By on September 12, 2016

2015 Volkswagen Golfs, Image: Volkswagen

Volkswagen is heavily considering adding an all-wheel-drive variant of the Golf hatchback to its North American lineup, TTAC learned during the media launch for the all-new Volkswagen Alltrack, itself an all-wheel-drive version of the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen.

Dr. Hendrik Muth, vice-president of product marketing and strategy, explained the addition of 4Motion production to Volkswagen’s Puebla manufacturing facility in Mexico has opened up more possibilities, including the addition of all-wheel drive to the standard Golf hatchback.

“All-wheel drive is now part of the Volkswagen DNA,” Muth said at the Alltrack launch event. When asked if an all-wheel drive version of the Golf is being considered above all other possibilities, Muth answered in the affirmative: “Yes.”

Volkswagen’s focus on all-wheel drive is aimed directly at Subaru, which has been incredibly successful at promoting all-wheel drive across its lineup. Subaru currently has the lowest incentive spend per sale in the industry.

Volkswagen’s newest all-wheel-drive model, the Alltrack, will launch in October.

[Image: Volkswagen]

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67 Comments on “Volkswagen Golf All-Wheel Drive Heavily Considered to Take On Subaru...”


  • avatar
    White Shadow

    Just put some Audi rings on it and call it a day.

  • avatar
    JaySeis

    I can hardly keep from laughing.

  • avatar

    That’s the problem. VW costs a lot more in the EU. If you look at the euro catalog, lots of options we don’t see, and 100 colors. Once you go with the high end VW, you hit the Audi space in the US market. Think Golf R.

    VW needs an AWD in the US market, no matter what. They can’t do cheap, so chase Subaru at the just-under-Audi level. Saab is dead, Volvo thinks it is BMW, so move into that space…

    • 0 avatar
      Cactuar

      This plan is viable I think. Market the AWD cars as sort of “premium Subarus” where you get less reliability and higher costs but more refinement and perceived quality. The luxury makers have no problem selling expensive cars with higher perceived quality so VW could pull this off.

      • 0 avatar
        notwhoithink

        Yes, please. If anything it would likely get Subaru to improve their interior design/fit/finish and get away from the cheap plastic look.

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          Subaru’s poor interior design/finish is a central part of their sales narrative. It helps convince people that they are “tough, honest” cars, in spite of their well-documented weaknesses.

          As for VW, they just need to get back on track. They used to sell a better-looking, better-finished, better-handling, better-engineered car than the Japanese, and there was a market for that. They took a shortcut, killed the engineering, and dumbed-down the finish (only on their North American cars, mind you). That gave them a short-term sales boost, and then it killed their sales, well before the diesel scandal broke.

          Should they offer AWD cars? Of course they should, people want well-engineered VWs.
          While they are at it, they should also offer more than two colors, good-looking interiors, better handling, and more dealer goodwill.

          • 0 avatar
            notwhoithink

            “Subaru’s poor interior design/finish is a central part of their sales narrative. It helps convince people that they are “tough, honest” cars, in spite of their well-documented weaknesses.”

            That must be wasted on me. If I’m going to drop $30k or more on a new car, I want an interior that doesn’t look like it belongs in a 1990’s GM product.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Have you sat in a ’15+ Outback? I’d put that interior up against anything in the $35k bracket, honestly. Even the mid-level 2.5i Premium has really nice cloth material, and a very high quality looking/feeling dash and door cards.

          • 0 avatar
            cwa107

            My wife has a 2010 Legacy 2.5i Premium that we bought new. We cross-shopped it amongst just about every midsize sedan in the segment. The interior quality, from a fit and finish perspective, was on-par with every other Japanese and Korean marque at the time. Now, it does rattle and squeak here and there (and it developed these niggles over time), but the finishes are nothing like the Rubbermaid interiors that most GM products sported at the time (and some still do).

            Anyone that picks this particular nit hasn’t actually been in a Subaru for a while.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            To be fair I think the ’10-14 Subies were the low spot in their interiors, the ’05-’09 cars weren’t too great either IMO. But the same exact cheapening happened to all the Japanese makers during the same time frame, Americans too (mid 2000s Chryco tupperware interiors, anyone?)

