By on March 14, 2017

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack/SportWagen - Images: Volkswagen

It’s no Subaru Outback, soaring toward the top of sales charts with all the force of an automaker riding a decade-long wave of rapid U.S. growth. But the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, launched in the United States last autumn, is steadily earning a place as the most important Volkswagen wagon. By far.

In fact, the Golf Alltrack is quickly becoming the bright spot in Volkswagen of America’s Golf lineup and the Volkswagen brand’s overall hierarchy. Not surprisingly, the Alltrack is also dimming the spotlight previously shone upon the Golf SportWagen.

Predictably, total U.S. sales of the entire Volkswagen Golf family slipped in 2016, yet total Golf sales began to soar late in the year and have risen 54 percent over the last three months, due in large part to the Alltrack’s early success.

The Volkswagen brand’s recent U.S. sales recovery is artificially enhanced by horrendous results following the diesel emissions scandal. Sales across the brand have increased in each of the last four months, year-over-year, but that’s only because of how awful the results were during the year-ago period.

Go back to the winter of 2012-2013, when Volkswagen had just reported a 39-year sales high in the United States, and brand-wide volume was 22-percent stronger than it is now.

Year-over-year, U.S. sales of the low-rise Golf SportWagen haven’t cratered, but again, sales of the SportWagen were already unexpectedly low following the launch of a diesel-friendly car that didn’t go quite according to plan. Six months into its run, the Golf SportWagen lost the diesel engine that was expected to produce 80 percent of its sales.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack - Image: Volkswagen

Undeniably, the Alltrack has taken over as the primary wagon of choice in Volkswagen’s U.S. showrooms after Volkswagen followed a formula Subaru created two decades ago, a formula that eventually killed off the Legacy wagon.

In Volkswagen’s case, standard all-wheel drive, less than an inch of additional ride height, and slivers of dark cladding under the bumpers, around the wheelarches, and along the sills are all that were required for the Alltrack to now produce 72 percent of all Golf SportWagen sales.

In fact, the Alltrack’s share of the Golf wagon’s volume has grown every month since its September launch, from 14 percent in September to 55 percent in December to 72 percent in February 2017.

Over the last three months, the Alltrack, exclusively available with the 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, has generated nearly one-quarter of all Golf volume, easily outselling the Golf 1.8T in the process.

While the Alltrack has certainly eaten into the regular SportWagen’s territory, even with the SportWagen offering the Alltrack’s all-wheel drive in the basic S trim level, total wagon sales at Volkswagen have shot through the roof at Volkswagen. The last quarter resulted in 7,473 total Golf SportWagen/Alltrack sales in the United States, more than triple the total achieved one year earlier.

Comparisons with the Subaru Outback aren’t entirely unfair, of course, but the Outback’s level of success is so far removed from Volkswagen’s wagons that the contrast lacks proper perspective for the Volkswagen duo.

In just the first one-sixth of 2017, Subaru has already reported 26,663 Outback sales in America, enough to make the Outback Subaru’s best-selling product and America’s 23rd-best-selling vehicle. In any given month, Subaru sells more Outbacks than Volkswagen sold SportWagens and Alltracks — combined — in the last six months.

The Outback didn’t become America’s 23rd-best-selling vehicle overnight, nor will the Golf Alltrack, 6,404 of which have been sold since September.

But as the Alltrack trends upward, perhaps the most positive sign for Volkswagen is America’s willingness to consider a Volkswagen crossover-esque wagon. This does not bode poorly for the new Tiguan and Atlas.

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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57 Comments on “Elevate to Escalate: Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Is Crushing Golf SportWagen...”


  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Do they still sale the Jetta Wagon?

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      It’s now known as the Golf wagon, since it’s always been a Golf wagon. The Jetta wagon name ended in 2014 in the USA.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        You’re right. It was always the Golf wagon everywhere else; they only ever called the old one a Jetta wagon here in the ‘States…which made sense in 2009, less sense in 2010 (when the Jetta SportWagen got the then-new Mk.6 Golf’s front fascia and dashboard) and no sense after 2011, when the Jetta sedan was redesigned and no longer looked anything like the wagon with which it shared its namesake.

  • avatar
    brettc

    As long as they’re selling wagons, good for them even if they have stupid black plastic cladding that will probably rust fenders out prematurely.

    Expensive Alltrack sales are good for VW’s bottom line, which means they’ll have plenty of money to buy my car back when the time comes.

