Volkswagen Golf Alltrack road test and review
DO we really need another Golf in the vast range Volkswagen already offers us?
Of course we don't, but when the platform is as impressive as the current Golf Mk7's you can almost guarantee anything they build on it will be superb.
And so it proves with the brand's new Golf Alltrack, something VW says is a passenger car and SUV in one, technically and physically.
What it's really saying is: "We know you lot only want SUVs these days, so how about we jack the suspension up a bit on our Wagon, giving you a proper driver's car with decent luggage space and some off-road nous?"
On paper it seems like a decent plan - and one that's already on offer with the Passat Alltrack - but such is our market's lust for SUVs (and there are many good ones available in this $35-40,000 segment), the Golf Alltrack will be only for the niche, if astute, buyer.
Which is a shame, because the Alltrack makes a lot more sense for certain shoppers who perhaps rush into "default choice" SUV ownership without considering alternatives.
The jacked-up Golf is an impressive tool indeed: decent off the bitumen, a well-matched 132kW four-cylinder petrol engine with a nice blend of performance and economy, plus a boot space to make some mid-size SUVs hide in the corner.
The Alltrack is reassuringly Golf inside, with the usual great layout, soft touch dash and doors, supportive seats and robust finish.
While not feeling particularly special or distinctive to suggest you're not in just any old Golf, the leather seating and flat-bottomed steering wheel have a mid-premium feel. Seats are heated, but you miss out on electric adjustment.
We undertook a decent road trip in Canberra's surrounds and suffered no ill effects: as per most Golfs it feels a larger car inside than you'd expect, and remained comfortable after many hours in the saddle. Long distance family cruiser? Ideal.
On the road
The Golf in its many variants is one of the best handling cars on our market, effortlessly combining comfort and cornering skill. And despite the Alltrack's 20mm height raise it still feels a beautifully planted and talented steer…very "normal" Golf actually.
Certainly it is dynamically more talented than most small SUVs thanks to its lower centre of gravity combined with the tried and test Golf chassis. Sure you're driving position isn't as lofty as a "true" SUV's, but for those still enamoured with a car that can corner and ride well, the Alltrack is an ideal SUV antidote.
It's the only Golf you can buy with all-wheel-drive (bar the sublime Golf R), and the 4MOTION system keeps the Alltrack in front wheel drive the majority of the time, but in a fraction of a second shift to all-wheel drive when aggressively cornering or when off the bitumen.
Our test route included a stretch of not too demanding unsealed dirt road, and the Alltrack breezed across. Its ground clearance (175mm) is of course no match for a larger 4WD, but the included hill decent control proved the talent is there to cover tough terrain, provided you don't bottom out.
The 1.8-litre petrol is a winner. There's an impressive 280Nm delivered from just 1350rpm, giving diesel-like low-down shove without the clatter (or emissions scandal).
The (sole option) six speed double-clutch automatic also shone on test, imperceptivity finding the correct cog, although paddle shifters would be a nice inclusion.
What do you get?
There's one Alltrack model only in one specification, with no diesel option (a blessing, right now). Standard kit is good with leather upholstery, 6.5-inch screen, VW's excellent infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, park distance sensors and reversing camera all included.
What you don't get are some of the more advanced driver and safety aids, making the $1300 Driver Assistance Package look a decent investment. This offers park assist, city emergency braking, adaptive cruise with stop and go, and a Proactive Occupant Protection System which detects elevated accident potential.
A quoted 6.7-litres/100km is a fair return for such a refined engine in an all-wheel-drive car, although our test had the figure closer to the 10-litres thirst.
Many opt for SUVs in the mistaken belief they're decent load luggers - many are not. The Golf Alltrack's wagon bum swallows 605-litres (VW's own mighty Touareg only manages 580-litres), and with rear seats down you get a substantial 1620-litres to play with.
You've also got the Golf Wagon's impressive rear space - head and leg room is vast for a car this size - so it comfortably takes two adults.
Try the Subaru Outback, Skoda Octavia Scout or just about any small SUV you can think of if you can't live without a high driving position.
Excellent ride and handling, silky smooth and impressively torquey engine, and a talent on dirt roads: the Alltrack's a lovely car to live with.
But will it be enough to convince the market? Sadly the lure of the high riding and enduringly in vogue SUV will mean many won't consider the Alltrack when they really should, and at $37,990 it's a big sticker price on a Golf.
What matters most
What we liked: All the regular Golf's driving dynamic talents combined with impressive unsealed road ability, refined and torquey petrol engine, looks tough, boot space.
What we'd like to see: Steering wheel paddles, more included kit for the price especially the safety tech, or at least a lower entry-level priced Alltrack to convince buyers away from SUVs.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty. Capped price servicing is every 15,000km or 12 months, costing $1235 over three years.
Model: 2015 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
Details: Five-door all-wheel drive wagon.
Engine: 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol generating maximum power of 132kW @ 4500rpm and peak torque of 280Nm @ 1350rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed DSG with 4MOTION all-wheel drive.
Performance 0-100kmh: 7.8-seconds.
Bottom line: $37,990 (before on roads).
Driving experience 18/20
Features and equipment 16/20
Functionality and comfort 18/20
Value for money 15/20
Style and design 18/20