Here's where you'll find all the latest updates from our editors. We'll update fuel economy right up top, so you can see our average miles per gallon after every fill-up. Beyond that, you'll find our log of posts, with the most recent right on top, going all the way back to the beginning. Click here to see our introduction post about the car, and to leave us comments with questions you'd like answered, or suggestions of what we should do during our year-long test. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for even more updates, as well.
Fuel Economy Tracking
We're keeping track of fuel economy by recording mileage and gallons consumed at every fuel fill-up. We'll input that data into a Google spreadsheet, and you'll be able to see the results in the chart below. Each new entry represents a line in our fuel log, so it's only as up to date as our most recent tank of gas. It'll be cool to see how this averages out over the course of a year.
05/30/2017 – 7,255 miles
Molly McFarland is the wife of our Executive Editor Seyth Miersma, a Mazda2 driver, and a longstanding Volkswagen fan. She took the keys to our Alltrack for a stint, and reported in on what she liked and didn’t.
First of all, I love heated seats. It’s one of the big missing features I find myself regretting with the Mazda2 – especially between November and April in Michigan.
But the thing I love most about the Alltrack is the feeling of “substance” it provides. It’s hard for me to explain ("wife of car guy" doesn’t equal “car lady”) but everything from turning the wheel into a corner, to pressing the brake pedal in this car felt sturdy and powerful compared to my light and zippy Mazda2. But “sturdy” didn’t ever mean it felt slow or heavy – its a lot more fun than I thought it would be.
I had no issues with the six-speed automatic. In fact, I had so much fun that I can see myself parting with the Mazda manual.
However… I personally didn’t find a lot of need for all the room the VW wagon offered. My subcompact car fits anywhere and is great to park in town. While the Alltrack didn’t exclude me from much, it proved bulky by comparison. I appreciate the space in the abstract — future dogs, possible kids… camping equipment? – but I’m not sure I'd be willing to pay a premium to transport things that only exist on my Pinterest board.
– Molly McFarland
The Alltrack is a star! We did a comparison test of high-riding wagons that are better than traditional crossovers, and the Alltrack makes an appearance. Check out the full story, here.
– Steven Ewing
04/24/2017 – 6,950 miles
My wife and I recently spent just over a month with the long-term Volkswagen Golf Alltrack. While it’s quite a vehicle, we are both happy to be putting more miles on our 2012 Subaru Outback again.
For reference, my family has owned our Outback since November 2012. It’s my wife’s daily driver and generally our ride for any weekend outings. With just shy of 60,000 miles, the Subie continues to serve us well.
My five-foot-tall wife hated being in the Alltrack almost immediately because of the seats. The chairs’ thigh support hit her in the calves, and the pressure caused serious lower back pain for her. Towards the end of our time with the VW, she eventually found a position that offered more comfort by reclining the seatback. However, she wasn’t able to drive from this posture, so it only offered relief for her as a passenger. I’m five-foot-ten and didn’t experience any problems. While this is anecdotal evidence, people of short stature should probably take a long ride in the VW to see if the seats cause any back pain.
Our Subaru doesn’t have an infotainment display like the ones now commonplace throughout the auto industry. The novelty made the Alltrack’s 6.5-inch touchscreen fun at first, but major annoyances crept up the longer we kept the car. When paired with my iPhone via Bluetooth, the system at start-up would immediately begin playing whatever I had been listening to, which was nice. However, switching selections from the car’s touchscreen took an interminable 30 to 45 seconds for the choice to load. I was able to pick something directly from my phone, and it loaded immediately, though. Pairing over Apple CarPlay also worked fine.
The driver also faces an ergonomic learning curve from the multi-function steering wheel. The design puts the cruse control buttons on the left side and the ones for the infotainment and multifunction display on the right. However, the volume control is on the left side directly underneath everything that adjusts the cruise. Even worse, the graphic on the button sort of looks like you would adjust the vehicle’s speed. This is something an owner would adjust to over time but is very confusing during a short period with the car.
