Car reviews - Volkswagen - Golf - Alltrack
103TDI Comfortline 5-dr wagon
110 TDI Highline
118TSI 5-dr hatch
2.0 TDI Comfortline 5-dr
5-dr hatch range
5-dr wagon range
77TDI 5-dr hatch
Alltrack 135 TDI Premium
GL 5-dr hatch
GL Cabriolet convertible
GT 5-dr hatch
GTD hatch range
GTI 3-dr hatch
GTI 40 Years
GTI 5-dr hatch
GTI and R range
GTI hatch range
R 5-dr hatch
R Wagon Wolfsburg Edition
R32 3-dr hatch
Completeness, user-friendliness, interior space and comfort, long-distance ride quality, entertaining dynamics
Room for improvement
Jiggly low-speed ride and diminished off-road confidence on optional 18-inch alloys, too much road noise, space-saver spare tyre
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8 Jul 2016
Price and equipment
PRICED at $37,990 plus on-road costs, the VW Golf Alltrack sits between the diesel-powered Highline wagon and the manual GTI hot hatch, occupying the higher end of the German brand’s small car range.
No crossover is complete without black plastic wheel-arch and lower body mouldings, which are present and correct on the Alltrack along with unique front and rear bumpers featuring a matte silver lower air intake trim and scuff-plate-like panels matching those on the sills. Gloss silver adorns the door mirror housings and roof rails for a touch of class.
The Alltrack-exclusive 17-inch ‘Valley’ alloy wheels were replaced by sportier-looking 18-inch ‘Canyon’ hoops on our test vehicle, forming part of the Sports Luxury option pack.
Vienna leather upholstery, heated in the front, provide wipe-down convenience and snow- or altitude-friendly comfort, while LED cabin illumination includes map-reading lights to use when in remote locations where the standard satellite navigation gets lost.
The Alltrack is the first Australian market Volkswagen to include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and smartphone connectivity via the 6.5-inch touchscreen that also serves to display the reversing camera image, parking sensor obstacle proximity diagram and audio system (which in turn has Bluetooth, USB, SD card and auxiliary device connections).
Auto bi-Xenon headlights and rain-sensing wipers feature among the driver fatigue detection system, seven airbags, Isofix anchors for two child seats, self-dimming interior mirror to make life for occupants safer and more convenient. There is also dual-zone climate control, a multi-function trip computer between the instrument dials and a multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel with rake and reach adjustment.
Our Alltrack was fitted with the $1300 Driver Assistance pack comprising adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, self-parking and a proactive occupant protection system that pre-tensions the seatbelts and closes windows and sunroof when an impending collision is detected.
The $2500 Sport Luxury package was also specified, adding the larger alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, panoramic glass sunroof and manual gear-shift paddles behind the steering wheel.
We also had the $500 metallic paint option, bringing the on-test total to $42,290 plus on-roads.
The Alltrack’s outdoorsy exterior treatment continues on the inside with ‘tracks’ dashboard and door trims, the front pair of which feature crisp ambient illumination strips.
Apart from that and a 4Motion decal on a storage bin cover in front of the gear selector, everything else is typical Golf wagon, which is to say conservative but classy and comfortable, while being intuitive for the driver and spaciously practical for all occupants.
We would tend to feel perched on the front seats, but we never endured discomfort or a numb bum on the numerous long journeys we travelled in the Alltrack. The driving position was great and the thin-rimmed, stylish and expensive-feeling steering wheel was a delight to grasp.
Appearances can be deceiving in the back, with what looks like limited legroom actually being plenty. Two six-foot adults can easily sit in tandem and even with the panoramic sunroof fitted to our car, all three rear seat positions provided plenty of headroom.
The rear bench is pretty comfortable, too, and Isofix plus sensibly located top tether points made securing our infant seat a breeze. All doors have bottle-holding door bins, while two cupholders reside in the centre console and rear central armrest, there is a generous glovebox, a big bin between the front seats and a mini-glovebox by the driver’s right knee.
In addition to providing a perfect play pen for our little one during a roadside rest stop during our weekend away, the Alltrack’s big 605-litre wagon boot was easily expandable to its full 1620L by using the remote seat folding mechanism.
