The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack replicates the successful Outback-aping Passat Alltrack formula, although this time around it is in a more compact, and affordable, package.
WHAT IS IT
Targeting the hot-selling Subaru Outback, the Golf Alltrack is the wagon version of the world’s most aspirational small car, with 20mm more ground clearance, a part-time Haldex all-wheel-drive system, a function that lets it walk down steep hills, and the usual soft-roader get-up to let the world know you’re into lifestyle adventure.
WHY WE'RE TESTING IT
There isn’t a duff model in Volkswagen’s brilliant Mk7 Golf range, but by turning it into a taller and heavier crossover, there was a chance the Alltrack would dilute the brilliant dynamics, efficiency and refinement that helped the current hatch win the 2013 Wheels COTY.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
Does raising a VW Golf and fitting all-wheel drive increase or decrease its appeal? After two days behind the wheel of one at the Golf Alltrack’s international launch in Spain, we’re inclined to think that the VW loses little in its transition from brilliant compact wagon to semi off-roader crossover, especially when compared with the many invariably inferior compact and medium SUV offerings out there. If the price can stay well south of $40,000, then the Germans deserve to have another big hit on their hands.
PLUS: Usual brilliant Golf wagon virtues remain, some off-road ability
MINUS: No diesel option, firm ride on 18-inch wheels, some road noise
THE WHEELS REVIEW
SOCIAL climbing is about to become cheaper and dirtier, thanks to a jacked-up, go-anywhere(ish) version of Germany’s aspirational hatchback, the Volkswagen Golf.
Come October, our 2013 COTY winner’s dumpier wagon sister will cross over into Subaru Outback territory like Fräulein Helga in hiking gear, wearing a 20mm ride-height lift (the limit before driveshaft and associated hardware changes are necessary), 4Motion all-wheel drive with hill-descent tech, butched-up body cladding, roof bars and a daft adventure-evoking suffix that, until the Passat version came along in 2012, was unheard of in the English lexicon: Alltrack.
Why not? The latter’s popularity has prompted a repeat performance in a smaller and more affordable package. Pricing ought to slip comfortably under $40,000.
Additionally, Alltrack is the only Golf with the TSI-badged 132kW/280Nm 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo zinger available in the Audi A3 as well as its conceptual fraternal twin, the Skoda Octavia Scout. All share Wolfsburg’s vaunted MQB architecture.
We’d love to tell you how impressive this usually strong and sweet-revving engine is, but unhelpfully VW didn’t bring any 132TSIs to the international launch in Spain. Our drive centres on the eager and effortless 135kW/380Nm 2.0 TDI turbo-diesel that – sadly – isn’t Oz bound. Boo!
Even with the searing Golf R wagon in convoy, the circa-250kg heftier Alltrack appears little compromised despite a higher centre of gravity. It flows through corners with much the same measured and weighted grace of regular Mk7 Golfs, with only a hint of extra body roll through faster turns betraying the added ground clearance.
Wearing 18-inch rubber and riding on adaptive dampers (both costing extra) over smooth European roads, the Alltrack 2.0 TDI’s lasting dynamic impression is how quiet and composed everything remains. If only Bruce Jenner’s transition could be this seamless.
Demonstrating the Alltrack’s off-road talents, VW threw us in a moderately demanding 4x4 course to test the hill descent control (effective up to 30km/h) and the Haldex coupling’s instant torque redistribution (99 percent either end is possible as required, aided by an electronic differential lock and retuned stability control).
Going down the path less travelled only needs a prod of an ‘Off Road’ button. Somewhat surprisingly, the Golf in gumboots walked it. Only later, when racing across mountain roads, did the VW’s ambitious driver-focussed duality truly crystallise. It’s a little beauty.
Brilliant engineering, swish cabin presentation, superb seating, family-friendly practicality, lavish refinement… the Golf-ification enhances the crossover breed. If only more were this aspirational.
Model: Volkswagen Golf Alltrack 132TSI
Engine: 1798cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v turbo
Max power: 132kW @ 4500rpm
Max torque: 280Nm @ 1350rpm
Transmission: 6-speed dual clutch
Weight: 1509kg (approx)
Fuel economy: 6.6L/100km
Price: $38,000 (approx)
On sale: October