Volkswagen Magazine

Golf

The all-conquering
all-terrain Alltrack.

Text Paul Rodger

Photos Anthony Geernaert

It’s true what they say. Boys don’t really grow up – their toys just get bigger and more expensive.

The thought springs to mind while on a dirt track day trip outside of Sydney when I spy a large puddle sitting between my route home and me. It’s nothing Volkswagen’s new Golf Alltrack can’t handle. The recent winner of the Drive Car of the Year Award for Best Small SUV, the Golf Alltrack isn’t about to pass up the chance to get down and dirty.

There’s no point in doing things by halves so I keep the revs up and hit the puddle hard, spraying mud in every direction. The Golf Alltrack’s wheels adapt to the change of surface and grind through the sloshing water and slippery muck until we’re safely back on dry land. It’s exhilarating fun.

Equally excited about this muddy adventure is my son who is strapped into his child seat behind me. Having driven his Tonka truck through many a soggy sandpit, here we are doing it for real. He squeals with delight and urges me to turn around and show that puddle who’s boss all over again. Who am I to disagree with a five-year-old having a rollicking good time?

There aren’t too many vehicles that can do what we’re doing now. Only yesterday, I was picking up two kids from childcare in inner city Sydney. And here we are now squirting down dirt tracks and making a mess of what was once shiny red paintwork and gleaming chrome. The Golf Alltrack is nothing if not versatile.

 Made for anything

The clue to the Golf Alltrack’s go-anywhere, stare-down-anything demeanour lies in the name, of course. But there’s also a challenge implicit in the name ‘Alltrack’: just how many tracks can we get this new version of Volkswagen’s venerable Golf onto in the course of one day?
Ruling out snow (wrong time of year) and beach sand (a challenge for any vehicle), it seems like a fair challenge to set a vehicle that’s been designed to take on the best – and worst – of Aussie conditions. 

The setting for our self-imposed challenge is Newnes State Forest, an easy 2.5-hour drive from Sydney and just north of Blue Mountains National Park. Though not as visited as the Blue Mountains, the area north of Lithgow and up into Newnes – an abandoned oil shale mining site in the Wolgan Valley – is heaven for trail bashing.
It’s also a great spot for a family getaway. The region is known for the Zig Zag Railway, a once-popular attraction that was damaged when bushfires swept through the Blue Mountains in October 2013. The railway is still out of action, but kids can clamber into the ramshackle shells of carriages that sit idle just near the town of Clarence. 

A winding dirt trail that starts at the Zig Zag Railway and ends at a glow worm tunnel is the reason for our visit. Not only is the Glow Worm Tunnel a naturally occurring slice of magic for kids, it’s an opportunity to get the Golf Alltrack onto a variety of rough surfaces. It’s possible to do the 34km-long drive in a typical family car, but you’ll find yourself keeping company with a variety of 4WDs that like to deviate off the main track and into the rough stuff. The Golf Alltrack, with its new and more powerful 1.8-litre turbocharged engine and 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system, can match it with the best of them on all but the most challenging of surfaces. 

All features big and small

The Golf Alltrack I’m driving has been kitted out with the Sport Luxury Package, which includes 18” Canyon alloy wheels, a Panoramic electric glass sunroof that offers fantastic views of tree canopies even from the backseat, steering wheel gearshift paddles plus dark-tinted rear side and rear windows.

The optional package is the cream on top of what is a very generous list of standard features. There are those that make the vehicle easy to live with day-to-day, such as the Vienna leather appointed seats, Keyless Access, clever storage options, ISOFIX child seat anchorage points and an impressive 605L of boot space (expandable to 1620L with the rear seats down).

And there are the small touches here and there that are a delight to discover for the first time, such as the flat-bottomed multi-function steering wheel usually found in sporty models, the luggage partition net separating passenger cabin from boot space and the elegant stainless steel door sill inlays with Alltrack lettering. The metallic effect extends all over the vehicle, too, with its silver side sill extensions and underbody trim, plus chrome roof rails and exposed chrome exhaust tailpipes, left and right.

 

But it’s when taken off the beaten track that the Golf Alltrack’s hidden talents come to the fore. The vehicle’s 6-speed DSG shifts seamlessly up and down ensuring there is no interruption to traction or acceleration. And the 4MOTION all-wheel-drive system pairs with traction control systems such as the Electronic Stabilisation Program (ESP) and Extended Electronic Differential Lock (XDL) to ensure the Golf Alltrack remains firmly planted even when we encounter loose surfaces.

Better still, the Golf Alltrack’s ingenious Driving Profile Selection puts the vehicle’s behaviour directly in the driver’s hands. Five driving profiles can be selected – Normal, Sport, Eco, Off-road and Individual – each of which alters parameters such as steering, engine performance and gearshift points for a bespoke driving experience. The drive through Newnes State Forest is a perfect opportunity to toggle on the ‘Off-road’ selection, thereby changing the Golf Alltrack’s accelerator pedal response and optimising the ABS (Anti-lock Braking System). 

Golf Alltrack beats all comers

The judges of the 2015 Drive Car of the Year Awards found plenty to like about the rugged new Golf Alltrack, praising the vehicle for its refinement, performance and versatility. The Golf Alltrack took out the Best Small SUV award in a hotly contested class, with the judges highlighting its punchy turbocharged engine, sharp-shifting DSG transmission and exceptional ride quality and handling as setting it apart. Equipped with 4MOTION all-wheel drive and additional body protection, the Golf Alltrack rides higher than the Golf Wagon on which it is based.

Fit for purpose 

 Drive along the Glow Worm Tunnel trail almost to the end and you’ll come across a unique feature that has to be seen to be believed. What was once a railway tunnel through sandstone rock has had its tracks removed and can now be driven through. Dark and foreboding, the tunnel is around 150m long but wide enough to allow only one vehicle at a time. The Golf Alltrack’s powerful Bi-Xenon headlights cut through the darkness and its dynamic cornering lights activate to light the curving route ahead.

Just beyond the tunnel is a sharp gradient that offers the chance to test another of the Golf Alltrack’s driver aids: a hill descent function, part of the ‘Off-Road’ driving profile. The technology enables a constant speed while on a descent, keeping the vehicle in check just when optimal control is needed.

Keeping us company on the drive are my favourite songs courtesy of an ingenious function called App-Connect. It forms part of the new Discover Media 6.5” satellite navigation system and you’ll wonder how you ever did without it on a road trip. Connect your iPhone (or Android) device via a USB interface and the Discover Media system behaves just like your phone, with selected apps at your disposal, your music a couple of screen taps away and your contact list available to you hands-free. 

Mission successful

So, what of our ‘all-track’ Alltrack challenge?
We certainly didn’t lack for a variety of different surfaces. An early-morning visit to Lake Lyell, south-west of Lithgow, was where we first encountered the dirt trails that were to become a mainstay for the rest of the day. It wasn’t long before the rear of the car was caked in a fine dust and we abandoned any pretence of keeping the car clean for our photoshoot.

At what remains of the Zig Zag Railway we encountered some angular shale rock that the Golf Alltrack crunched a path over. By the time we visited the Glow Worm Tunnel, the Golf Alltrack had mastered some brightly coloured sand, stretches of gravelly rock, patches of grass and, of course, taken a dive headlong into a stretch of muddy water. And let’s not forget the drive on highway bitumen to and from our bush bashing adventure.

Not bad going at all. But all in a day’s work for the mighty Alltrack.