    • 0 avatar
      Vega

      ‘ that will probably rust fenders out prematurely.’
      Why, exactly?

      • 0 avatar
        Ermel

        Suppose they mean that water and dirt collect between metal fender and plastic cladding, causing the former to rust. I had no such problems with the plastic-clad fenders of my 1987 Golf GTI 16V however — no rust in those areas even when the rest went to the crusher in 2010, after 408,000 kilometres.

        • 0 avatar
          TCragg

          Virtually every A1 and A2 VW I owned with the plastic sender flares had corrosion when the flares were removed. My experience with these included vehicles from model years ’84, ’85, ’86, ’87, ’89, and ’90. The old ones did a really good job of trapping salt and grit underneath, then grinding said salt and grit into the paint, and the exposed metal from where they drilled the mount holes at the factory.

          • 0 avatar
            brettc

            As my brother can attest, older VWs didn’t do well with the cladding they’d put in areas around the wheels. I also experienced rust with an A2 Jetta in the rear wheel well area that had a stupid decorative piece of plastic that went through the body.

            If you’re ever bored, do some searching about TDIs with rusted fenders. VW probably spent a huge amount of money fixing those fenders.

            I know on my wife’s car VW paid for $1200 worth of parts and body work on a car I sold for $4300. And those cars didn’t have any cladding, just a poorly placed piece of foam.

    • 0 avatar
      Ianw33

      As much as I hate the “add black plastic cladding” strategy, it does seem to be crazy profitable.

      However, I did see an alternative recently, a way to make lemonade with these lemons. I saw a new audi allroad that had the plastic cladding painted to match the body color (not sure if this is a factory option or not). Not only did it make the design look much more cohesive, it also gave the audi more of an aggressive wide body appearance.

  • avatar
    Corey Lewis

    If it were larger and more luxurious and had more ground clearance, it could be like an XC70 replacement. As-is, it’s as useful as a poopy flavored lollipop.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I mean I think it hits its mark is is a fairly practical ride (if not what I personally would seek out). Usefully large cargo area (unlike say a V60), useful bump in ground clearance for some gravel-road driving to trail heads and such, AWD. Much more efficient than an XC70 for sure. One could argue that any number of compact CUVs would get you some more interior space and the same AWD/clearance at a lesser price, but then you could argue the VW gets you Germanic interior/ergonomics and superior ride/handling/NVH.

      • 0 avatar
        Advance_92

        The perfect option for someone in New England that thinks an Outback is too damn big and have a little brand snobbery thrown in, too. It even has the closest shape the Volvo 240 they probably grew up in…

        • 0 avatar
          S2k Chris

          “and have a little brand snobbery thrown in, too.”

          I like the Alltrack more than I like the Outback, but is there any snobbery at all in a VW over a Subaru? I’d think they’re both on the same level, same as Honda/Toyota.

      • 0 avatar
        Corey Lewis

        @gtem I’ve got something coming up for you in a little bit. You even get a mention!

      • 0 avatar
        Corey Lewis

        I’ve never been impressed with VW interiors, though.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Yeah it’s all relative. I’m talking going from a CVT 2.5 Rogue to one of these things. The VW will be a lot more refined overall, even though yeah the interior is nothing that special on a relative scale (especially compared to the aforementioned XC70). Interested in seeing this upcoming segment!

          • 0 avatar
            Corey Lewis

            Wow that’s quite a jump, that theoretical person found steady employment!

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Haha no I’m saying a person cross-shopping the conmpact CUV segment with the current CRV, current Rogue (not fire-sale special “Select), Rav4, Forester, etc. I think the VW would impress in terms of Germanic manners, including ergonomics and dash layout, vis-a-vis the usual compact CUV suspects. A Rogue SV/SL with a bunch of safety nanny crap can get up there in price!

          • 0 avatar
            Corey Lewis

            Ah, fair enough. The wagon form factor tradeoff will appeal to fewer in that segment.

    • 0 avatar
      Timothy Cain

      XC70 again, eh?

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      Sounds like someone wants to buy an XC70.

    • 0 avatar
      Vega

      And if it were much smaller, lower, and a 2 seater it could be a Miata replacement. Why should a Golf be a large car replacement?

    • 0 avatar
      Carlson Fan

      Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but the VW is a lot better looking than the Volvo. Cheaper I suspect too. People like their cars to look like trucks these days so VW answered the market. Option it w/AWD, jack it up & throw some plastic cladding on it to give it an off-road look. Same thing Volvo did with the V70. No mystery at all why it looks to be a sales success for VW.

