January 24, 2019

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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.

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 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.

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

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