lower two trims of the Golf SportWagen, but it’s not available on the Highline. If you want a fully loaded wagon with AWD, you have to take the higher ride height and cladding of the Alltrack. That seems bizarre.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      In the US the 4motion is only available on the S (lowest trim) of the regular sportswagen. It makes sense though, when you move up to the SE/SEL you are moving into Alltrack pricing territory anyways, and some cladding and slight additional ride height is not going to be a dealbreaker for most people.

      Offtering the 4motion on the regular sportswagen is just to offer a lower price AWD wagon for those who want/need it but don’t want to/can’t stretch up to the Alltrack’s price.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, but forced to choose, I’d readily spend the extra money and buy the Subaru – boxer engine, CVT, and all.

    At this point, VW cannot afford to produce cars that aren’t *perfect*.

  • avatar
    brettc

    Wow. Sounds like this could be a 2017 most disappointing car contender. Things like a locked up radio are kind of inexcusable. Looks like it’s a widespread problem though, which is worse than an isolated incident.

    I was somewhat considering a 4Motion Sportwagen S if I do stick with VW for some reason, but this Alltrack review isn’t confidence inspiring.

  • avatar
    Turbo Is Black Magic

    Once these hit around 50% depreciation I am so dropping in a Golf R engine/ trans, which in current times is probably 14 months from now… Thanks Dieselgate!

  • avatar
    philadlj

    The Alltrack’s “Soon To Be…Everywhere” slogan is awkward and lame…but it’s a fine-looking vehicle; not to overwrought. Too bad about the electronic gremlins in the satnav.

  • avatar

    I’ve had my Golf for almost six months and 11,000 miles, so far the interface has worked just fine. And, I find it far more user friendly than the one in my former Honda. I’m guessing this one was just an oddball…

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Yeah, probably. NA-market 2015 Golfs (like mine) came with the MIB I system, which is even more antiquated than MIB II; however mine generally behaves. I may deal with a glitch once in a blue moon.

      Then, for 2016, VW put MIB II across the entire range, except the Touareg, which uses the same RNS-850 system as certain Porsche and Bentley models.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    Very clean attractive exterior on this photo sample, unfortunately the black pit of doom interior.

    I’m considering stopping by one of the (two! new this year in town) VW dealers and dropping off my name. Maybe by August 2017 when I need a car they will be begging customers to take one.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I was at the dealership yesterday because my Golf SportWagen TDI seems to lose enough coolant to trigger the warning light every three months (but I never smell anything burning), so I had them do a pressure test on the coolant system. While I was in the showroom, the owner of the dealership came up to me and started asking questions, and made sure to let me know ten or eleven times that I had, at least through the end of the year, about $4000 in owner-loyalty rebates toward a new VW with the whole TDI thing. He also tried to explain all the features of the ’17 Passat when I appeared mildly interested in it. And then one of his employees just begged me to trade my car in right now on the CPO Tiguan R-Line in the showroom. I happen to thoroughly dislike the current Tiguan.

      I just politely took both their business card and said “thank you.” I think the VW dealers are definitely desperate, and it’s sad because it’s not their fault they’re saddled with non-compliant and / or slow-selling products.

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        Kyree,

        This week and the next are usually the worse weeks of the year for any brand. I’m sure the Hyundai dealership next door would have been just as desperate.

        The flip side to that is that it’s a great time to buy.

      • 0 avatar
        mshenzi

        Wait, what? I haven’t heard a peep from either VWoA or my local dealer about owner loyalty rebates…

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Wait, so there’s the AWD-only Golf Alltrack *and* an AWD version of the regular Golf SportWagen? Interesting. Other than the fact that the Golf SportWagen no longer offers the DSG (it was only available with the TDI models), while this Alltrack *does* have the DSG…I see no reason why you wouldn’t pick the Golf SportWagen.

