2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack Road Test

Drumroll please… And the winner of the 2017 Auto Journalist Association of Canada’s Canadian Car of the Year award is (ratatatat)
2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack
A crossover SUV or a wagon? Who cares? The new Golf AllTrack provides an award-winning alternative to both. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
the 2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack!

Well that one caught me by surprise, as did the selection of the 2017 Subaru Forester for the Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year. Not that these two compact crossovers aren’t worthy, but the Subie was merely a mid-cycle refresh, and a mild one at that, and the COTY winner was (as just stated) more of a crossover SUV than a car, or at least that’s how VW classifies it on their retail site.

Yes, I’m aware that it’s actually a Golf SportWagen and therefore kind of qualifies for Car of the Year, but it’s adequately raised and moderately pumped up on oxandrolone thanks to plenty of matte black body cladding including a quad of flared fenders, slick looking aluminized front and rear undertrays plus rocker moulding
2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack
Raised ride-height and rugged body-cladding make for a great looking crossover with improved visibility. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
trim, a set of aluminum roof rails up top, as well as some trick aluminum-finish mirror caps to each side, not that these have anything to do with SUVs. No matter how you slice it, VW was trying to turn its wagon into a compact crossover SUV and did such a good job they won AJAC’s Car of the Year title.

This wasn’t the first time Volkswagen’s Golf won the Canadian COTY, the GTI deservedly taking top honours in 2010, but it’s the first time that sport utilities took both the COTY and the CUVOTY. The rugged looking VeeDub first won the “Best New Large Car” title last fall, which is certainly a big title for a compact wagon, but hey. As long as automakers are bending categories to suit their current lineup of rolling stock, why not bend a few rules about what actually constitutes a “large car”.

2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack
Golf AllTrack is one part GTI and two parts CUV. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
course, I’m having a bit of fun with my esteemed auto journo colleagues (a number of which are highly intelligent, incredibly hard working, very dedicated, wholly professional, and damn nice… the others we won’t mention) and the results of what is no doubt a mind-numbingly complicated rating process that’s horribly challenging to organize and then vote upon, so I hope they don’t take offence. They were certainly right in choosing two great crossover SUVs as their topmost winners, this new 2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack combining almost everything I’ve always loved about the Golf SportWagen with a certain cool factor that non-wagon lovers might say was missing.

Almost? Yah, it would’ve been even better if TDI were stamped on its backside and the awesome 2.0-litre turbo-diesel still bolted into its engine bay. I know the dirty little devil isn’t exactly on good terms with the world right now, but those of us
2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack
AllTrack interior design and quality is as good as all Golf models. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
who love modern-day oil burners are lamenting their loss from VW’s lineup and most other Euro brands.

As it is, this beefy little five-door gets VW’s still impressive gasoline-powered 1.8-litre direct-injection four-cylinder that puts out 170 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque, which is plenty to propel its “large car” mass forward in lickety–split quickness no matter the slipperiness of tarmac or alternative road surface underneath, thanks in part to standard 4Motion all-wheel drive.

The AllTrack’s increased ground clearance combines with an “Off Road” driving mode that is claimed to optimize “traction on uneven surfaces,” says VW, but unfortunately I didn’t have time to find out how it goes about its off-the-beaten-track business firsthand during my test week. I’m guessing it’s a soft-roader at best,
2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack
This driver-centric cockpit provides plenty of standard features. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
as there’s no low gearset or locking differentials. Its all-season rubber on 18-inch Canyon alloys didn’t exactly fill me with rock-crawling confidence either, but a little summer beach sand might’ve been fun in the absence of any knee-deep powder.

I think Volkswagen had the latter in mind when creating the Golf AllTrack, along with weekend jaunts to the cottage, weeklong road trips with a tiny Boler or Scamp in tow (I wonder if you can get one of those in Tornado Red?), or any other light duty use for strong torque and four-wheel traction.

