You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Our Long-Term VW Alltrack Is as Desirable as Ever

Car and Driver logo Car and Driver 3/19/2019 Joey Capparella
a person driving a car: We've covered more than 30,000 enjoyable miles so far in our 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, a slightly lifted version of the Golf SportWagen.© Michael Simari - Car and Driver We've covered more than 30,000 enjoyable miles so far in our 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, a slightly lifted version of the Golf SportWagen.

30,000-Mile Update

As the miles continue to pile up on our long-term Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, our impression of this practical, attractive, and charismatic wagon has changed little since it first joined our fleet. With more than 30,000 miles under its belt, we continue to appreciate its satisfying driving experience, large cargo area, and pleasing aesthetics, even if the Michigan winter has introduced more filth than we’d like, both inside and out.

As in previous updates, editors have found only small nits to pick with the Alltrack. One logbook comment said that our particular Alltrack is only a heated steering wheel and a better sound system away from being perfect. If you’re willing to shell out for the top SEL trim level, one above our SE, it solves the latter problem with its Fender audio system (but not the former, as a heated wheel is not available on any Alltrack). SEL models also are newly available with a six-speed manual transmission, which wasn't the case for the 2018 model year, hence our long-term Alltrack's SE trim.

a close up of a wheel: Our Long-Term VW Alltrack Is as Desirable as Ever© Michael Simari - Car and Driver Our Long-Term VW Alltrack Is as Desirable as Ever

Another driver noticed that, as the VW's fuel level approaches empty, the fuel gauge’s needle blocks the graphic denoting that the fuel door is on the right side of the vehicle. As we said, we're stretching for things to gripe about. Average fuel economy itself has remained steady at a strong 27 mpg overall, beating the EPA's combined estimate by 3 mpg.

Our Alltrack's reliable streak has continued as well, with the car only having visited the dealer for scheduled maintenance since our last checkup. The $180 we shelled out for its 30,000-mile service included an oil and filter change and a vehicle inspection. The dealer also performed a recall to update the vehicle emissions label, which might sound suspicious given VW’s recent history with the EPA, but it really amounts to slapping on a new sticker.

a car parked on the side of a road: Our Long-Term VW Alltrack Is as Desirable as Ever© Michael Simari - Car and Driver Our Long-Term VW Alltrack Is as Desirable as Ever

With fewer than 10,000 miles left to go, there are already rumblings in our office of a battle royale between certain staffers who are contemplating buying this car from Volkswagen when it finishes its 40,000-mile tenure with us. If that’s not enough of a ringing endorsement of the Alltrack, we’re not sure what is.

Months in Fleet: 14 months Current Mileage: 32,282 miles

Average Fuel Economy: 27 mpg

Fuel Tank Size: 14.5 gal Observed Fuel Range: 390 miles

Service: $494 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $149

Damage and Destruction: $533

20,000-Mile Update

a car parked in a parking lot: 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack TSI 4Motion© Brad Fick - Car and Driver 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack TSI 4Motion

What We Like: Nearly everything. More than halfway through its 40,000-mile long-term test, the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack wagon remains endearing and practical, a great all-around vehicle that manages the rare combo of being both affordable and engaging. It has charmed nearly our entire staff and, unlike some other vehicles in our long-term fleet, hasn't begun losing any fans as the miles continue to accrue.


C/D's Montana bureau chief, John Phillips, took the car out west for a brief sojourn and had good things to say about the VW after many long days of driving, including one 827-mile stint from Wisconsin to Wyoming during which he found the comfortable seats particularly endearing. "I love how light and airy this car is," Phillips wrote. "Engine is quiet, idle is near perfection. I traveled at 70 mph for miles in fifth gear, forgetting one more cog was in reserve. Terrific ride, moderate handling, quiet, pragmatic cargo carrier. A desirable car."

What We Don't Like: Among the minor complaints noted in the Alltrack's logbook include a hard-to-reach USB port at the base of the center stack and a sticky hand brake that, Phillips said, "sounds like metal tearing metal." These are just slightly maddening details in an otherwise top-to-bottom excellent car, which is why we just once again named it to our annual 10Best Cars list for 2019.

a car parked on pavement near a forest: Our Long-Term VW Alltrack Is as Desirable as Ever© Brad Fick Our Long-Term VW Alltrack Is as Desirable as Ever

What Went Wrong: We still haven't experienced any major hiccups during the Alltrack's tenure, although the 20,000-mile scheduled maintenance stop ended up being somewhat costly, at $329, due to an off-center steering wheel that necessitated a $149 alignment. This dealer visit also included an oil change, a tire rotation, and various inspections. We've reinstalled a set of Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 winter tires for the snow-and-ice season, making the all-wheel-drive Alltrack even more capable in inclement weather.

