2017 VW Golf Alltrack

SEATTLE — It may or may not come as a surprise to you but the popularity of the traditional family sedan is dying with demand at a five-year low. That’s even as we are in the midst of one of the U.S. auto industry’s best sales years ever following up on last year’s record pace. Vehicles in this segment include the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and others.

Shoppers are just seeing more value in SUVs or CUVs especially in the compact crossover segment as it’s poised to take over as No. 1 for the first time ever and as of August more than 4 million SUVs and crossovers have been sold.

But the folks at Volkswagen have taken a slightly different approach getting into what might be considered an in-between niche with wagons for those who might not want to go along with the crowd but is no longer satisfied with the relevancy of a sedan.

For the record, Japanese auto maker Subaru has been dominating the wagon market with year after year record sales of its popular Forester, Outback and Crosstrek offerings. All are capable, spacious, offer ample amounts of value and utility and of course come standard with all-wheel drive.

Volkswagen has decided to take Subaru head-on with their all-new 2017 Golf Alltrack. Their formula was to take the attractive, affordable Golf SportWagen, raise up the road clearance a bit, equip it with some modest off-road under chassis protection, add the Golf R’s extra traction grip of 4Motion all-wheel drive system, dress it up with some exterior plastic body cladding on it’s lower extremities and say hello to Alltrack.

This same formula by the way also worked for Volvo with their CrossCountry series and the current Audi Allroad wagon.

Mechanically, the Alltrack and its SportWagen sibling are nearly identical with both using the same 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine that’s turbocharged to produce 170-horsepower and paired with your choice of either a six-speed manual or six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. All-wheel drive is standard with the Alltrack but is offered as an option on the base SportWagen model.

Sans Alltrack badging on the center console storage lid, the interiors thankfully are identical since we’ve long been a fan of Golf interiors across the entire product line. It felt refined with excellent architectural rigor, materials and build quality.

On the road, the Alltrack is a sweetheart to drive, quick, fun, solid and especially comfortable. We drove the Alltrack at an off-road course in the Tahuya State Forest on Bainbridge Island just across from Seattle. While one shouldn’t expect the Alltrack to be a hard-core off-roader, I was really surprised the degree of ease it handled the rugged, rutted, rock strewn trails and over and around obstacles. Snow covered and icy roads should be a snap to handle.

Overall we highly think shoppers of compact crossover utility vehicles would be well served to consider the new Golf Alltrack — the loveable compact wagon loaded with value and capability.

Vital Stats

Price: $25,850 - $32,890
Price as Tested: $31,350
Engine: 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 170-hp
Fuel Economy: 22/30 - City/Highway

Fab Features

Sporty wagons are more fun to drive
Delightful on and off road
Lots of bang for the buck here

— Jim Prueter