  • avatar
    hreardon

    As the 10 year old Tiguan has demonstrated: build it and they will come.

    Crossovers and rugged wagons are in.

    I suspect that when we get the MQB Passat in a few years time that VW will give the NA market an alltrack variant that will more directly compete with Subaru. This, combined with the new Tiguan, Atlas and rumored two row Atlas will give them, for once, a competitive lineup.

    For Volkswagen’s sake, they better hope the market doesn’t turn against CUVs and SUVs in the next five years.

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      Its VW, so the market will turn against CUVs/SUVs and everyone will be gaga over mini- and micro-vans. VW will then spend the next 8 years debating whether to build a microbus and other new vans (re: VWoA say build it, Europe say no), then pull the trigger right as the market turns towards coupes.

      And I say this as a VW fan.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Is AWD only available in the base Golf StationWagen because they figure if you want to pay more they can just go full out and make you buy the Alltrack?

    The base StationWagen with AWD starts at $23,830 and the Alltrack starts at $25,850. After doing a comparison I don’t see anything but a 6th gear for the manual, the <1" of height, and the cladding being gained for your $2,020. Maybe the transmission is worth it. But since most will be getting the DSG, it’s just the cladding and “clearance.”

    • 0 avatar
      whynot

      Yes basically. A Sportwagen SE with AWD would basically be the same price as the Alltrack SE. Might as well avoid the internal competition and just offer it on the S as that will allow a lower entry price for AWD.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      You can’t get the DSG on the Golf SportWagen. It’s just a regular transaxle for the 1.8T. You could get a DSG back when there was a Golf SportWagen TDI (and mine is so equipped). So that’s one difference, if you go the self-shifting route. Also, the base Golf SportWagen comes with cloth, but the base Golf Alltrack gives you leatherette.

      Edit: scratch that; the Golf SportWagen S 4MOTION *does* have a DSG.

      And if you want a manual, I think the Golf Alltrack lets you have it in any configuration (like the TDI did), whereas you’re stuck with the base model on the Golf SportWagen.

      • 0 avatar
        Land Ark

        It’s also worth pointing out that the picture of the StationWagen interior on VW’s site shows a 6 speed manual.
        http://www-origin.vw.com/models/golf-sportwagen/trims/2017/2017-s-4motion-trim/

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Right. The Golf SportWagen S 4MOTION’s drivetrain is identical to that of the Golf Alltrack, whether you opt for the manual or the DSG. So you get a 6-speed, whereas in FWD Golf SportWagens, you only get a 5-speed.

      • 0 avatar
        stevelovescars

        Is the gearing any higher on the 6-speed vs. the 5 speed on the non Alltrack? That’s the only reason I would care, quieter at freeway speeds and better fuel economy… otherwise, it just means closer gearing and more shifting.

        I also don’t see “leatherette” being much of an improvement over nice cloth, particularly since VW offers heated seats with their cloth. When did vinyl seats go from being relegated to taxis and stripper models to an upgrade?

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          From what I’ve read, the 5-speed manual is nicely spaced and works particularly well with the 1.8T and 1.4T engines. It even placed nicely with the old 2.slow that was still offered on the Jetta until very recently.

          VW’s cloth is pretty good. But so is the leatherette. It’s down to your personal taste, but—unlike with a lot of brands—I don’t think you could go wrong with either.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            “It even placed nicely with the old 2.slow that was still offered on the Jetta until very recently.”

            I test drove a bare bones 2.0S like this back in 2012, and I will say that in any sort of hilly place, I’d argue it does NOT pair particularly well. It has a tall 4th and 5th gear which is perfect for the turbo-motor, but climbing the moderate hills in Central NY is was way overmatched by the Jetta’s substantial curb weight. When a Corolla LE 1.8 with a 4spd auto feels a lot peppier, you know you’ve got problems.

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        Yep, the 4Motion wagon does come with the DSG. I was surprised when I verified that. I guess its an extra perk or a non-perk depending on how you view the DSG’s performance and service interval versus the 09G Aisin.

    • 0 avatar
      Jeff Wilson

      It’s a bit different here in the Great White North. Our base and mid-level Golf Sportwagens with AWD still price out considerably lower than the very costly Alltrack. A mid-level Golf SW with AWD is a heck of a bargain here, giving most of what most buyers *should* need without all the costly tech gadgets.

      • 0 avatar
        boozysmurf

        What Jeff said.

