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The Volkswagen Golf is without doubt one of the best-selling autos of all time, within the high three in lots of international markets, however is by some means a distinct segment car in the USA. With client tastes shifting to crossovers and SUVs, Volkswagen has continued to distinguish the Golf from its friends by providing six distinctive variations. Essentially the most notable addition to the seventh-generation Golf is the off-road targeted Golf Alltrack. Volkswagen completed this by lifting the Golf Sportwagen, including normal all-wheel drive, and slapping on some physique cladding.

The result’s a pretty and viable crossover different. Nevertheless, it could quit one thing automobile consumers love concerning the Golf: the way it drives. After driving the Golf, Golf Sportwagen, and Golf Alltrack, it was apparent that vital driving enjoyable is misplaced in making the Alltrack a crossover competitor. In its fundamental hatchback type, the Golf is a superb driving car. The Sportwagen retains most of that fun-to-drive character. The Alltrack nevertheless, doesn’t really feel nimble or exact.

Volkswagen used the slogan “Drivers Needed” for quite a few years, however the Alltrack isn’t what somebody who prioritizes driving truly needs.

Disclaimer: Volkswagen offered the take a look at car in addition to lunch in picturesque Livingston County, MI.

Refreshed for 2018, the Golf household appears to be like like one other evolution of the identical styling theme that has labored for many years. In comparison with the competitors, they’re downright conservative in fashion. New LED taillights and daytime working lights freshen the exteriors, whereas an up to date infotainment system improves the consumer interface behind the wheel. Another normal options have been added, however all are nonetheless seventh-generation Golfs.

This isn’t essentially a nasty factor. Rival fashions have been launched or up to date since 2015, however none of those merchandise really feel previous or old-fashioned.

Driving the 2018 Golf S was a wonderful solution to set up a driving normal among the many Golf household. At a beginning (and as-tested) MSRP of $20,910 (plus an $850 supply payment), that is the most cost effective solution to get right into a Golf. It, in addition to the Sportwagen and Alltrack, includes a compact turbocharged and direct-injected 1.Eight-liter four-cylinder TSI gasoline engine. The engine produces 170 horsepower and torque peaks at 184 lb-ft (199 lb-ft with the automated). On this variant, it’s mated to a conventional five-speed guide gearbox. A six-speed computerized is obtainable as a $1,100 choice.

The 1.Eight TSI and five-speed transmission is an virtually good mixture. The engine is responsive, highly effective, and easy, whereas the transmission is participating, direct, and competent. In typical Volkswagen trend, the engine feels prefer it has greater than 170 horsepower. On the identical time, the transmission by no means feels overwhelmed. Throughout my drive, I by no means felt just like the Golf wanted a sixth gear. The engine and transmission introduced out the most effective in one another by rural Southeast Michigan’s backroads. It’s a very keen and interesting automobile to drive.

Contained in the cabin, there’s only a few updates. Most notably, a 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system now comes normal. The Composition Colour unit provides SD card and USB multimedia interfaces, in addition to a rearview digital camera and Bluetooth. Each Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto are suitable with the system, and CarPlay labored flawlessly throughout my drive.

The inside of the Golf continues to be a easy but upscale cabin. All buttons and knobs really feel substantial, tender contact supplies coat the inside, and the seats are snug. The seats are bolstered, however not aggressively so. Like a lot of this automobile, it strikes a wonderful steadiness. My 6’four” body had ample leg, shoulder, and head room. Whereas this model of the Golf doesn’t have computerized temperature management, the old-school knobs work like they need to. These entrance seats are someplace a driver or passenger can take pleasure in spending time.

Subsequent up is the 2018 Golf Sportwagen S. With an MSRP of $21,685, minus supply, the extra $775 price over the usual (however mechanically an identical) Golf provides you an additional foot of size behind the rear wheels. This will increase the cargo area from 17.four cu ft within the Golf to 30.four cu ft within the Sportwagen, making the Sportwagen’s cargo capability aggressive with many compact crossovers.

