By Isaac Bouchard
The Alltrack represents many of the things VW does best. In SEL trim—as tested—it looks good inside and out, has very well rounded dynamics and performs well. The Alltrack, based on the excellent Golf SportWagen, sits 1.4 inches higher, giving it increased ground clearance for light duty offroad work (bolstered by a selectable, specialized traction control mode) and deep snow.
Its 170hp, 1.8-liter turbo is smooth and punchy; whether routing its 199lb-ft of torque through either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed twin-clutch, it will get to 60mph in under 7 seconds, which is much faster than any similar 4-cylinder Subaru vehicle. It is still efficient, however, regularly returning mid-20s mpg in mixed use, and you don’t need to listen to the horrid sounds of a CVT-style transmission to get there.
The Alltrack handles with the kind of driver-engaging confidence that is a hallmark of VW’s MQB platform, with incisive steering, well controlled body motions and a sense of lithe fun, missing from most vehicles in the crossover category. It also rides decently (even on the SEL’s bigger, 18in wheels), absorbing bumps in a manner that shames some more expensive vehicles. Its 4Motion AWD system also adjusts quickly to changing weather and traction conditions.
The Alltrack interior shows how well VW can do when it tries; it is roomy, airy and well-constructed, and—unlike the cockpits of the larger Tiguan and Atlas—doesn’t feel cut-price. The heated front seats (even though they’re vinyl, not leather) are supportive, and touchpoints like the wheel and shifter feel expensive. The back bench is roomy enough for normal duty and still leaves 30 cubic feet of space for cargo. The latest VW interface is 8in in size, fast and intuitive and offers both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. Most all the modern driver aids are also present, including adaptive cruise, autonomous emergency braking, lane assist, adaptive LED lighting (very useful in the mountains), pedestrian detection and even self-parking. These work well and enhance the driving experience.
The Alltrack shows that VW still knows how to build vehicles with class-leading driving character and good perceived quality, which is backed by one of the best warranties in the business, good for a full 6 years or 72,000 miles.
EPA Ratings: 22/30mpg; 25mpg combined
0-60mph: 7.1sec (independent test)
Price as tested: $36,990
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