► 2015 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack review
► 4wd, raised ride height, off-road mode
► Capable off-road, comfortable on it
Pulling on its wellies and waterproofs just in time for summer, this is the VW Golf Alltrack. Cut from the same (Gore-Tex) cloth as the due-for-replacement Passat Alltrack, it gets 20mm of extra ground clearance, four-wheel drive and a similar set of chunky plastic wheelarch and sill guards.
Of course, it’s a fish from the same kettle as the clunkily named Seat Leon X-Perience, although to these eyes the off-road add-ons look more at home on the Golf estate’s blockier form than on the genre-confused Leon.
Can the Golf Alltrack actually go off-road?
Yes. Although the ground clearance isn’t high enough for serious rock-crawling, we had no problems scrambling around a moderately tough off-road layout with some nosebleed-risk level climbs.
The four-wheel drive system uses an electro-hydraulic Haldex clutch system to govern how much torque goes to which axle and when, and includes a locking centre diff function to help haul its way out of sticky situations.
Unique to the Alltrack Golf is an off-road mode in the driver profile menu, which recalibrates the throttle map and ABS for loose-surface driving. Select it and things feel a bit odd initially. Press the throttle and nothing happens at first, as if the system’s taking a moment to work out how much power it needs and where to send it, then the revs rise and, some time later, the car moves off. Once it’s got going, though, not a lot will stop it, even when one or more wheels are dangling in the air.
Off-road mode incorporates hill descent control, too, allowing the car to inch itself down steep slopes. Slowly drive over the cusp of a descent, stop for a moment for the sensors to calibrate, then let go of the pedals and it’ll make its own way to the bottom.
The chunky 17-inch alloys on our test car proved less vulnerable than they look, surviving the ordeal scratch-free. More impressively, they were clad in ordinary Goodyear summer road tyres – there was no cheating with mud and snow rubber.
VW Golf Alltrack: engines, spec
In the UK, diesel is the only fuel option for the Alltrack. There’s a choice of three engines (or rather two, in three power outputs): a 108bhp 1.6, or a 2.0-litre with either 148bhp or 182bhp. Choose the latter and you’re basically getting the same engine as the fast-ish Golf GTD. That’s the engine we’re testing here. It’s dual-clutch DSG auto only – the other two engines come with a six-speed manual gearbox.
Incidentally, the platform-sharing Leon X-Perience doesn’t get the option of the 1.6, just the pair of 2.0-litres. As does the slightly larger Skoda Octavia Scout, which is also worth investigating.
Four-wheel drive and arch extensions apart, it’s essentially a normal VW Golf Estate, which means you get a large loadspace by the standards of the class and plenty of room in the cabin – read our review of the regular Golf Estate here to see what’s what.
Up front, the cabin’s identical to a regular Golf bar some part-suede upholstery for the seats and spec’s the same as a Golf Estate GT, so you get sat-nav, two-zone climate control and bi-xenon headlights.
What’s it like on-road?
Thomas Kolms, one of VW’s engineers involved with the chassis development for the Alltrack, says the brief was that it should ride and handle like a normal Mk7 Golf. And it does – you don’t feel especially high up, and although there’s a little bit more body roll than standard it’s well controlled and certainly not excessive.
It’s just very, well, Golf-ish to drive, and far more palatable than most wallowy SUVs.
The VW Golf Alltrack has enough off-road ability to qualify as more than a Golf that’s been playing in the dressing up box. In fact, if you live in a remote place, or need a capable tow car, it’s entirely sensible. Not everyone wants to drive a lofty SUV or crossover.
Being a VW, however, it’s not cheap. Prices start from a bit under £27k for the 1.6; the top DSG 2.0-litre we drove topped £30k. The aforementioned Leon X-Perience is a bit cheaper, as is the roomier Skoda Octavia Scout.