    A warning about the DSG…evidently you can’t tow with it. I checked the owner’s manual in my Golf SportWagen TDI to see what the maximum tow-rating was, and it expressly forbid towing anything using cars equipped with the DSG. You’d have to get the manual transmission if you wanted to tow.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Yes, towing with the DSG is not allowed due to “technical reasons”. Meanwhile in Europe, towing with the DSG is fine.

    • 0 avatar
      Ennis

      Sportwagen version with 4motion, only available in the base S version, does have the DSG, as well as 16-inch wheels and heated seats, all of which are upgrades from the S without 4motion. Also supposedly will have a 6-speed when available versus the 5-speed. Was thinking about this trim when my 13 Golf TDI goes back.

      • 0 avatar
        cimarron typeR

        I’d have to opt for the 6spd in either if I were in the market. DSG fluid changes +haldex fluid maint. every 40k can be expensive, even at indp. VAG shop.Lest damage occur to your Mechanatronic(absolutely coolest part name in autodom)

  • avatar
    rev0lver

    Tim, you didn’t by chance stop by the Grand Pre winery on Monday? I said hello to a man in the parking lot driving this exact car.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    THe VW will be great fun to drive for the first two years and then drive the owner to distraction. The Subaru will be a dull but faithful steed.

    In ten years the Subaru will have its original owner and be worth twice as much as the Alltrack, which will be on its 3rd, unhappy owner.

    • 0 avatar
      Carter Johnson

      I may be in the minority of comments here that have both owned a Volkswagen wagon and a Subaru Outback.

      I’m consistently surprised by how Subaru has maintained its reputation as a reliable mode of transportation. On our 2006 Outback, we suffered head gaskets, failed wheel bearings, driveshaft boots, and many other niggles on a regular basis. We were the original owners. The car was impeccably maintained.

      It was crap to drive unless it was snowing. Mid-corner bumps were enough to change lanes. The automatic climate control sporadically shut off. The automatic transmission never knew which gear to be in. Acceleration was laxidazocal at best, fuel economy wasn’t great. The shape tapered quite a bit so while it was “large”, it had surprisingly little space inside. The materials held up well, but it was FULL of squeaks and rattles at 90k. And, most troubling of all, even on really good snow tires, it would refuse to stop at low speeds, going into a full ABS frenzy while shedding no motion.

      My story is not atypical. Newer models have a class action lawsuit against Subaru for oil consumption and motor destruction. But you rarely hear about this, only how bad VWs are.

      Well, my Volkswagen Passat has been dead nuts reliable. I’m on my second one – both were used. I bought the current one from the original owner who loved it to death. I love it, too. It’s great to drive, pretty comfortable (though the seats lack lower back support). It has more usable space than the Outback did. It gets better mileage. The brakes actually work, as and when you turn the steering wheel it goes where you want it to (unlike the Sub). When you press the throttle it goes. Sure, it wasn’t all-wheel drive, and the interior of the B5, even when refreshed, was really dated by 2002 compared to the 06 outback, but it has less speaks and rattles despite more miles.

      When it came time to choose between which was to go, the Outback went before the Passat. It was a great car at one specific thing – going in snow. It wasn’t very good at a lot more, and for its reputation, it acted a lot more like what everyone claims my Passat should be acting like.

      Just my actual, real world experience owning both at the same time.

      • 0 avatar
        Carter Johnson

        As a side note, before 10 years the residual value completely fell out of the Outback. It’s not hard to find them cheaply anymore, another misnomer of the brand. The headgasket issues have really devalued the 05-09s.

      • 0 avatar
        thornmark

        Someone has to be happy w/ VW’s because they are still here*. As for Subaru, they are here and thriving – the antipodes of VW’s situation – a growing client base w/ no doubt some unhappy former customers.

        * I suspect that since the 1970’s the VW part of VW America has been a huge financial drain on the mothership, currently buoyed by the relative brilliance of Audi and Porsche.

      • 0 avatar
        RedRocket

        “I’m consistently surprised by how Subaru has maintained its reputation as a reliable mode of transportation.”