I don’t have either so I’ll keep my road test comments to driving sans camp trailer, not to mention the usual laurels I laud on any Golfs’ superb interior, which in this case includes VW’s excellent 6.5-inch proximity sensing, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink infused touchscreen infotainment system. This is truly one of the better touchscreen displays in the
2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack
One area of weakness is its old-school monochromatic trip computer. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
business, with an excellent backup camera, nicely detailed navigation mapping and accurate GPS guidance.

All Golf SportWagens benefit from an outrageously roomy interior (hence it’s large car status), especially in the very back for cargo where it can gobble up 860 litres (30.4 cubic feet) with the rear seats upright and 1,880 litres (66.5 cubic feet) when laid flat, while a centre pass-through makes the 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks more flexible, so being that this new AllTrack is no different from the wagon in this respect it works very well for heavy hauling.

I won’t go into too much detail about features, but suffice to say that options are few, with the base $35,295 2017 Golf AllTrack
2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack
VW infotainment is superb, featuring proximity-sensing buttons, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and more. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
packed full of everything already mentioned as well as a six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic with manual mode, auto on/off headlamps with static cornering capability, fog lights, powered and heated side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, proximity keyless access with pushbutton ignition, ambient LED interior lighting, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and handbrake lever, rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming, voice activation, two SD card slots, navigation, a rearview camera, 400-watt Fender premium audio, satellite radio, USB port, dual-zone auto climate control, leather upholstery, a 12-way powered driver’s seat, heatable front seats, a really nice powered panoramic sunroof, variable cargo load floor, a 115-volt household-style power outlet in the cargo area, etcetera.

2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack
Supportive leather sport seats are standard. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
$1,310 Driver Assistance package adds adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, lane assist, parking assist, and park distance control, which is enough for an IIHS Top Safety Pick when equipped, whereas all Golf AllTracks get a 5-star overall safety rating from the NHTSA.

All of this kit comes in a cabin that’s extremely well finished for the class, albeit this will hardly be unexpected for any Golf owner. Some of the premium-like detailing includes fabric-wrapped A-pillars, a soft-touch dash that extends to the halfway point of the instrument panel, soft-touch front door uppers, a beautifully finished leather-wrapped flat-bottom sport steering wheel with wonderfully thin spokes filled with high-quality switchgear, stylish grey carbon-like dash and door inlays, glossy piano black accents, and plenty of satin-finish aluminum trim throughout.

2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack
Rear seat roominess and comfort is top-notch. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
AllTrack’s monochromatic multi-information display between the otherwise highly-legible gauge cluster isn’t up to standards in a class that’s now filled with high-resolution TFT colour graphics in this position, but as noted the infotainment system is ultra impressive. Additionally, the just noted HVAC system is nicely laid out and easy to operate, plus the three-way heatable front seats come on fast and stay strong.

On that note the leather seats are superb, with excellent side bolstering, plus there’s loads of room in back, good lower back support, and a nice wide folding armrest with integrated cupholders at centre.

The AllTrack drives much like any other Golf wagon, with a very compliant fully independent
2017 Volkswagen Golf AllTrack
Few compact SUVs provide as much cargo space as the AllTrack. (Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press)
suspension that, while extremely comfortable over rough pavement, still manages curves much better than expected from a vehicle with more ride-height than its donor platform. I like the tradeoff, the raised suspension providing plenty of travel as well as better visibility all around, while any added weight certainly wasn’t noticeable at takeoff where the little turbo four provided all the get-up-and-go needed, the six-speed automated dual-clutch transmission especially quick shifting.

Of course, the engine and autobox were set up for fuel economy first and foremost, the 2017 Golf AllTrack achieving a five-cycle Transport Canada rating of 10.6 L/100km in the city, 8.0 on the highway and 9.4 combined. These numbers are identical to the Golf SportWagen when outfitted with similar equipment.

With the Golf AllTrack, Volkswagen has taken one of my favourite cars and made it better. This type of crossover SUV makes a lot of sense these days, as it combines the raised ride height, rugged styling, and roominess of an SUV, with the sporty handling and fuel economy of a car. I highly recommend it.
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