Long-Term Test: 2017 Volkswagen Alltrack S

Discussion in 'The Garage and Car Talk' started by Philpug, Dec 21, 2016.

  1. Philpug

    Philpug The Ski'er Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    We have all seen the car commercials with a panel of consumers saying, “It reminds me of a [fill-in-whichever-premium-Euro-brand-here].” Well, the Golf Sportwagen Alltrack does feel more like an entry-level Audi than a Volkswagen. Starting with an MSRP in the $27K range plus a few options less obligatory dealer discounts, I don’t think there is a car on the market that offers what the VW does for the money. Like my “what's the best ski?” column, this is about "what's the best car?" In other words, what's the "best car" for me, as a skier?​
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    First, I didn’t want another Volkswagen after what happened with Dieselgate, I was done with them. But after sitting in and driving all the other options in the under $30K range, we returned to VW because it was the best car for us, and I was not going to cut off my nose to spite my face. I have owned about 50 cars in my life, about 15 of which were Volkswagens. I had the last one, a 2010 Jetta Sportwagen, the longest, and it went more than six years and 150,000 miles with nary an out-of-warranty problem. Not only was it reliable, it was a tight and solid car. The latter is one of the things that sold us on the new Alltrack. Again, Tricia and I looked at almost every small SUV and even some used premiums that would keep us within budget, and the Alltrack had a solid feel and level of comfort that the Asian cars and even domestic offerings could not touch. For the past few months, we have been borrowing a 2010 Subaru Impreza, a car that some feel goes up against the Golf series. As far as size, features, and price, that is accurate, but there is no similarity in feel. The VW and the Subaru are light years apart.

    Since I often use cars in my ski analogies, I am going to use ski gear in my car comparison. After spending time in the Impreza and then going back into the VW, I feel like I went from an 80-flex $299 tent-sale boot to a 130-flex boot with a customized performance fit. Now, I know this is a bit of an unfair comparison on the surface, but it really isn’t. Considering that the Impreza and my Jetta Sportwagen are both 2010s, it is a glimpse into the future, too. My VW had 150K on it and the Impreza only 45K, and the VW is still tight as a drum while the Subie is “packed out” like that tent-sale ski boot after one season. Even looking at this year's Subaru models, yes, they are two generations newer and have some softer and better-quality materials, but I believe it would be more of the same in a few, short high-mileage years.​
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    The Subaru that we kept coming back to was the Outback, which again should have worked for us. We tried to like it, we really did. Even with a slightly higher price, it is a bigger car, and it gets good mileage, and it has a great reputation as a ski car, and ... and ... and. There are a lot of "ands" with the Outback, but there are a lot of “buts,” too. The passenger seat is awful, there is no CarPlay, the CVT transmission has a disconnect ... in the end, the "buts" outweighed the "ands."

    First, what separates the Alltrack from the other cars? Well, quality, for one. It just feels tighter than similar cars out there. Second, the cargo area. The Alltrack is a wagon, which means the cargo area is rectangular rather than square in the small SUVs, which are more like raised hatchbacks than the longer wagon shape of the Alltrack. Finally, the seats were a huge deciding factor for us. We drive a lot (we will put about 20,000 miles a year on this car), so comfort is key, and the VW seats and their adjustment ability are class leaders.

    The Alltrack is like an entry-level Audi in appearance and feel, as well. The VW paint is very deep; it doesn't seem like it was just sprayed on the car, it feels part of the structure. The Marrakesh brown seats were a big selling point for me. I was tired of black, the Cornsilk was just too light, and I have a soft spot for brown seats since Volvo offered them in the P2 Cross Country. I have been know to buy a suit to match a tie, and in this case, I went with an exterior color to match the interior. I didn’t want the black or the dark gray (although with the brown, it is very rich). Ideally, I wanted the white, but none could be found; I settled for the Silk blue, but it was not much of a compromise. I like the silver accents of the roof rails, the lower cladding, and the way the mirrors contrast with the blue. The lighter color also shows off the dark cladding better.