Where We Went: Aside from its nearly 4000-mile journey to Montana and back, the Alltrack also ventured to Philadelphia and several destinations around Michigan.

Months in Fleet: 11 months Current Mileage: 25,627 miles

Average Fuel Economy: 27 mpg

Fuel Tank Size: 14.5 gal Fuel Range: 390 miles

Service: $462 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0

Damage and Destruction: $553

10,000-Mile Update

a car parked on the side of a road: Our Long-Term VW Alltrack Is as Desirable as Ever© Chris Doane Automotive - Car and Driver Our Long-Term VW Alltrack Is as Desirable as Ever

WHAT WE LIKE: The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack’s ability to carry people and stuff comfortably through a wide variety of conditions while providing a genuinely satisfying driving experience. More attractive to our eye than most crossovers but just as capable as many of them, this all-wheel-drive wagon proved to be a fine winter warrior on its Nokian Hakkapeliitta R2 tires and has ably hauled firewood, large coolers, and even 600 pounds of sand in its cargo area. It’s “one of the greatest arguments against compact SUVs,” asserted one logbook commenter. As we now enter summer road-trip season, the Golf continues to earn praise for its smooth and strong 1.8-liter turbocharged inline-four, its solid feel, and the distinctive Great Falls Green Metallic exterior color that one driver described as “ ’80s-tastic.”

a car parked on the side of a road: Our Long-Term VW Alltrack Is as Desirable as Ever© Michael Simari - Car and Driver Our Long-Term VW Alltrack Is as Desirable as Ever

WHAT WE DON’T LIKE: It’s telling that our qualms with the Alltrack are nitpicky details. Early on in the car’s stay, some remarked that the clutch pedal was squeaking annoyingly; the noise was worse in cold weather and has since disappeared. Online copy chief Rusty Blackwell also felt pestered by the low-washer-fluid warning, which aggressively and frequently flashes a message in the gauge cluster while also sounding a chime loud enough to awaken his passenger from a nap.

WHAT WENT WRONG: Technical editor David Beard noticed abnormally dim illumination from the halogen headlights while driving on a country road. We took the car to the dealer, where technicians confirmed that the lights were pointed too low and readjusted them to factory spec. While the car was still fitted with the Nokian winter tires, a few drivers experienced false and intermittent low-tire-pressure warnings. The car that cried wolf eventually did get a nail in one of those tires, which we had patched for $20; we haven’t noticed the issue since refitting the factory all-season rubber. A rock hit the Golf’s windshield on the freeway and cracked it, which necessitated a replacement for $533. Finally, a routine 10,000-mile service cost $134 and included an oil change and a multipoint inspection.

a car parked in a parking lot: Our Long-Term VW Alltrack Is as Desirable as Ever© Michael Simari - Car and Driver Our Long-Term VW Alltrack Is as Desirable as Ever

WHERE WE WENT: The Alltrack has mostly stayed in Michigan, making a few trips north to visit various lakes and other outdoorsy destinations.

Months in Fleet: 7 months Current Mileage: 10,709 miles

Average Fuel Economy: 26 mpg

Fuel Tank Size: 14.5 gal Fuel Range: 370 miles

Service: $134 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0

Damage and Destruction: $553


a car parked on the side of a road: AllTrackLEad© Michael Simari - Car and Driver AllTrackLEad

Aside from perhaps Volvo, no car company has championed station wagons in the United States as consistently and as ardently as Volkswagen. While other automakers abandoned the body style as SUVs and crossovers rose to dominance, VW has persisted in selling wagons in America for more than 50 years now. But over the past few decades, a charge led by the Subaru Outback has caused even the niche wagon market in America to skew toward a preference for all-wheel drive, raised ride height, and SUV styling cues, and VW responded by introducing the Alltrack variant of the Golf SportWagen for 2017.