The VW’s powertrain is the one place where the Alltrack absolutely blows away the Outback. Both this wagon and my Subie produce 170 horsepower, but the Alltrack feels like a sports car versus the lumbering Outback. Put the pedal down, particularly in Sport mode, and the VW’s dual-clutch gearbox uses the full powerband to pull to highway speeds at an impressively quick rate. Plus, the Alltrack’s firm brake pedal is an order of magnitude better than the rather spongy feeling I hate about the Subaru. The VW also feels much more planted when cornering, versus the somewhat top-heavy sensation that I get when maneuvering the Subaru.
I initially really enjoyed driving the VW because of its impressive powertrain and high-tech infotainment system. As the weeks passed, the car’s little annoyances pushed me back into wanting to be behind the Subaru’s wheel.
– Chris Bruce
02/15/2017 – 6,235 miles
Can’t agree more with Jake’s recent thoughts. I find myself taking the Alltrack when I need to run a lunch errand, or when I just have around-town things to do during an evening. It’s a grocery-getter, great for Ikea runs, and has plenty of room if I want to take a few friends out to dinner. The wagon shape is awesome for driving in the city, too – it’s super easy to see out of from every single angle, which makes parallel parking a cinch. Never mind the Alltrack’s four-season prowess – this car’s best feature is its day-to-day liveability.
– Steven Ewing
01/27/2017 – 5,590 miles
Sometimes all we do with our test cars is drive to meet friends, to the grocery store, and home again. That’s all I did with the Alltrack last night, so I have no real complaints about this car. The heated seat warms up very quickly, I can easily find a comfortable position with the seat, and the Alltrack mostly gets about its business without any fuss. I wish there were a slightly easier grab point to close the liftgate, but that’s a minor gripe. I used Bluetooth to make phone calls and noted good sound clarity, with no complaints from the person on the other end, either. In short, more proof this is a great all-round car to live with.
– Jake Holmes
01/16/2017 – 5,303 miles
After using the Alltrack as a daily-driver for for nearly a month I have very little to complain about.
But some small things have really started to irk me. I don’t like the placement of the cruise-control buttons on the left side of the steering wheel (opposite my dominant hand). The rocker-switch to ramp speed up and down is directly above the switch to adjust volume and they are oriented in parallel (left, down; up, right). Both switches do feel different to the touch, but I still have a hard time discerning them quickly. I don’t think I’d be complaining if the switches were perpendicular to one another, it seems to me that would make it easier to avoid taking one’s eyes off the road when traveling at the speeds cruise-control is typically reserved for.
I don’t love the Fender audio system, but it does get louder than I typically care to listen without distorting. I like being able to adjust the subwoofer response independently of the bass frequency for a little added impact without making the lower-mids sound extra floppy or loose. With the equalizer set flat I the sound signature is fairly pleasant to my ears; the mids come through clearly and the treble sounds overrepresented, but I don’t find it to be offensively brittle or harsh.
The touchscreen in the center stack feels a generation older than to what I’ve become accustomed. The size, the lack of multitouch, and the washed out colors in the usually-vibrant Android Auto interface are all things that would frustrate me a lot if I was spending the money on a new car.
– James Bradbury
01/02/2016 – 4,796 miles
The thing that really stands out to me about this car is the quiet excellence of the driving dynamics. In less than ideal situations like a busted-up and aggressively curved onramp, the Alltrack always inspires a surprising level of confidence with sharp, predictable steering and suspension that soaks up bumps with ease.
I love that the rear-view camera is hidden behind the Volkswagen logo on the tailgate and thus kept clean during the winter months. Inside that hatchback, I was easily able to fit the crate for my girlfriend’s pomeranian in the trunk with the privacy shelf removed, and even with all four seats up I’m confident that medium and large dogs would fit without issue.