    As for feel, all you have to do is fold the rear seats down and up and you get the same sense as when you step into a solid all-metal binding as opposed to a common recreational one. The same goes for the tactile feel of the knobs and how everything fits together. The thickness of the steering wheel, how all of the buttons are intuitive, right within reach and where you expect them to be. VW is the only vehicle in this class that had a passenger seat that was at least partially power and could adjust fore and aft just right. Little features like auto up/down for all the windows was another nicety that we could not find anywhere else. The ambient lighting in the cockpit also lends to a very upscale feel.

    Yes, we are Applephiles, and CarPlay was a feature we wanted in a new purchase, something again we could not get with a Subaru. Like most Apple products, it just works. I like the ability to send and receive texts verbally; while it might take a couple of seconds longer because Siri requires each command to complete a verification level, it is safer. The access to my music is easy, and the maps from my phone work great. Just being able to say, “Siri, directions home” got us out of San Francisco easily.

    On the road, one word describes the Alltrack: Teutonic. I really don’t know how VW can create such a solid feel in a car under $30K. Yes, I wanted a stick. I know I will eat some crow for selling out, and deservedly so. I recall driving the DSG when it was first released about a decade ago and being impressed; quite frankly, I still am. The shifts are solid and crisp, and while I cannot downshift from 5th to 3rd without hitting 4th, neither can the drivers on the F1 circuit -- and I don’t hear them complaining. Brakes? These not only stop on a dime, but will pick it up and leave 6 cents change. VW also adds a level of isolation that you just don't get in the Asian counterparts. The drive to San Francisco in the Subaru left us fatigued; the drive home was much more relaxing.

    Mileage is the area I struggled with. We got over 40 mpg with the TDI -- yes, I know those days are gone. I also know that no other vehicle can do what this one can and give us much better mileage, so this is where I am going to suck it up, put on my big boy pants, and not complain anymore. I will be getting high 20s and mayyyybe over 30, if we drive 65 mph. The drive from San Francisco back to Reno netted us 26.6; it included 20 miles of stop-and-go out of the city, 8,000 feet of climbing, and highway speeds of 70 to 80 mph; that number should climb once there are a few thousand miles on the car.

    Not to take anything away from members who bought SEs or SELs, but I agree with Jalopnik that the S is the best value. Mechanically and performance-wise, nothing is gained as you move up in trim level, and we did not want the sunroof, so there was really no reason to step up. I didn’t want the active cruise control since I do not use cruise control in traffic. I know how to park a car in any spot, and while there were other little features like push-button start and Fender audio, it just was not enough to get us to step up. I do like the seats from the SEL, but not enough to jump the two trim levels.

    I will check back in after we get some miles on the car in various conditions. Now, off to buy winter tires ....with snow tires (Blizzak WS-80)​
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  2. Tom K.

    Tom K. HRPufnStf Skier

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    Great write up. If I needed a car tomorrow, that's what I'd buy, though I'd hold out for the stick.

    Two ski guy questions:

    How flat does the rear seat fold?

    Longest ski that can be put in back longitudinally, with the passenger seat set for a reasonable-sized copilot (call it 5'6")?

    Enjoy! New toys are fun!
     
  3. Philpug

    Philpug The Ski'er Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    can't fault ya. But you ain't getting it tomorrow.
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    Renoun Z77 180cm behind the seat where Tricia (5'6") set it. Rear gate shuts
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    Marrakech Brown Interior...
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  4. Tom K.

    Tom K. HRPufnStf Skier

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    Thanks for the pix. Those must have been loaded up and ready to go!

    Every "ski guy" box seems to be ticked off.

    It would be nice if every crossover was that long in the cargo compartment!

    And in case anybody starts piling on, I couldn't agree more with your choice of a brown interior and not wanting a sunroof.
     
  5. Sibhusky

    Sibhusky Getting off the lift Skier

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    I would have preferred a manual with the high end seats. Don't care about the sunroof, since I don't live in a sunny state. I would really have liked to have gotten the Driver Assistance package, even though objectively I don't live in a high traffic, parking problem area. But, would have liked those toys "just because". In the end it was the seats. (What can I say, I'm getting decrepit.) I may test drive the manual if it ever arrives in this dealership. Thanks, Phil, for going to the trouble of taking pictures. Saves me the trouble. I have to confess to not being as price sensitive as some because this car FELT like the Audi it is replacing and COST LESS than that 18 year old car did. So, mentally, the "old car price" was budgeted in my head before this car got off the assembly line.
     
