Mountain Wheels: VW’s rugged Golf Alltrack wagon aims at Outback audience | SummitDaily.com

Mountain Wheels: VW’s rugged Golf Alltrack wagon aims at Outback audience

Andy Stonehouse
Mountain Wheels

After a week of spring break crowds, even the most dedicated of Summit County residents are probably aching for a change in scenery (and some depopulated ski slopes, as well).

Given the opportunity to get out of the stacked-to-the-rafters I-70 ski corridor for a few days in the anticipated Volkswagen Golf Alltrack — the car that many hoped would be a fantastic competitor for Subaru's stranglehold on the Colorado sport-utility-wagon market — I opted to head all the way over to the Roaring Fork Valley and see what things were like on the roads, and up at Snowmass.

Turns out this was not a bad idea on both fronts as traffic does entirely disappear west of Beaver Creek and you are free to really cruise in the slightly physically elevated and sporty style of this more rugged version of the Golf SportWagen. I also hit Snowmass the week before World Cup and on Sunday I swear there were maybe 30 people on the slopes, tops. It was wonderful, and eerie.

Alltrack also turned out to be a pleasant surprise as it is indeed like a new-fangled version of what the Outback used to be before the Outback morphed into a minivan-sized (and priced) machine, popular as it still is. Starting at $25,850 (my Alltrack was a little over $32,000), that part was absolutely true.

While VW used to build its U.S. wagons on the larger Passat platform, the smaller Golf works just as well in providing spacious, speedy and efficient motoring. Cargo room is plentiful, as it is in the SportWagen — 94.3 cubic feet of total space, 30.4 behind the rear seats and 66.5 with the rear seats dropped — and a half-inch of extra lift gives the car 6.7 inches of off-road clearance, allowing it extra versatility while tackling summertime trails or deep wintertime snow.

Looks are certainly the biggest part of the Alltrack upgrade, with aggressive, silver-colored body cladding up front and along the bottoms of the cabin, plus a large, black air dam on the rear roofline. Add silver roof rails, large bi-xenon headlamp bezels and large fog lamps, silver-painted side mirror caps and blade-shaped 17- or 18-inch wheels and it's all a tasteful change from the standard wagon.

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Inside, it's attractive but basic, with a little flourish of plastic carbon fiber-styled trim and the leatherette seating to add some sparkle; a 6.5-inch control screen can offer full info (mine did not have navigation, mind you) and a Fender premium audio system also pumped things up considerably. A full panoramic sunroof is also a nice touch. Seating is quite comfortable and sporty up front and your rear passengers have considerable leg room.

Power however is not especially explosive, though the 170-horsepower, 1.8-liter turbocharged, direct-injection four-cylinder certainly has the boost (and 199 lb.-ft. of torque) for spirited uphill blasts. You'll just have to be a little pedal-aggressive to maintain steady 75 mph freeway speeds while cruising along out west of the Vail Valley.

The positive upside here was mileage as high as 35 during portions of my trip, and a 30 MPG general highway rating on the EPA sticker. In an alternative universe to our own increasingly alternative universe, a diesel option might have brought even higher mileage, but that is not an option at this point, given the recent drama with VW's diesel engines. You do get a choice of a six-speed double-clutch automatic transmission or a six-speed manual.

You will have plenty of control in crummy weather and during off-road jaunts, thanks to the full-time 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. Alltrack adds a switchable system to dedicate the car to an off-road mode for better throttle control while working along rocky routes; hill-descent control can also be helpful here.

In town and on the highway, a small glassy plate up front contains the controls for adaptive cruise control, front and parking assist aids and the Park Pilot system, which can make parallel parking a snap. In the back, the rear-view camera is hidden underneath the pop-up VW emblem (which also serves as the door handle for the rear liftgate).

A quick note: For those who'd like to see a pile of the new and snazzy automobiles I get to profile in these reviews, in person, the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association is bringing some of the action to Summit Ford at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22. The annual Denver Auto Show Car Convoy will be rolling into town with a few other Colorado car writers at the wheel, with a wide array of hybrids, sports vehicles, trucks and muscle cars for you to take a look at and sit inside, in real life.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack TSI SE 4Motion

MSRP: $30,630; as tested, $32,195

Powertrain: 170-HP 1.8-liter four-cylinder with six-speed automatic transmission

EPA figures: 25 combined (22 city, 30 highway)