The sound system gets the job done and any car with Android Auto usually gets a pass from me on the infotainment front, but the for the last few weeks I’ve been dealing with some irregular bugs. My phone very regularly disconnects from the system altogether and occasionally I’ve run into glitches where the audio won’t play or voice commands will take considerably longer to interpret than normal. Take all this with a grain of salt since there’s a chance my phone is to blame.
– James Bradbury
12/19/2016 – 4,314 miles
I finally put some serious mileage on the Alltrack after a quick weekend trip to Chicago. With the weather forecast initially predicting five to eight inches of snow, freezing rain, and other wintry calamities, it seemed like the Alltrack would be not just nice but necessary to make the drive. Frankly, the storm wasn’t as bad as they expected, but I still had a great moment of pride in driving a winter-tire-clad AWD car. I stopped at a red light on a snowy road next to a Jeep Patriot. When the light turned green, it spun its front tires fruitlessly while I easily powered away without fault. Yeah, Golf!
As a road-trip car for three adults, the Alltrack was great. Lots of cargo space in the back to cart birthday gifts and so on, plus just enough rear room that back-seat passengers are comfortable. We even got five people in the car for a short trip, which was tight and not ideal, but doable.
Even on these winter tires at highway speeds, the VW is quiet and composed. The engine sounds a bit gruff and rough at times but mostly this is a very civilized wagon. There are a couple of small metallic rattles in the cabin already, which is disappointing.
When using GPS on my phone on the highway, I noticed that 73 mph indicated on the speedometer read as 76 mph by GPS. I’d need to do more investigating to be sure, but it’s worth noting that we have slightly larger-than-stock tires on our car, so it’s possible the speedometer is reading a bit low.
I do appreciate that the Alltrack’s turbo engine can handle regular gas, which keeps bills low on long trips. Over the course of 727 miles of fill-ups I averaged 25.05 mpg, which is right on this car’s EPA combined rating but a little disappointing given that most of that was on the highway. Still, winter driving and winter tires are not a recipe for high fuel efficiency.
– Jake Holmes
12/12/2016 – 3,587 miles
Thanks for those snow tires, Steve! The Michelins were just the thing this past weekend, spent on the snowy Lake Michigan shore. I easily clawed through almost a half a foot of fresh powder, on my drive home from my parents' house. There didn’t seem to be a noticeable difference in terms of ride quality, either, for better or worse. I imagine that the X-Ice are less grippy than the standard rubber, but I’ll have to wait for it to clear up a bit before go hunting for a hot corner.
– Seyth Miersma
We give our Alltrack the official Why Buy treatment. Check out the video above, or click here to see the full story.
– Jake Holmes
11/30/2016 – 2,835 miles
Installed winter tires at Belle Tire in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan. Cost: $80. The Alltrack is now running on Michelin X-Ice 215/55R17 tires.
Fun fact: You can easily haul four tires, upright, in the Golf’s cargo area without needing to fold the rear seats flat. Plus, since they take up the length of the cargo hold, the tires don't slide around much while being transported. It's the perfect size.
– Steven Ewing
11/30/2016 – 2,821 miles
I like it when the little things are done right. Like most cars, the Golf Alltrack’s front doors have storage cubbies built into them. Unlike most cars, Volkswagen has lined the interior of the cubbies with a carpet-like fabric; usually the injection-molded plastic is left bare. What’s the big deal? The lining provides both friction to keep things like bottles from shifting and sound-deadening for when they do slide around a bit. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted throw my Diet Pepsi bottle out the window rather than listen to it knock around a door’s cubby like a pinball in a machine.
– John Neff
11/09/2016 – 2,072 miles
Let’s talk about the Fender audio system in here. The upgraded stereo has eight speakers and 400 watts, and comes as part of the SE trim level. It also seems to have more of an “inflection” than most car audio systems I’ve used.
The net sound is sort of warm and fuzz-filled; it reminds me of that friend we all had in college who ran their stereo through a bass amp. (Wait, was that just me?) It’s also capable of getting pretty loud, though top volume distorts the sound even more.