        I test drove one recently, and really liked the SportWagen 4motion. However, the way things were explained to me by the sales staff was basically that the AllTrack starts at a top-level SportWagen (Trendline?) and MSRPs around $35k cdn. There’s very few options though.

        My preference (I really liked it) was the midlevel (comfortline?) Sportwagen 4motion 1.8T DSG. Had everything I wanted, minus the plastic cladding and slight raise in ride height. The quote I got for it was basically $9000 CDN less than the AllTrack. And that was first offer from the dealership, I might have gotten more, had I pulled the trigger and gotten serious about it.

        The only issue was no manual trans with the 4motion.

        I was stunned that I could get a proper wagon, with AWD, and lots of goodies (heated seats, big infotainment screen, DSG) for that price. I’m still interested, but probably not for a year or two now, as the wife just got herself a big ol’ truck.

  • avatar
    ijbrekke

    I don’t have them in front of me, but I recall noticing that the trim packages offered clearly favored the Alltrack over the Sportwagen. VW wants people to move in that direction, and with good reason (Outback sales).

    Can we then transition the Sportwagen into a GTI variant only? I’d buy it today.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    Looks like it’ll do a good job of picking up the slack left by the now-departed Golf SportWagen TDI. Good for Volkswagen.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    I look at the all track to replace my bought back TDI wagon , but I really did not need AWD, have snows for that part of the year and passed on the all track, IIRC the interior was better than the Golf wagon I test drove, I would not be a outback buyer either as again no need for AWD and the mileage penalty that comes with it. I do miss the room the wagon gave me vs the sedan I bought to replace the TDI wagon.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Recipe for printing money…add minimal clearance, “tough” body cladding and call it something rugged and outdoorsy. Bang…instantly sells better than the 99% similar “wagon” sitting right next to it. Brilliant!

  • avatar
    OldManPants

    Why did I have to wonder which was which?

  • avatar
    kvndoom

    Stupid Mazda.. just need to put black cladding around the wheel wells of the 3 hatchback and its sales will TRIPLE instantly. Who needs a CX5 or CX3 when you can sell the same car with $50 worth of extra plastic for $3000 more?

    We can get the Mazda6 wagon in the US now! Just add cladding!

    Sheesh, I’m glad I’m the one who does the car buying in my household. I pity any man who isn’t.

  • avatar
    prisoners

    No one cares but I hope the base Sportwagon with AWD and three pedals will still be available in 2-3 years when I’m in the market for a purchase. Finding a CPO 2017 looks like it will be nearly impossible at that time based on sales, and at this rate I wouldn’t bet on a new one being available either.

  • avatar
    wintermutt

    recently test drove a 6 cylinder subaru outback. there is a reason they are selling like hotcakes. seriously folks – it is a well thought out vehicle. OTOH consumer reports has some pretty low reliability scores for the VW. just sayin.

  • avatar
    GTL

    I’m going to replace my ’13 TDI Passat SE with an Alltrack SE. Here’s why:

    *Since ’13 the Passat has been increasingly Americanized, with fake woodgrain, unnecessary trim bits on both interior and exterior and vague steering. Coupled with VW’s Tiptronic tranny, it’s just not as fun a drive as the TDI was.

    OTOH, the Alltrack SE comes with:
    *Panoramic sunroof
    *A very attractive brown interior not available on other models
    *The upgraded Fender stereo system
    *DSG transmission
    *Push button start (not that I care about that)
    *Driver’s assistance package (an option, but almost all have it)
    *VTEX leatherette, believe it or not it’s as comfortable as leather without the wear and maintenance issues.
    *Four motion

    It’s about $32k, but discounts of $3700 are available; there’s nothing else available out there with a similar feature set for less than $36k.

  • avatar
    slap

    VW did little advertising for the Golf Sportwagen. But they are running a huge number of ads for the Alltrack. So it’s not surprising that the Alltrack is outselling the Sportwagen.

  • avatar
    Superdessucke

    What a shock, said no one ever.

  • avatar
    Daniel J

    They had 3 sitting on the VW lot a few weeks ago. Our VW dealership is also a Mazda dealership, and I was getting our CX-5 an oil change. 2 of them were north of 33K and one was just over 30K. Pretty well loaded. They only had 1 sportwagen on the lot, and it was just over 24K, but was selling for 21K. While the interior was slightly better in the loaded Alltrack, I couldn’t justify the price difference. Both had the 1.8T. Also, given the DSG and the 40K service at 695 dollars at the dealer, I’ll pass. The new CX-5 seems more appealing.


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