Ardent champions of the station wagon that we are, we’ve just welcomed a Golf Alltrack into our long-term stable. It follows a 2015 Golf GTI and a 2015 Golf SEL as the third version of the 10Best Cars–winning Mark 7 Golf to go through our 40,000-mile test regimen. Our Alltrack, like almost all 2018 Golfs, is the beneficiary of a mild visual refresh and an updated infotainment system, and it now also sees wider availability of some active-safety features.

a close up of a car: 2018-Volkswagen-Golf-Alltrack-TSI-4Motion-147© Provided by Hearst Communications, Inc 2018-Volkswagen-Golf-Alltrack-TSI-4Motion-147

Choose Your Own Wagon Adventure

For our long-term car, we decided to take advantage of the 2018 Alltrack’s new paint-color option, the attractive Great Falls Green Metallic, which looks natty with our Marrakesh Brown leatherette interior. Every Alltrack comes standard with 4Motion all-wheel drive and a turbocharged 1.8-liter inline-four making 170 horsepower. We chose the mid-level SE trim so that we could row our own gears courtesy of the six-speed manual transmission (the top-trim Alltrack SEL comes only with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic). Compared with the base S model, the SE adds a panoramic sunroof, proximity-key entry, forward-collision warning and automated emergency braking, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with SiriusXM satellite radio.

Volkswagen no longer offers any option packages for the Alltrack, but we did shell out $235 for rubberized floor mats to help protect the car’s interior during the winter months and $546 for a roof-mounted bicycle-attachment kit. The total came out to a reasonable $31,396, some $6000 less than the better-equipped SEL.

a car covered in snow: 2018-Volkswagen-Golf-Alltrack-TSI-4Motion-128© Provided by Hearst Communications, Inc 2018-Volkswagen-Golf-Alltrack-TSI-4Motion-128

Manuals FTW

This was the first time we’ve strapped our test equipment to a stick-shift Alltrack, and we were surprised to find that it’s significantly quicker than the automatic version. Zero to 60 mph happened in just 6.7 seconds, which is 0.8 second ahead of a 2017 Alltrack SEL automatic we tested. After a quarter-mile, the manual has a 0.6 second lead. This despite the 15 lb-ft of additional torque in the automatic cars.

Our Alltrack SE’s different wheel-and-tire package also turned in better results than the SEL, with the 205/55R-17 Falken Sincera SN250A all-season tires pulling 0.86 g on the skidpad and helping the car stop from 70 mph in just 162 feet-that’s compared with 0.84 g and 172 feet for the wider, lower-profile 225/45R-18 Continental ProContact TX rubber installed on the SEL.

That tire size is a little odd, or at least not very popular, because the only winter-tire option available at our usual source, Tire Rack, was a Pirelli run-flat. Instead, we looked at Nokian’s line of Hakkapeliitta winter rubber and found that the R2, a tire that won our last winter-tire test, was available in that size. Nokian sent us a set, but online retailers sell them for about $200 apiece.

a car covered in snow: 2018-Volkswagen-Golf-Alltrack-TSI-4Motion-124© Provided by Hearst Communications, Inc 2018-Volkswagen-Golf-Alltrack-TSI-4Motion-124

What We Think So Far

Spoiler alert: We’re loving the Alltrack already. It’s a manual-transmission station wagon, but beyond that novelty-and the aesthetic appeal of the green-on-brown color combo-there’s also plenty of substance: the generous 30 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats, for instance, and the plush ride quality, the strong and refined engine, and the smooth-shifting manual.

As with any long-term test, the topic of reliability will be on our minds throughout our time with the Alltrack, even though neither of the most recent Golfs presented any major mechanical issues during their long-term tests. But notably, our car, along with almost all other 2018-model-year VWs, now comes with vastly superior warranty coverage as part of the company’s new People First Warranty, which increases both bumper-to-bumper and powertrain coverage to six years or 72,000 miles.

a close up of a car: 2018-Volkswagen-Golf-Alltrack-TSI-4Motion-159© Provided by Hearst Communications, Inc 2018-Volkswagen-Golf-Alltrack-TSI-4Motion-159

We won’t be keeping our VW for that long, but we are looking forward to spending 40,000 miles behind the wheel of this attractive and well-rounded wagon, the first longroof in our long-term fleet since our 2014 BMW 328d finished its tenure.

Months in Fleet: 1 month Current Mileage: 1851 miles

Average Fuel Economy: 25 mpg

Fuel Tank Size: 14.5 gal Fuel Range: 360 miles

Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0


More From Car and Driver

Car and Driver
Car and Driver

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon