It seems as if everyone drives a crossover these days. And while automakers advertise the vehicles with scenes of attractive millennials engaging in outdoor activities, it’s more likely the average crossover driver is much like the average American: overweight and fearful of getting stuck on an icy road while commuting to their 9-to-5.

So, if you really want to stand out and experience a better ride while still enjoying the benefits of a crossover, you ought to consider an all-wheel-drive wagon. They’re made by, among others, Subaru, Audi, Volvo and, yes, even Volkswagen.

After decades of struggling to understand that Americans prefer utility vehicles over compact cars, the German automaker has gotten on board and delivered the 2017 Golf Alltrack, part of a model year lineup that will include a new Tiguan with a longer wheelbase and a new midsize SUV.
Base prices: $25,850-$32,890.

The Alltrack is a derivative of Volkswagen’s SportWagen, lifted an extra 0.6 inches off the ground and adorned with cladding and roof rails that designate it as off-road ready. Like the SportWagen, it runs on a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque.

Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system comes standard on the Alltrack, whose power runs through a six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. Buyers will eventually be able to opt for a six-speed manual transmission.


Technical stuff aside, this vehicle’s reason for being is going after the rough stuff, which is why it comes with a drive-mode selector. With off-road mode engaged, the vehicle adjusts its anti-lock braking system and traction control, allowing you to engage hill-descent assist so you can crawl down steep inclines without using the accelerator or brake pedal.

Like many all-wheel-drive setups, the Alltrack’s system functions under normal driving conditions like that of the front-wheel-drive Golf SportWagen, with the rear wheels decoupled, saving fuel. When traction deteriorates, though, the rear wheels engage, receiving up to 50 percent of the car’s power.

What’s truly remarkable about the Golf Alltrack is its handling, which punches well above its weight class. Like other Golf models, the Alltrack delivers the ideal blend of ride comfort and athletic handling with quick steering, a responsive gearbox and enough power to keep things entertaining. It’s fun to drive, even with the drive mode selector set to normal rather than sport or off-road.

Once in sport mode, the steering quickens noticeably, effort intensifies and each gear is held longer before shifting. Better yet, the 4Motion system is a smile-inducer. Slinging this puppy through corners produces little of the expected understeer. Instead, you can get this little hauler to drift through corners and remain eminently controllable while it perfectly communicating what it’s doing.

And while the car exhibits remarkable athleticism on-road, it’s equally adept once the pavement ends. Even off-road, its agile nature and adept corning abilities remain intact. The ride remains firm, but not jarring, with no undue body motion.

The Alltrack is offered in three ascending trim levels: S, SE and SEL, which mostly differ in terms of standard equipment.


The baseline S, however, does suffer from its front bucket seats, which are fairly uncomfortable and lacking in support compared to the superb set used in the SEL. It’s a noticeable difference.

The S is inferior in other ways as well, featuring a black-and-white touchscreen and a depressing black interior while lacking a push-button starter and panoramic sunroof. And while the driving position in the S is fairly good, the throttle is placed far to the right, forcing longer-legged drivers to press their leg uncomfortably against the center console.

Available driver assistance systems include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, park distance control, parking steering assistant, lane departure warning system and high beam control.

Oh, and did I mention that the Alltrack boasts 30.4 cubic feet of cargo room behind the rear seats and 66.5 cubic feet with those seats folded?
To have such utility in car that’s so much fun proves that utilitarian vehicles can bring a smile to your face, whether you’re a hot millennial or your average overweight, overworked, overwrought American.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.