VW’s new Alltrack takes aim at Outback

Arriving in Volkswagen showrooms in October was the 2017 Golf Alltrack 4Motion. (Bud Wells photos)

Arriving in Volkswagen showrooms in October was the 2017 Golf Alltrack 4Motion. (Bud Wells photos)

The only “untouchable” during last month’s testing of 40 new cars and trucks at Devil’s Thumb Ranch near Tabernash was a red, sleek-looking though rather ruggedly trimmed Volkswagen called the Alltrack.

It was locked tight; all I could do was walk around it. It hadn’t yet gone on sale and there would be no drives in it, VW officials said.

So I suggested to Darryll Harrison Jr., a manager/spokesperson for VW of America, “You drive and I’ll ride.” But he said, “Sorry, not permitted.”

Well, the new wagon has arrived in Denver, and I’m driving it. This one is finished in platinum gray metallic.

A member of the Golf family, all the Alltracks are equipped with 4Motion all-wheel drive. They’re upgraded from the Golf SportWagen. The Alltrack boasts an inch more ground clearance, has wheel arch moldings and sturdier bumpers.

Volkswagen has aimed it at the Subaru Outback wagon, though the Alltrack measures up more closely with the smaller Subaru Crosstrek.

The Alltrack is 9 inches shorter and 350 pounds lighter than the Outback. Its turbocharged 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder engine (170 horsepower, 199 lb.-ft. of torque) and 6-speed automatic transmission outperforms the Subaru’s boxer-4 (175-hp, 174 torque) and continuously variable transmission. Both the VW and Subaru are excellent handlers; the Outback offers a smoother ride. The Outback’s EPA estimate is 25/32, the Alltrack’s 22/30.

A look at the new VW all-wheel-drive wagon from the rear.

A look at the new VW all-wheel-drive wagon from the rear.

Cargo space behind the second-row seat is 30.4 cubic feet in the Alltrack; the Outback is 35 and the Subaru Crosstrek 22.

Loaded up with drive-mode selection, navigation/audio touchscreen, Bluetooth connectivity, rearview camera, adaptive cruise and park-distance control, the Alltrack’s listed sticker price is $32,195.

A comparison of the Alltrack with the Subaru comes fairly fresh, for it was only a couple weeks ago I was driving the 2017 Outback. With four days to closing of U.S. 34 for winter repairs in Big Thompson Canyon, Jan and I on Thursday, Oct. 13, drove the Subaru Outback 2.5i Touring wagon up into the canyon.

Departing the highway at Drake, we appreciated the smooth new Devil’s Gulch Road to Glen Haven, one of my favorite destinations in northern Colorado.

At the Glen Haven General Store, we shared one of Steve and Becky Childs’ homemade cinnamon rolls.

Steve Childs, owner of Glen Haven General Store, inspected the new Subaru Outback.

Steve Childs, owner of Glen Haven General Store, inspected the new Subaru Outback.

The new Outback attracted keen interest from Steve Childs; he owns two Subarus – a 1986 Brat and 2009 Legacy, and says his sons are “Subaru fanatics.” He was quite taken with the wagon’s java brown leather-trimmed seats.

This is the 36th year the Childs have owned and operated the general store. Closing of the highway Oct. 17 fit their timing, as they had scheduled closing of the store for the winter last Saturday, Oct. 22 (to reopen in mid-May).

The Outback was equipped with the 175-hp boxer-4 engine and Subaru’s CVT transmission. More power is available with a 3.6-liter, 6-cylinder, though its price premium of several thousand dollars lends support to my opting for the 4-cylinder, the Outback’s strongest seller.

The “4,” noted for its smoothness, is not overly powerful. It worked hard on a couple of sharp switchbacks on the climb from Glen Haven to Estes Park. In less strenuous maneuvering, though, shift it into manual mode, engage the paddle shifters and the rpm will rise and deliver more adequate performance locked in a low gear setting.

I remember the first Outback, introduced in 1995 as a variant of the Legacy wagon. Wagons were going nowhere at that time. The Outback, though, with its boxer engines and sturdy all-wheel-drive structure and heavy side cladding, endured among a rush of SUVs and more modern crossovers, and found favor with lots of outdoors persons.

It caught on “big time,” as its all-wheel drive conquered our state’s rugged terrain and inclement weather.

As hot as Subaru is in Colorado today, its products are more lukewarm in much of the U.S. Besides Colorado, its pockets of especially strong sales success are New York, Pennsylvania and the New England states; Washington, Oregon and northern California.

The ’17 Outback Touring model carried a sticker price of $36,870, including navigation, audio/Bluetooth, rearview camera, power rear gate with height memory, heated front and rear seats and moonroof.

Two weeks prior to driving the all-new Alltrack, Volkswagen delivered to me a 2016 Golf R four-door, finished in tornado red.

The VW Golf R hatchback is hot performer.

The VW Golf R hatchback is hot performer.

The R hatchback and the Alltrack bring to six the number of Golf models I’ve driven in the past two years. “Meine gute.”

I’m not complaining, though. In fact, the Golf R is a blast to drive with its 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine churning out 292 horsepower and 280 lb.-ft. of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission, with 4Motion all-wheel-drive, kept the revs high and, with ease of downshifting, the corners tight. Its performance sharpens considerably in race mode, which disengages traction control.

The R carries a decent 22/31 fuel-mileage estimate, and my maneuvers resulted in an average of 23.5

Built in Wolfsburg, Germany, the Golf R showed a sticker price of $36,470, including black leather interior, app-connect smartphone, rearview camera, 6.5-inch touchscreen navigation and audio with Bluetooth, push-button start, heated front sport seats, rain-sensing wipers with heated nozzles and head-impact airbags.

It rides on Bridgestone 225/40R18 tires and fancy spoked wheels.