        That’s because it is a cult. They are not necessarily rational.

        Subies are tinny, flimsy-feeling cars that are both poorly built and designed. Their engines have the distinction of being both agricultural and unreliable. And “styling” is at best theoretical.

        Yet they are wildly popular at the moment. So were Smart cars at one point.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      True, VW owner satisfaction isn’t tops. Wondering if you saw the Acura satisfaction survey article today, because you were conspicuously absent from that one. I’m not sure I’m interpreting the results correctly, so perhaps you can clarify for me if 64% is more than 58%.

  • avatar
    Alfisti

    I will never understand small wagons. If you need a wagon you likely have a family and the second you put a child seat in you realize this and the a4 avant and the 328 wagon etc are all too damned small.

    We have a 9-3 wagon and whilst the boot is larger than the vehicles mentioned above, the back seat room is still a massive issue with kids aged 5 and 1. We were forced to get something larger and now the 9-3 is the second rather than primary vehicle.

    Speaking of boot space, we considered the goldf when buying the 9-3 but damn that boot, too small forget cubic feet fora second the square footage is miserable.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      The 328 and A4 are tighter, but you keep underselling the capacity of the VW wagon here and I don’t get it. I carted twins in carseats from age 0-4 in my Jetta Sportwagen. I’m six feet tall and didn’t have to alter my driving position at all to accommodate even the rear-facing infant seats, and the legroom figure is within an inch of your 9-3.

      At 33 cubic feet the cargo area was incredibly useful–I literally have no idea what you are talking about on that one because that car was used to haul a lot of stuff, seats up. This summer our family of four used that car for a two week road trip and, while full, it carted it all and provided great seat comfort and road manners.

      Fantastically well-rounded and useful car. You might have more trouble if you’re 6’2″.

    • 0 avatar
      Stevo

      If you have three or more kids you already have a minivan. A wagon is a good second or third vehicle when you need to take the dogs somewhere but don’t have the van.

    • 0 avatar
      bortlicenseplate

      Though it seems so obvious to me, as a wagon owner, perhaps it isn’t: there is a healthy subset of wagon-lovers, who aren’t family people, but who do a lot of activities that favour the versatility of a long-roof.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        That would be me. I’m single (although not for long, by the looks of it) and have no kids. My dog is very small. But I regularly pick up items that are well-suited to my Golf SportWagen; plus I just like the way it looks.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          And me three. I find sedans to be completely pointless – why not have the extra cargo room and accessibility? Especially now that all sedans must have swoopy rooflines that make them that much more useless. And I too generally find the long-roof to be more attractive.

          Jacking the car up and adding cladding is a complete deal breaker for me though.

      • 0 avatar
        palincss

        Yes, the Jetta Sportwagen was very popular with bicyclists. It’s big enough inside to put in a bicycle with all wheels on while still being a sporty, compact ride. I have one, and when I take advantage of the buy-back will probably get an Alltrack – for the DSG and the sunroof – although I have no use for SUV cladding and raised ride height. As for the Subaru: it’s huge, a bloated whale as far as I’m concerned. It’s much, much too large outside and sits far too high up in the air for me.

    • 0 avatar
      smartascii

      Small wagons usually have the same amount of rear seat room as their sedan counterparts, no? It’s just got a hatch instead of a trunk (or boot, as you prefer). And at least in this country (USA), I don’t think there are any larger wagons for sale anymore, except the E-Class Mercedes (price!); all the rest of the larger-body wagons come with plastic cladding and jacked up suspension. What actually doesn’t make any sense *to me* is that the vast majority of people who go to Costco twice a year think they need an extra 3-6″ of ground clearance and AWD (with the worse handling and fuel efficiency that comes with that) just so they can get a more usefully-shaped cargo area.

  • avatar
    DonInYYC

    For $36K, can’t I get a two-year old Audi Allroad or Q5 and get real cream in my coffee?

