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