  • avatar
    Dr. Doctor

    An AWD variant of the standard Golf makes sense given that it’s already present in the Golf R and it’s proven that NA customers will pay a premium to feel invincible in the snow until their overconfidence leads them to lose control and plow into a guardrail.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      Yes… This is why people in the Northeast buy Subarus like they’re going out of style. “It’s got fourah wheel drive!”

      Of course driving a FWD car with proper winter tires will achieve similar or better results and better fuel economy, but whatever.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    “All-wheel drive is now part of the Volkswagen DNA,”

    I think Colonel Robert Hogan is writing VW press releases and scripts for VW launch events. He wants to see how many ridiculous things the Germans can say while keeping a straight face.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      Something about death row stimulates the imagination. Weldthaupstadt Wolfsburg:

      breloer.deutsche-kinemathek.de/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/4b-39_T1_SPEER_UND_ER-1480×1100.jpg

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    That’ll fix it!

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Based on current news it seems VW needs to focus more on surviving and keeping their c-suite out of prison.

  • avatar
    David "Piston Slap Yo Mama" Sanborn

    We just spent a week in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I have never, ever in my life seen so many Subaru wagons. The place is – no kidding – at least 25% Subaru wagons. As a Subaru wagon owner myself, I felt right at home. If VW thinks they can spontaneously will that into their DNA they’re obviously smoking something potent.

    There was such an absurd number of Subaru wagons, I felt compelled on my last two days there to document them for my friends who’d otherwise suspect I’d also been smoking a little something something …

    http://davesanborn.blogspot.com/2016/09/the-infinite-subaru-wagons-of-jackson.html

    I’ll give VW a minimum of 10 years to begin sequencing that DNA, then once they’ve earned it they can crow about it. But today? Absurd.

  • avatar
    Davekaybsc

    Not gonna work folks, sorry. Subaru is its own thing. Anyone who wants an Outback is going to buy an Outback. Otherwise they’ll buy a CR-V. Honda tried to make their own Outback, they called it the Crosstour, and it failed.

    Acura is a target rich environment, Subaru isn’t. Acura’s cars are all terrible. VW should position themselves to take on the ILX, TLX, and RLX, and beat them all. Make the Tiguan into a better RDX, and make the whatever its called new SUV a better MDX. Acura is weak, and VW should go after them mercilessly.

    • 0 avatar
      notwhoithink

      Acura’s cars are all terrible? Really? Granted, it’s been a few years since I drove a TL but I find that very, very hard to believe. Terrible compared to what?

    • 0 avatar
      ToddAtlasF1

      Possible problems with this incredibly wrong-headed idea: Acura makes cars so much better than VW does. Acura customers who leave the brand generally do so to move upmarket rather than because they have bad experiences with their cars. VW couldn’t build a better MDX for the price of a Panamera, as evidenced by the Q7. VWs have anti-status. What couldn’t be sold for $65K as a VW sold strongly for three times the price with a JC Whitney Bentley radiator shell and some ’70s two-tone paint jobs. That makes VW about as prestigious as Yugo. Finally, Acura sells about as many cars as Buick. Going after them to sustain one of the biggest car brands in the world in one of the biggest car markets in the world would be like McDonalds trying to build their market share completely at the expense of Vinny’s 6-store pizza chain in Ireland.

      • 0 avatar
        Pete Zaitcev

        Todd nailed the problem here. VW go after Subaru purely for the reason of Subaru’s market share being similar to VW’s, and not because it makes any sense whatsoever.

    • 0 avatar
      Trucky McTruckface

      Crosstour is a bad example of an Outback competitor. Had Honda gone with a more wagonlike design with better cargo space, I think they would have done far better. But Honda is stubborn and can’t just copy the competition, so they instead made a fat hatchback with that same cheesy CRX-style rear glass that they’ve clung to for over 30 years now. And, despite the Crosstour being a somewhat infamous failure in the marketplace, the company now insists adopting its clumsy profile to its traditional sedan offerings; I can’t unsee the Crosstour in the new Civic, and spy shots of the next Accord appear to be an oversized Civic…sigh.

      Now that I think about it, the Outback seems to rival the original Chrysler minivan in terms of its competitors’ complete inability to directly copy it. It boggles the mind, really, that no mainstream manufacturer has attempted a jacked up, AWD station wagon version of their mainstream sedan over the last 20 years. This shouldn’t be that hard. Instead, there’s been a parade of nonstarters like the Venza and Freestyle/Taurus X. Volvo and Audi have marketed premium equivalents, but those are niche offerings by default.

      VW is the only one to come close, finally, with this Alltrack thing, but only after shooting themselves in the foot over Dieselgate. Besides, nobody cared the last two times VW tried to push AWD, why should now be any different?

      Also, going after Acura doesn’t seem like a viable strategy, either. Acura is not what I’d call a successful brand, and its only saving grace is that it competes with even less successful brands. Of course, this strategy is not much different than the semi-premium VWs offered in the 2000s, which generally failed in the marketplace and directly resulted in the pathetically cheap, “Americanized” Jetta and Passat. Ironically, those cars mirror the notorious Pennsylvania-built, “Malibued” Rabbits of the late ’70s/’80s, so there’s really no point of making sense of VW’s strategy anymore.

  • avatar
    EAF

    I am currently sitting in a parking lot with 60+ of my co-worker’s vehicles. While many are CUVs with CVTs & DI, I am proud to announce that not a single one is a VAG or Subaru product.

    My faith in the human race remains… for now.

  • avatar
    carveman

    I in an area where a winter trip can be life threatening and having owned VW and Subaru AWD vehicles simultaneously I can say when its time to go we take the Subaru. Both are equipped with premium snow tires. The VW feels like there isn’t any snow on the ground. The Subaru extends its claws and always causes a smile.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      There are now several varieties of Subaru awd, volume wise the symetrical system you praise isn’t really in play. The really interesting data point in the all trek outback faceoff is that the vw actually has a greater rear torque capability than what you’ll see in a 4cylinder automatic subaru. Mazda is using this as an advertising point in their winter demonstrations of the cx5 awd system by the way. It’s a shame that subaru made this move, they could have eliminated the torsen without making this compromise as vw is now showing us (hydraulic clutch plate systems have been capable of over 40% for a while now).

      As to suggestions that vw should chase acura…why return to a business model that didn’t work for them in the past. They literally did this, and the sales just aren’t there. Unless you mean they should be chasing acura’s suv heavy sales mix.

      Vw and subaru are extensively cross shopped. They sell in historically similar volumes in exactly the same geographic regions to the exact same demographic. It’s literally the clearest case of peer competition you’ll find, especially since neither is a full range us manufacturer.

  • avatar
    Ltd1983

    Nope. Focus on what you are, VW.

    VW’s are cheap, introductory Euro baubles for fanbois who can’t afford their BMW’s yet, and administrative assistants still saving for their first Audi.

    Subaru’s are for people with dogs, bikes, and somewhere to be in bad weather.

    I see about 12 consumers cross shopping these brands every year.

    VW needs a 3 row crossover, a compact CUV (under $30k), and maybe some Jetta-sized “Jetta CC” to compete with the CLA.

    • 0 avatar
      3CatGo

      Hmmm, I own 4 bikes, 2 bike roof racks, and 2 VW’s, but no dog, and live in the minor snow belt (PA). I bought a 2016 GTI last year after cross-shopping a WRX. The WRX “felt” faster due to its lag and limited power band, but its interior and infotainment were laughable compared to the GTI and simply unforgiveable in the $30,000 bracket. It’s shifter was not great either. I must be one of the 12.

      My brother bought a 2016 Forrester as a replacement for their old Passat wagon. They bought it over the CX-5 because it had a power closing trunk (wife’s requirement). I can SEE the self-loathing in him when he talks about that crap-box with its horrendous CVT and joke infotainment. The tinny sounds the doors make when closing is cue too.

      • 0 avatar
        Ltd1983

        Picking a VW over a WRX because the VW has a prettier interior and gadgets, while the WRX is faster (much faster than your GTI, 60hp will do that), and much more mechanically stout & reliable, is a pretty predictably Euro-fanbois thing to do.