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  6. Daves not here

    Daves not here AKA - Prophet98 Skier

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    Congrats! A VW dealer opened up in CDA - curious to see how they do. Outbacks are very popular in this area. I admit that I loved my Golf I had in college - but have not been in a VW since.

    I have a few friends starting to look - based upon your review I will have to point them to VW.

    Enjoy - we are off to the condo to ski for the next 12 days!
     
  7. Lorenzzo

    Lorenzzo Snow Skier Skier

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    Congrats....that's a beauty....looking forward to a ride.

    Around here Subaru is like every third car but I have to agree with your take on it vs. the Alltrack. If I had to replace my Audi today I'd probably just follow your lead.

    I'm curious about the mileage as I have a 3.0L and am over 30 highway without a box. Hopefully time and non climbing would take you over that.

    This will be my third season on Blizzaks. There's barely any wear and you know how I drive them. Folks here feel as long as you get them off the car before temps warm they wear really well...and performance wise they really handle winter conditions.
     
  8. Daves not here

    Daves not here AKA - Prophet98 Skier

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    Blizzaks rock! My wife has them on her car for winter and they perform really well going back and forth to the ski hill and have worn really well.
     
  9. Andy Mink

    Andy Mink Experience level may vary during the run Skier

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    I resemble that remark!
     
  10. Bobalooski

    Bobalooski Getting on the lift Skier

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    Is that a ski pocket in the middle rear seatback?
     
  11. Spooky

    Spooky Getting on the lift Skier

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    Great buy. The brown interior is sweet and shifting is for cavemen.
     
  12. Philpug

    Philpug The Ski'er Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    Nah..I don't think you spent that much ;)
     
  13. Philpug

    Philpug The Ski'er Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    Thats the problem with most small to medium SUV/Crossovers, they aere raised hatchbacks, not wagons and other than the Outback, none of them could have a 180cm behind the seat like this car.

    I love the Marrakech..the interior is worthy of having the 4 rings on the grill. As far as the sunroof, it used to be a top one or two on the requirement list but not with this car.
     
  14. Sibhusky

    Sibhusky Getting off the lift Skier

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    It's a pass thru. My Audi had a sleeve as part of that. Ultimately the sleeve disconnected, and actually got pretty dirty, so I'm just as happy to be sleeve free.

    2017VolkswagenGolfAlltrack004.jpg
     
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  15. Andy Mink

    Andy Mink Experience level may vary during the run Skier

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    Not yet.
     
  16. Sibhusky

    Sibhusky Getting off the lift Skier

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    I have to admit, Phil, the brown is growing on me. Although it might just be the lighting in your pictures is different than in other ones. Or maybe the brown on the skis "tied it all together".
     
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  17. Philpug

    Philpug The Ski'er Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    The brown was non negotible for me. Like I said, I was matching the exterior to the interior.
     
  18. TahoeCharlie

    TahoeCharlie RetroMan Skier

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    VERY nice looking/performance car, like skis, it's what works for YOU that counts. BTW, I think med/dark blue with dark tan/brown interior is a great "classic" car look. I also looked at a lot of cars last year before picking up a new Turbo Forester, XT Premium, in Nov. . I wanted the slightly extra ground clearance, raised seating and POWER of the Turbo. Living at the lake (6,500 ft), turbos are awesome - no loss of power because of the altitude. The XT also comes with paddle shifters and a "trick" CVT that shifts in discrete steps, like a double-clutch, eliminating all the draw backs of normal CVT's. Also my 186 Soul 7's will fit flat, diagonally, in the back with one rear seat up. MPG is 25-29 depending on road conditions and weight of right foot.
     
  19. Philpug

    Philpug The Ski'er Admin Pugski Ski Tester

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    Thats great mileage for an XT..I recall the last two generations were hard pressed to get more than 22-23 for MPG. This is also a LPT (Low Pressure Turbo) and the power is nice and linear.
     
  20. Bill Talbot

    Bill Talbot Vintage Gear Curator Industry Insider

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    Sure glad I qualify then!
     
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