Handy hooks at each side helped secure the shopping bags containing our bought-on-the-fly weekend luggage, as did the handy recesses at the far edges of the boot floor.
When not in use, the cargo blind stows conveniently beneath the boot floor and the flat seats-down load area can swallow objects up to 1831mm long. More flexibility comes from the fact the seats are 60/40 split-fold and have a ski hatch behind the central armrest.
Beneath the boot floor is a space-saver spare, but heaps of additional room to accommodate a full-size item – a must for those regularly departing the sealed road. Even with a proper spare tyre in there, the amount of space would still be huge and almost warrants a false floor setup. One for the facelift perhaps?Disappointingly given the Golf’s reputation for interior solidity, we did encounter a trim rattle but could not pin down whether it was coming from the headlining or cargo cover in the boot. Most annoying was the road noise, which on some surfaces would become almost intolerably loud. For an otherwise smooth and refined operator, this was a big let-down.
On the upside, the wagon’s additional set of rear side windows and big rear windscreen enhanced visibility – not that swivelling heads and eyes were often required due to the reversing camera and plethora of sensors, plus the effective and accurate automatic parking system.
During off-road driving the Golf’s plunging bonnet line did make judging some obstacles a bit tricky, but this is not a vehicle that will find itself in that kind of situation all that often.
Engine and transmission
Hot GTI and R models notwithstanding, the Alltrack comes with the most powerful petrol engine available in on a Golf in Australia.
The 1.8-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder is borrowed from the larger Passat and produces 132kW of power and 280Nm of torque, exclusively linked to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that distributes power through a Haldex coupling that continuously varies the amount of torque to each of the four wheels based on available traction and driving conditions.
It all hauls the Alltrack’s relatively portly 1479kg mass along just fine, only feeling a bit lacking in puff when gunning it up a hill or trying to overtake a B-double on a country road when full of passengers and luggage.
The engine is a sweet, smooth, free-revving unit that happily soars to almost 7000rpm before the quick-and-slick transmission selects the next ratio – which it does regardless of whether the driver has knocked the selector into manual mode.
But with peak torque available from a low 1350rpm all the way to 4500rpm, reaching for the redline is pointless unless you want to hear its entertaining top-end howl. And you’d think this type of driving was not part of the Alltrack’s personality, but as we find in the ride and handling section below, there is more to this car than conquering unsealed roads in comfort.
Around town, the drivetrain is more than adequate for keeping ahead of traffic, the idle-stop system cuts in and out pretty seamlessly and apart from some juddering while driving slowly up inclines, the transmission was one of the more fuss-free dual-clutchers.
Our on-test average fuel consumption was 8.0 litres of 95 RON premium unleaded per 100 kilometres, including motorway cruising, weaving up and down a 1000-metre mountain, suburban jostling and back-road blasting. A 100km stretch of motorway returned 6.0L/100km.
For comparison, the official combined figure is 6.7L/100km, dropping to 5.8L/100km on the highway, so we were fairly impressed with the Alltrack’s blend of refined performance and efficiency.
Ride and handling
The Alltrack’s low-speed jiggles took the shine off an otherwise impressive ride comfort performance, and we suspect the upgrade from 17-inch to 18-inch wheels and tyres – the latter with a slim 45-section sidewall – contributed to the problem.
Those regularly venturing off bitumen would be better off with smaller wheels anyway, but above 60km/h even the big-wheeled Alltrack we tested would soak up – rather than ride over – road imperfections with a calm control that made long-distance driving a pleasure.
More pleasure was to be had on sweeping country roads between 80km/h and 100km/h were the Alltrack felt as though it was in its element, the buttery yet laser-accurate steering and admirable body control contributing to make the car easy to cover distance swiftly and smoothly without alarming the passengers.
A solo stint along our favourite stretch of bendy bitumen revealed further talents, with tremendously talkative steering providing plenty of confidence to fling the Alltrack at corners faster than its high-riding stance would initially suggest. Perhaps this is the payoff for that firm low-speed ride.
There is just a hint of initial bodyroll once presented with a curve in the road, but a playfulness quickly emerges as the Alltrack moves about, that wagon tail eagerly wagging in the breeze to help coax the front end through while the steering provides a pleasing amount of additional bite with every additional degree of applied turn.