        Thanks for the affirmation!!

        • 0 avatar
          tedward

          Ltd

          That’s a ridiculous statement. I love the wrx, I have as many friends who own them as do gti’s, maybe more. Except for one guy every single one of them agrees that the current gti is more fun to drive on regular roads, is a far nicer place to be and is more refined in how it responds to every input. Every single one of them would belly laugh at your description of the wrx as, “mechanically stout and reliable”.

          A delusional vw fanboi could make a claim that the gti is more fun in the snow, or is a better starting point for a drag racer. Those would be absurd claims. In the winter especially there’s simply no contest in terms of fun, and if I could count on significant snow days I might have leaned towards the wrx myself.

          These are both awesome cars, and every enthusiast I know that’s owned either has seat time in both, or has owned both. The idea that there’s some zero sum contest between the two is absurd.

        • 0 avatar
          30-mile fetch

          Kind of obnoxious, Ltd. I’m not a Euro-fanbois but I’d pick the GTI over the WRX based on interior comfort, ride quality, interior quality, exterior aesthetics, general refinement, and the general irrelevance of AWD and a half-second to 60 in the face of these attributes. The badge and continent of origin have nothing to do with it.

          Stuff like this isn’t encouraging either:
          “In the real world, without the brutal launch, the WRX gets to 60 mph (from a 5-mph roll) in 6.6 seconds. The GTI, which is down 48 horsepower on the WRX, goes from 5 to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds. The difference in times speaks specifically to the WRX engine’s lack of flexibility. We know mummies with greater flexibility.”

          -http://www.caranddriver.com/comparisons/2015-subaru-wrx-vs-2015-volkswagen-gti-comparison-test

          Compound that with the reverse baseball-cap doofus living up the street from me in his parent’s house who drives the slammed fartbox WRX and Euro-fanbois start looking pretty OK.

          • 0 avatar
            Doctorbob

            Agreed. I had two Stis then after my second back surgery went to WRX in 2015 for back pain relief. This was still causing some sciatic pain/back pain. Ultimately went with VW Golf R and my back is much happier. Handling good and ride is MUCH better even in Race mode. Of course I am closer to 70 than 60 so guess I am finally growing up!

  • avatar
    87 Morgan

    Everyone needs a goal, VW may as well have one. Generally though I think it is best to set goals that are realistic and attainable, as to VW unseating Subaru as the go to AWD of choice…cute. Might as well quickly put together a US Amorak and then claim you will outsell the F150. If you are going to spew BS, might as well go all in.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    An AWD Golf is a far more attractive proposition than a wheezing 2.0 Impreza but I don’t see VW denting Subaru sales regardless. Subaru’s marketing is dialed in and North American consumers don’t seem drawn to the Golf’s strengths.

  • avatar
    zerofoo

    I don’t think Subaru owners will warm up to the VW service experience – unless they are comfortable with failures such as carbon fouled intakes, timing chain tensioner failures, and monthly check engine lights.

    Subaru has nothing to worry about when it comes to VW.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      Subarus have their own issues, including timing belt tensioners and check-engine lights. The problem is that VWoA have been jerks when it comes to goodwill, and Subaru US haven’t. That’s got to change if VW wants to regain market share.

      Oddly, VW Canada is much better at this.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        I was going to say, even middle aged Subarus have their own slew of ‘areas of concern’ shall we say. One can hope that they finally beat the head gasket issues, but by the sound of it they’re now dealing with how to minimize super-low viscosity oil consumption in a boxer engine with modern low-tension rings.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Semi-tangentially related, as someone who has strongly considered a new Outback for a future ride, as well as a Passat 1.8TSI, if VW brought a Passat wagon to the states, even in FWD guise, I’d be all over it.

    The 1.8TSI is just such a satisfying motor when paired with the unremarkable but competent Aisin 6spd automatic. Much more so than the Subaru NA 2.5 with a CVT. The Subaru’s powertrain can best be described as “competent” or “adequate” but you never really enjoy its behavior. Of course part of that is the Subaru hauling around more weight and driving an AWD system. But I can’t help but wonder how much better the Subaru would feel with a really torquey turbocharged powerplant. Or conversely, a wagon Passat would give me the dog-hauling utility I desire in the package that I already really like.

