2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack SE Manual Long-Term Arrival: Rowing Our Own [Review]

It’s a Golf. It’s a wagon. No, wait, it’s both!

When you think all-wheel drive wagon, your first thoughts may not lean toward Volkswagen. Instead, you may conjure up an image of the Volvo V90 Cross Country wagon. Or, if you live somewhere where they’re all over the place like Colorado, the Subaru Outback. Both models have led the charge for years when it comes to offering jacked up, all-wheel drive wagons that can hack it on tougher terrain than the occasional dirt road. There has been an raised all-wheel drive from Volkswagen for the past two years: the Alltrack. Now sporting a few minor changes, the 2018 Volkswagen Alltrack has journeyed to TFL’s headquarters in Boulder, Colorado for a three-month shakedown. In that time, we’ll run a series of tests covering every facet of VW’s wagon, but before that, we need to get acquainted.

2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack SE Manual - TFL Long-term
The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack’s 1.8-liter turbocharged engine. [Photo: TFLcar]

The cold, hard numbers

To that end, we took the 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack out around the urban jungle and rural back roads around Denver. On paper, the Volkswagen Alltrack looks promising. It has 1.4 inches of ground clearance over a normal Golf and Volkswagen’s ubiquitous 4MOTION all-wheel drive system. Mind you, at 6.9 inches, the Alltrack’s ground clearance pales to the likes of the Subaru Outback’s 8.7 inches or even the Volvo V90 Cross Country’s 8.3 inches. It should still be enough to see us through some light off-roading and treks into the Colorado Rockies over the summer, however.

What the Alltrack also has is a 1.8-liter turbocharged engine found throughout Volkswagen’s lineup. Making 170 horsepower and 199 lb-ft of torque, the 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack’s engine is plenty gutsy. In our long-term arrival, the engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission, available on S and SE trims. If you go for the SEL trim, your only option is the 6-speed DSG automatic transmission. The EPA pegs fuel economy figures for the 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack at 21 City / 30 Highway / 24 Combined MPG for the 6-speed manual version.

Comfort and practicality

At $30,615, our long-term Golf Alltrack comes fairly well equipped in the SE trim. You get that 1.8-liter turbocharged engine with all-wheel drive, 17-inch alloy wheels, an 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, heated leatherette seats, rain-sensing wipers and a power-tilting and sliding panoramic sunroof, just to name a few. Standard equipment also includes forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also supported.

While you miss out on some of the more luxurious options of the SEL Alltrack, this SE seems to have everything you need and very little you don’t. The engine pulls well, and the manual transmission is forgiving to use, but it does have some issues (more on that shortly). The ride is definitely firm, but the seats are comfortable enough to soak up most of the punishment on rough roads. Steering is also well-weighted and responsive. In short, the Golf Alltrack is just as nice to drive as the ordinary Golf, just with some added practicality. With the seats folded, there’s a healthy 66.5 cubic feet of cargo space.
2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack SE Manual - TFL Long-term

About that manual transmission…

The Golf Alltrack’s six-speed manual transmission is already a source of heated arguments in the TFL office. Yes, it is forgiving to use, but there are down sides. There’s an awful lot of play in the shifter itself, and the clutch is monumentally vague. When you’re just starting off, the clutch doesn’t actually start to grab until you’re near the top of the pedal. There’s also little indication of when it’s actually going to bite before it completely engages. It does mean you don’t need a sixth sense to use the clutch, but for those of us in the office who prefer a more precise action, we were left disappointed. We also suspect softer bushings in the shifter assembly are to blame for the sideways play in the lever.

2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack SE Manual - TFL Long-term

We’ll keep updating you periodically with our experiences on the 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, including the question of reliability. So far, the Volkswagen has been beyond reproach in the few hundred miles we’ve driven it, but we’ll see if that changes on longer trips. Come back to TFLcar.com for more news, views, and long-term update reviews!

Find out more about the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack and SportWagen with our TFL Expert Buyer’s Guide below!

SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack SE (Long-term arrival)

On Sale: Now
Base MSRP: $27,055
Price as Tested:
Maintenance to Date: $0
Engine: 1.8-liter turbocharged I4
Drivetrain (Layout): Transversely mounted front engine, all-wheel drive
Horsepower: 170 hp @ 4,500 rpm
Torque: 199 lb-ft @ 1,600 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Suspension: Front: Strut-type w/ lower control arms, coil springs, telescopic dampers and 22 mm stabilizer bar

Rear:  – Multilink, coil springs, telescopic dampers, 19 mm stabilizer bar

Brakes: Front: 11.3 x 1.0-in vented front discs

Rear: 10.7 x 0.4-in solid rear discs

Tires: Falken Singer P205/55 R17 all-season
Fuel capacity: 14.5 gallons
Fuel economy (EPA): 22 City/30 Highway/25 Combined MPG


Wheelbase: 103.5 inches
Length: 180.2 inches
Width: 70.8 inches
Height: 59.6 inches
Turning Circle: 35.8 feet
Curb Weight: 3,351 pounds