  • avatar
    SoCalMikester

    i just love that license plate. its like a kennedy cursing.

  • avatar
    sailwa66

    Being a reluctant shopper in the segment at the moment, zie Alltrack seems to hit my tingly spot.

    Needs: 5-door wagon/crossdresser/mall-UV, 30-ish MPG, similar interior square acreage to my 02 Xterra, manual trans, and looooong-term mechanical reliability (the X is pushing 200k and has never let me down).

    Wants: Something with a bit of fizz, and AWD (Michigander here)

    The Crosstrek is just too teeny; I, in fact, use all the cargo room in the X more often than not.
    The Outback is just painfully boring to drive, slow, and doesn’t offer a manual.
    The Mazda CX-5 has the fizz, but is only FWD (with a manual trans), and also a little small-ish.

    Annnd… nothing else has a third pedal.

    Now, I’m no VW fanboy, but all three I’ve had in the past (82 Pickup, 87 Scirocco 16V, 97 Jetta) rolled well past 200k with great mechanical reliability, and the Scirocco in particular was an absolute hoot to hoon. Biggest gripe? Abysmal plastics: the US-made Pickup and in particular the Mexican-made Jetta had the cheapest plastics known to mankind… Every single poly-part stapled or glued onto that car broke. Every. Single. One.

    The Alltrack seems to pet most of my peeves, Veedub’s more-recent interiors look/feel/rub better than anything from both the Orient and Indiana, its AWD system holds up fine to the torture of the snarky Golf R with almost double the horsies, and can be a grin to toss a bit: oversteer=gooder. I, for one apparently, couldn’t give a rat’s shiney hiney about the absurdly-overhyped driver distraction box in the middle of the dash.

    And hallelujah, it’s about bloody time someone offered the option of a non-black interior that is dark enough to be dog/vomit/muddy boot tolerant, in a vehicle class marketed to us dirty types.

  • avatar
    JBF

    Timothy Cain needs to give up automotive journalism…sad analysis

    First off, VW 6.5″ Media center works great, both touch and gesture control are accurate and responsive and feature functionality with android auto is good for price class of car. You reference forums (MK7) two pages deep where a few minor complaints have been logged by 5 posters…big problems VW….any auto company would claim that as a win for modern media centers. I think you are confused by the way, you must be referencing the Subaru Outback Limited Media Center, I own a 2016 Limited, which seems like it was designed a decade ago.

    Then taking the Golf Alltrack down a notch for its size versus Outback says it all – you are the target market for CUVs..this means you drive 90% of your miles alone, 5% shuttling your kits to school because they can’t walk 3 blocks or its above 77 degrees, ….so yes Alltrack is way to small for you ….go buy a vehicle for 1% of your driving needs…

  • avatar
    MrF

    I appreciate your comments about “reactive” all wheel drive. As a former New Englander, I have long wondered about the benefit of AWD systems that engage only sporadically. The vehicles I had in mind were CR-Vs but there are obviously others like this VW. It seems to me that engagement “upon detecting traction loss, slippage” etc. would contribute to initial traction or avoiding getting stuck but little else. On the road performance would basically be front wheel drive. (You do suggest one exception, triggered when the system engages, which may or may not be beneficial.) On the other hand, I am under the impression that more fully engaged systems such as Subaru and presumably Audi, etc. may contribute somewhat to handling and roadholding. Any insights will be appreciated.

  • avatar
    TDIGuy

    VW’s website does have the Alltrack available to compare, but my local showroom does have both the Alltrack and a loaded 4motion wagon. Looking at the window stickers I don’t see much difference.

    So what’s the difference? Besides $2000 in the price for a little bit of lift and some wheel arches, I mean?

    • 0 avatar
      TDIGuy

      Note typo above, I meant VW’s website does *not* have the Alltrack as a compare option and the US site apparently only lets you compare trim levels.

      Other than that, what is this “off-road monitor” I see mentioned on the website?


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