    The way I look at it, historically both Subaru boxers and VW turbo mills have their reliability issues in long term ownership, might as well pick the one that performs better.

    • 0 avatar
      turbo_awd

      What you are looking for, my friend, is an ’05-09 Legacy GT wagon. Alas for the ’09 part. And my ’05 isn’t getting any younger.

    • 0 avatar
      ThirdOwner

      Are you excluding the 3.6 models? Wouldn’t you rather have a N/A six instead of a blown four-banger?

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Good point on the Subie 3.6, although I hear they’re quite thirsty for only making “okay” power. FWIW the 1.8TSI that I sampled got some simply fantastic (bordering on unbelievable) mileage. Over the course of two 7.5 hour drives to and from K.C. from Indy, I was getting a bit over 40mpg displayed with the adaptive cruise set to 75-55mph. Hand calculations after a fill up showed over 38 mpg.

        Turbo, adding the Forester’s 2.0L motor into the Outback seems like a no-brainer to me, heck it sounds like its a good match for a CVT that keeps boost optimal.

        • 0 avatar
          ThirdOwner

          Call my views obsolete, but it seems like many cars these days are built “front-loaded”. As in, all the benefits (MPG, “initial quality”, electronic “luxuries”) are bunched up early in the ownership period, with the payback coming due in the later years of ownership, to subsequent owners.

          You keep your cars for a long time though, wouldn’t you rather be going by the durability?

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            ThirdOwner, I’m going through a paradigm shift (usually comes about after a prolonged period of me fussing around with a beater) where I think that in the not-so-distant future I’ll be in a position to buy new cars and sell/trade them once warranty coverage expires. The current bout of beaterdom is probably my last hurrah of shade-tree mechanics. After that it will be raising a family with a wife who blows my engineer’s salary out of the water, and we’ll probably simply want nice, comfortable vehicles that serve our needs reliably (ie new cars). Without so much focus on penny pinching and avoiding depreciation like the plague (as I am apt to do now).

            I am however planning on hanging on to the old faithful 4Runner to hopefully pass on to my progeny as their first car (that’s the plan anyways).

            I do usually appreciate vehicles built for the long haul and with durability and servicability in mind, just as a matter of principle. But having been exposed to some newer nicer driving stuff (like said Passat), even I’m not immune to the draw of creature comforts and driving dynamics offered by traditionally less than reliable brands.

          • 0 avatar
            ThirdOwner

            gtemnykh, you may find that the paradigm shift you describe comes with the vehicle purchase prices artificially blown up by the cheap credit and aggravated by the monthly payment mentality of other buyers.

            Also consider that with the family and the house there will be many competing demands on your income, especially if your wife chooses to stay home while the kid(s) are young.

            I’m not against judiciously buying brand new, just pointing out that the same considerations we’ve been discussing may still be with you even as you drive newer vehicles.

    • 0 avatar
      la834

      The 1.8TSI will actually be paired with the DSG 6 speed dual clutch in the Alltrack (and the standard AWD Sportwagen S too), or coming soon with a 6 speed manual in all AWD Golf variants except the top-line Alltrack SEL. Neither is the same trans mated with the 1.8TSI in FWD VWs.

  • avatar
    ThirdOwner

    I’ve owned Golf II and Golf III. If VW still built them with the same mindset they’d keep me coming back. But anything they presently build feels unnecessarily brittle and complicated. Maybe it’s just my perception, but they don’t look like the same cars to me.

    Subaru on the other hand have been doing what Porsche had been constantly praised for – iteratively improving upon their core concept – but rarely getting credit for that in the same way. They have received the implicit credit though, in the form of their sales growth.

    The current generation Outback is currently in my top-three ‘next vehicle’ list, and probably at number one if I only consider the needs vs wants.

