VW Golf Alltrack

All-paw ability for VW’s butched-up wagon

BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

SOCIAL-climbing is about to become cheaper and dirtier, thanks to a jacked-up, go-anywhere(ish) version of everybody’s favourite of everybody’s favourite hatchback, the Volkswagen Golf.

Come October, our 2013 COTY winner’s dowdier wagon sister will literally cross over into Subaru Outback territory like fräulein Helga in hiking gear, thanks to a 20mm ride-height lift (the limit before driveshaft and associated hardware changes are needed), 4Motion all-wheel drive, butched-up body cladding, roof bars and an adventure-evoking suffix unheard of in the English lexicon before 2012: Alltrack.

And why not? The Passat Alltrack’s popularity has prompted a repeat performance in a smaller and more affordable package, with pricing expected to slip under $40,000.

The Alltrack is the only Golf variant to get the 132kW/280Nm 1.8-litre TSI four-cylinder turbo-petrol zinger available in its conceptual cousin, the Skoda Octavia Scout, and Audi’s A3.

All, of course, share Wolfsburg’s vaunted MQB architecture. We’d love to tell you how impressive this strong, sweet-revving engine is, but VW somehow forgot to bring any to the international launch in Spain. Our drive was with the eager 135kW/380Nm 2.0-litre TDI turbo-diesel that, sadly, isn’t coming to Oz.

The good news is the circa- 150kg heftier Alltrack hardly seems compromised in normal driving conditions despite its higher centre of gravity, flowing through corners with much the same grace as regular Golfs. Only a hint of extra body roll betrays the added ground clearance.

Featuring 18-inch wheels and adaptive dampers (both costing extra), and tackling smooth European roads, the Alltrack 2.0 TDI’s lasting dynamic impression is how quiet and composed everything remains.

Demonstrating the Alltrack’s off-road talents, VW threw us into a moderately demanding 4x4 course to test the Hill Descent Control (effective up to 30km/h) and the Haldex coupling’s instant torque redistribution (99 percent either end is possible as required, aided by an electronic differential lock and retuned stability control).

Going down the path less travelled only requires a prod of an Off Road button. Somewhat surprisingly, the Golf in gumboots walked it.

Later, racing across mountain roads, the VW’s ambitious driverfocused duality truly crystallised.

It’s a little beauty.

Brilliant engineering, swish cabin presentation, superb seating, family friendly practicality, lavish refinement… the Golf-ification enhances the crossover breed. If only more were this aspirational. nd

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Volkswagen Golf Alltrack 132TSI 1798cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 132kW @ 4500-6200rpm 280Nm @ 1350-4500rpm 6-speed dual-clutch 1465kg 7.8sec (claimed) 6.6L/100km $38,000 (estimated) October

PLUS & MINUS

No diesel for Oz; firm ride on 18-inch wheels; some road noise Usual brilliant Golf wagon virtues remain; some off-road ability

This is Golf Country

THE Golf Alltrack is not entirely new territory for Volkswagen. The rare Country of 1990-91, based on the Mk2 Golf hatch with Syncro 4WD, was way ahead of its time, boasting a raised ride height, toughened suspension and chassis, and a rear-mounted spare among other inclusions.

But the 85kW 1.8-litre engine remained low-slung, sacrificing clearance. The Golf Country was also expensive.

Only 7735 were produced, all LHD and contractmanufactured by Steyr- Daimler-Puch in Austria.

It was never sold in Oz.