We traversed packed dirt, gravel and corrugated unsealed roads in the Alltrack’s ‘off-road’ mode that alters stability control and anti-lock brake calibrations for loose surfaces while activating hill-descent control.
Provided we kept speeds up, the Alltrack rode these conditions impressively comfortably and would corner and change direction – such as to avoid large potholes – with confidence and plenty of traction.
A little swaying on the lower grip surfaces would be easily tempered with a light additional throttle application, helped by the more delicate throttle map courtesy of off-road mode, and the car’s bitumen playfulness took on a more mature approach that helped us stay on the straight and narrow.
Even with the 20mm additional ride-height over a standard Golf – which increases to 30mm on the 18-inch tyres of our test vehicle – we didn’t think the skinny tyre sidewalls or the stylish silver-flecked bumpers would take well to us going anywhere more adventurous. The 175mm ground clearance still feels quite low.
But VW has poured everything it learnt from developing the Touareg SUV and Amarok ute into this little car and we are sure it would pleasantly surprise us were we to venture further off the beaten track.
We’d definitely go for 17-inch or even 16-inch wheels to allow for chubbier, comfier and more protective tyre sidewalls if this type of driving was to be attempted, or if unsealed roads were to be a regular fixture in our driving diary.
Safety and servicing
The Golf hatch achieved a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating, scoring an almost-perfect 15.92 out of 16 for the frontal offset test, 16 out of 16 in the side impact test, 2 out of 2 in the pole test and whiplash protection deemed ‘good’. Pedestrian protection was ‘acceptable’. Overall it got 35.92 out of 37.
Dual frontal, side chest, side curtain airbags and a driver’s knee bag are standard, as are anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution and electronic stability control.
Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000 kilometres, with VW’s capped-price servicing website quoting between $390 and $1051 for scheduled maintenance over the first six years, depending on whether minor or major service intervals. The average visit cost during the six-year timeframe is $521.83. Volkswagen also advises that the cabin filter and brake fluid need changing every two years for an additional $56 and $138 respectively and the Haldex all-wheel-drive system’s fluid every three years at $176.
Volkswagen’s new car warranty lasts three years with unlimited kilometres.
For a number of generations, the Volkswagen Golf has been critically acclaimed as a great all-rounder. Its classless yet classy appeal traverses demographics, its sober design provides plenty of interior practicality and its hi-tech drivetrains tend to combine performance with efficiency.
The Alltrack takes that all-rounder ethos a step further with genuine wagon versatility plus the added bonus of being able to tackle some rough unsealed roads that might be the undoing of regular Golfs and having a competent all-wheel-drive system to provide traction in wet or even snowy conditions.
Best of all, while it exhibits all the above qualities, the Alltrack pulled another trick out of its sleeve right at the end of our enjoyable week together when the fun and playful side of its personality shone through at legal speeds on twisty, hilly public roads.
We’d save $2500 by omitting the Sport Luxury option pack, but the Driver Assistance pack includes some genuinely useful additions that some might say should be standard. The adaptive cruise control though, is excellent and worth a large chunk of the $1500 premium.
There are some great-driving SUVs around these days, but the Golf Alltrack bridges the gap and proves that you really can’t go wrong with a well-sorted wagon.
Skoda Octavia Scout 132TSI Premium 4x4 from $38,990 plus on-road costs
Volkswagen Group’s Czech sub-brand offers three drivetrains for its Alltrack equivalent and shouts louder about the Scout’s off-road-ready reinforcements to brake and fuel lines plus plastic underbody cladding and higher-profile tyres better suited to dirt and sand driving than the standard fare.
Subaru Outback 2.5i from $35,990 plus on-road costs
Arguably Subaru is the original purveyor of rough-road wagons and the latest Outback is officially categorised as a large SUV. Proven over five generations to earn a reputation for genuine off-road ability and toughness, the Outback also beats the European interlopers with its 213mm of ground clearance. It’s also longer than both, so offers the best seats-folded boot space but with the seats up it is bettered by both VW and Skoda. The atmo 2.0-litre petrol and CVT transmission don’t really live up to the turbo/dual-clutch combos of its competitors and you need to spend more to match their equipment levels.
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