    They seem to have finally sorted out their engine issues. I’ll gladly keep topping off the oil if that’s the only problem remaining. I’ve owned used Land Rovers, didn’t bother me much.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    Does anyone think VW will be able to match Subaru on price/size category? Golf fits against Impreza, and the media will promptly test an AWD Golf against a (likely price competitive) manual WRX with predictable results. The fuel economy and oil consumption compromises of the boxer do yield a dynamic advantage from the lowered engine mass. Side by side tests only show the dynamic difference, and no one seems to care about 60k+ oil consumption rates. That’s the second owners problem.

    • 0 avatar
      ThirdOwner

      Second and (ahem) Third owners’ problem. But it remains to be seen as the current gen 2.5 from 2010 and on seem to be better going by what the forums say.

      I don’t think VW can match Subaru on price and quality. Subaru has dialed their offering quite well. They cut on the paint quality, but then many Subaru owners don’t seem to mind, and they’ll have stickers and dog paw scratches all over anyway.

      Same with the door panel steel thickness – it’s not Volvo-thick, but Subaru owners don’t seem to mind.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        In terms of feature content and more recently interior quality, the value quotient of Subarus is through the roof. Throw in the absurdly good resale and they are very rational choices. I honestly think that Subaru must be operating on some tight margins in interest of undercutting competitors on price and increasing units sold. Looking around at the Subie invasion of the Midwest, I’d say the strategy is working.

        I’d love to see them relaunch the Tribeca as a true Pilot/Explorer/Pathfinder three row CUV competitor. You know people would be all over that, or maybe an awesome AWD Subaru minivan. Purists bemoaning the legacy wagon morphing into the oversized current Outback would throw a fit on the internet, but you just know that sales would shoot through the roof.

        • 0 avatar
          ThirdOwner

          > I honestly think that Subaru must be operating on some tight margins in interest of undercutting competitors on price and increasing units sold

          I have the same feeling. They certainly do seem to run a tight shop, for instance they stamp Outback door panels on site from rolled steel blanks.

          But even for them things are not going as splendidly as it may appear: they’ve extended their 0% offer on 2016s, which are still plentiful on the dealers lots in my area.

          • 0 avatar
            tedward

            They definitely improved things, but i’m still massively disappointed by subaru build execution and yes, interior. I really don’t place any value on silly vw things like finish under the trunk lid, but I’ve seen cross treks with overspray on their headlights, which is palm to the forehead stuff.

            I think their current interior moves have definitely remade the case for their cars though. What you don’t get now seems like a completely fair trade off for standard awd. There is no free lunch, especially from a small company like subaru.

            Again, I like subaru historically, but the idea that they are crushing it product wise is waaaay overblown.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “cross treks with overspray on their headlights, which is palm to the forehead stuff.”

            Must be poor accident repair, I don’t see how any manufacturer would be painting a car after headlights are attached on the assembly line.

            Any input, Tres?

          • 0 avatar
            tedward

            Gtem

            You’d think so but no, both cars were still wearing their monroneys. I even asked if there was an incident to explain this or if the crosstrek conversion happened in port facilities. Apparently not.

            I obviously don’t see something that bad on every car, but it’s not a good thing either way. There’s other issues with that car too, such as the orange paint jobs having an incredibly ugly and sloppy transition to grey primer under the hood. The two tone isn’t a big deal, but the slop is disappointing. Perhaps they’ve cleaned that up since.

  • avatar
    Pete Zaitcev

    Coincidentially, I saw a Golf R32 on the road today. I can see them selling something like that against WRX and rolling a cheapened version of it to compete against Imprezza. But what are they going to do against Crosstrek (XV)?

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      If they put the all trek springs on a golf and awd they’d have a cross trek competitor. I wouldn’t buy that any more than I’d shop a cross trek.

      I honestly don’t think they really care about adding awd to normal golfs to be honest. I think they are trying to use their supplier at (ptobably) contracted volumes while waiting for their mainstream product to switch to mqb. Tiguan and jetta, I’d bet any amount of money that those are the products that vw really wanted haldex in Mexico for. This all seems like busy work while they wait.

  • avatar
    Doctorbob

    McKenna VW in Huntington Beach, CA is taking on Subaru as one of the brands it will sell. Essentially it will be a VW/Subaru store. It will interesting to see how they will market the brands.

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