The Sportwagen does have a number of choices which can be unavailable on the Golf. Beginning at an MSRP of $23,935, the Sportwagen comes geared up with Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system and six-speed guide. For $1,100 extra, the AWD Sportwagen car might be geared up with Volkswagen’s ubiquitous six-speed DSG transmission. At present, solely the S trim is obtainable with all-wheel drive. The inside is essentially the identical, and the 6.5-inch infotainment show carries over. Patrons of SEL-trim fashions obtain an upgraded Eight-inch Discovery Media show that provides Navigation.

Unsurprisingly, the front-drive Sportwagen feels virtually precisely like its hatchback sibling. Extra competent within the corners than compact crossovers, the Sportwagen nonetheless provides the space for storing Individuals so need. Nonetheless, regardless of an an identical powertrain, the Sportwagen does really feel a bit slower than the Golf. The extra physique size additionally makes corning barely much less pleasing. Whereas nonetheless a wonderful driving car, if my main motive for buying a Golf was enjoyment behind the wheel, the Sportwagen wouldn’t high my checklist. Nevertheless, if I wanted a compromise between family-friendly and fun-to-drive, that is the place I’d begin.

Final, we get a take a look at the refreshed Golf Alltrack. Launched for the 2017 mannequin yr, this model of the Golf is geared in direction of these on the lookout for a crossover or a Subaru different. It comes with normal 4Motion AWD, 1.5 inches of elevated floor clearance, physique cladding, and unique “Off Highway Mode.” Sharing its underpinnings with the Golf and Sportwagen, the Alltrack retains the 1.Eight-liter 170 horsepower engine, and is obtainable with both a six-speed guide or six-speed DSG computerized transmission. MSRP begins at $25,955.

At an MSRP of $35,660, the Alltrack SEL was, by a big margin, the most costly car examined. The SEL trim provides a extra refined infotainment system, dual-zone local weather management, 12-way energy seats, the Fender Premium Audio system, adaptive cruise management, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. It additionally is available in a relatively fetching shade of darkish inexperienced with tan leather-based. Nonetheless, it’s the worst driving car within the Golf household.

With the Alltrack, Volkswagen goals for a way of life kind of car that may compete with Subaru Outbacks and crossovers. In doing this, it lifted a Sportwagen whereas retaining the identical entrance and rear suspension, brakes, and chassis. The Alltrack weighs 350 kilos greater than the front-wheel-drive Sportwagen, whereas boasting the next middle of gravity and the identical quantity of energy. It’s inconceivable it may ever drive in addition to its siblings.

Within the corners, the Alltrack doesn’t really feel as planted or correct because the Golf or Sportwagen. It feels extra like a crossover, exhibiting noticeable wallow and physique roll. It feels this manner as a result of that’s the section it’s competing with — a lifted AWD wagon with physique cladding is a crossover by some other title.

Down straight roads, the Alltrack consists and cozy. It needs to be a cushty car for longer freeway drives. It isn’t meant to be a canyon carver. And, so long as it’s extra pleasing to drive than a compact crossover, that needs to be greater than adequate. When it comes to highway manners, the Alltrack feels just like a Mazda CX-5 or Ford Escape.

It’s an interesting car on paper — it has an inexpensive beginning worth, distinctive styling, and normal all-wheel drive. It needs to be successful within the snow belt. I’m simply not satisfied it’s a higher car than the cheaper Golfs.

After spending vital time behind the wheel of all three autos, I’m satisfied the Golf continues to be one of many best-driving automobiles within the $20,000 worth vary. The Sportwagen continues to be a wonderful compromise of enjoyable and performance, and the Alltrack is an effective car that’s outshined by cheaper autos in Volkswagen’s personal showrooms.

[Images: ©2017 Adam Tonge/The Truth About Cars]

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