Overall this works pretty well for Rock’n’Roll – I listened to Patti Smith’s “Horses” for the first time in ages today, cranked it, and it really enjoyed the result. On the other hand, talk radio or any more precise music, sounds washed out a low volume, and blown out at high.
– Seyth Miersma
11/07/2016 – 2,060 miles
One issue with that cool backup camera is that the camera doesn’t retract for a little bit after you’ve shifted out of reverse. As I found out, if you go to open the hatch soon after backing into a parking spot, you have to wait for the camera to fold back in, then open the hatch. A small issue that won’t matter to most people.
– Jake Holmes
11/02/2016 – 2,009 miles
I think it’s clever how the backup camera is hidden behind the Volkswagen logo on the tailgate. But man, the sound it makes when it opens and closes is pretty loud and horrible. Every time I have a passenger in the car and go to back up, the camera flips open, and my copilot inevitably asks, “What the hell was that?” It certainly doesn’t sound like a natural noise of something opening or closing, and it’s kind of jarring. I know it’s not as elegant of a solution, but couldn’t the camera just be housed above the license plate, like on most hatchbacks?
– Steven Ewing
10/28/2016 – 1,973 miles
This car’s great. Comfy, easy to drive, lovely interior, etc. Very much looking forward to many more trips in this car. Plenty of power from this engine, DSG is great, too.
Some cons: I’ve never driven a VW with a good sound system, this one included. The infotainment system won’t read out your text messages, despite showing a notification on the screen.
– Jake Holmes
10/27/2016 – 1,902 miles
Just a quick trip to lunch; my first in the new long-termer. (Tacos, if you must know, and they were delightful.)
Something I’ve noticed and complained (lightly) about in other Golf variants reappears here: what’s the deal with the part manual, part powered seats. The Alltrack has power recline, but I’ve got to manually move backwards and forwards. To be honest, I prefer fully manual seats which are faster to change, but why bother having one powered vector, is that luxurious?
On the other end of the spectrum, the heated seats here are hot man, hot! This car is clearly prepped to keep me cozy on long winter commutes.
– Seyth Miersma
10/24/2016 – 1,892 miles
I put about 500 miles on the Alltrack over its first weekend in the fleet, on a trip to Grand Rapids and back. This wasn’t my first long-haul in this car – I had an Alltrack in Germany two years ago while on vacation, where I got an early look at its people/cargo-hauling capabilities.
The things I liked about that Euro-spec Alltrack and our US-spec test car are the same. It’s comfortable, roomy, well-equipped, and easy to use. It eats up miles on the freeway. There’s a lot of space for people and things. The Fender sound system is good, and the infotainment display easy to read and use. Our car doesn’t have nav, but it does have VW’s app-connect functionality, so I was able to use Apple CarPlay for maps and directions (even though I still don’t love that tech). Really, in terms of all-around use, there’s not a lot to dislike about the Golf Sportwagen package, especially here in rugged, all-wheel-drive Alltrack guise.
The one thing I dearly miss about the Euro-spec car? Its engine. Sure, we were supposed to get the Golf Alltrack with VW’s 2.0-liter TDI diesel four but, well, you know. That’s not to say the 1.8T is bad, of course. It has adequate power for daily driving, though I worry it’ll feel super sluggish with a full load of people or cargo onboard. But my observed fuel economy over the weekend was only about 24 miles per gallon, and that’s with a majority of those 500 miles spent on the highway. A TDI would have achieved significantly better numbers, based on my experience, all while offering a smoother driving dynamic and more low-end torque. Here’s hoping our observed fuel economy improves over the rest of the year.
– Steven Ewing
10/21/2016 – 1,371 miles
Car arrives at Motor1 Detroit office.
– Steven Ewing
Gallery: Long-Term 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
2017 VOLKSWAGEN GOLF ALLTRACK SE 4MOTION