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First drive: VW Golf Alltrack attacks Outback

Track and field: The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack has its sights on the crossover wagon segment with a higher ride height and a part-time all-wheel-drive system.

Germany targets Subaru in crossover wagon war as Golf dons Alltrack crossover camo

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Volkswagen logo1 May 2015

By BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS in SPAIN

VOLKSWAGEN is expanding the Golf wagon range with the model line’s first-ever Alltrack crossover model, directly targeting the hot-selling Subaru Outback.

Due in October at a price that is still to be revealed, the baby brother to the successful Passat Alltrack debuts a number of features on the perennial premium small-car favourite, including a 1.8-litre turbo-petrol engine.

Until now all Mk7 Golf wagons have been powered by either a 1.4-litre petrol or 2.0-litre turbo-diesel.

Easily recognisable from lesser Golfs with its crossover styling cues – from a 20mm higher ride height and plastic wheelarch extensions to roof racks, beefed-up front and rear bumpers and rugged-looking alloys – the Alltrack uses a Haldex 5.0 part-time 4Motion all-wheel-drive system that can distribute torque from nearly 100 per cent to the front axle to the same amount to the rear one.

Not only does this aid on-road handling and roadholding, the AWD system relies on hill-descent control (HDC) technology that works between 2km/h and 30km/h, an electronic diff lock that acts on both axles, and special ‘Off Road’ stability and traction control systems to provide surprisingly effective gravel, dirt road and trail-crossing capabilities.

Note that the standard wheel and tyre set-up employs road-going 205/55R17 rubber.

All-up, the Alltrack is around 250kg heavier than the equivalent front-wheel-drive Golf wagon, tipping the scales at 1584kg.

The 1.8-litre direct-injection four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine delivers 132kW of power at 4500rpm and 280Nm of torque between 1350 and 4500rpm. The only transmission on offer with this 132TSI unit is a six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic.

The Alltrack requires 7.8 seconds to hit 100km/h from standstill on the way to a 217km/h top speed, and can return a combined-cycle fuel consumption figure of 6.6 litres per 100km. Its CO2 rating comes in at 155 grams per kilometre.

Depending on the region, overseas customers are also offered an 81kW/250Nm 1.6 TDI, 110kW/340Nm 2.0 TDI and high-performance 135kW/380Nm 2.0 TDI engine.

The latter was the only engine available for us to drive at the Alltrack’s international launch in Spain, and reminded us why VW should reconsider its petrol-only stance for Australia. Quiet, refined and punchy for the world go, the 135TDI produces a hefty amount of mid-range torque, for effortless and safe overtaking performance.

We have tried the 132TSI petrol in the closely related Skoda Octavia Scout, so are expecting the same eager and refined power delivery in the Golf Alltrack.

Other than the 20mm-higher ground clearance – jumping to 30mm if the optional 18-inch alloys are specified due to their larger-diameter rim – the Alltrack is pure Mk7 Golf underneath, including the MacPherson strut front/multi-link independent rear suspension system.

Besides a bit more body movement under fast cornering associated with the higher centre of gravity, the newcomer thus retains the VW’s lauded degree of dynamic finesse.

For example, the steering is beautifully weighted and progressively tuned for sharp, involving and composed handling. The ride, though a tad firm and ‘droney’ on certain surfaces, feels taut and controlled. And the degree of security and grip remains exceptional.

For relaxed grand touring, this is hard to go past for the money.

Off-road, or at least over mildly challenging conditions that might strand a regular two-wheel-drive vehicle, this Golf can also go where no previous version has easily gone, thanks to the AWD and HDC systems. It can crawl down 50 per cent inclines, tackle uneven surfaces and plough through muddy and sandy terrain with surprising competence.

You would not necessarily trade-in a harder-core 4WD wagon for the Alltrack, but for most urban people it more than delivers the promise of adventure and lifestyle.

As a result, given that the 4Motion gear does not eat into the regular Golf wagon’s family-friendly cargo capacity (ranging from 605 litres to 1620L with the split/fold backrests down), it makes a whole lot more sense than most of the medium SUVs that its expected high-$30,000 pricetag pitches the VW against.

And that is before we take into account all of the Golf’s upmarket and aspirational qualities, including its exceptional interior presentation, brilliantly executed ergonomics, excellent seats, upmarket fittings and feel-good factor.

That sub-$40,000 price point, by the way, should bring a high level of standard specification, such as a full suite of active and passive safety systems, climate control air-conditioning (with rear-seat outlets), satellite navigation as part of the brand’s latest multimedia set-up, Bluetooth audio streaming and telephony, a reversing camera, roof racks and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Is all this enough for Volkswagen to reel in the Subaru Outback, which is going great guns at the moment on the back of its recent redesign? It will be an interesting battle to behold.

The Passat Alltrack proved to be more successful than the Germans had anticipated. Given that the Golf version is even more competent than its older brother, the European auto giant looks to be on another big winner.

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