A new outdoor vehicle: Checking out the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack in Seattle & Bainbridge Island

2017 Volkswagen Alltrack on Bainbridge Island
2017 Volkswagen Alltrack on Bainbridge Island
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

They had us at “exploring machine.”

That’s what the email we received from Volkswagen called the new Golf Alltrack being introduced in the U.S. for 2017. Exploring machine – what an appropriate name for a car for us.

Volkswagen Alltrack vs Subaru Outback
2017 Volkswagen Alltrack
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

We’ve driven a Subaru Outback 3.6R Limited for the last four years and most of the miles we’ve logged were spent exploring. From coast to coast, through deserts, mountains, cities and the countryside, the car has hauled us and our loads of gear to ski, hike, bike, photograph and explore much of America.

Earlier in the year, we’d decided to check out buying a new vehicle, but couldn’t find something new that matched our lifestyle and performance needs. So, when we heard about Volkswagen’s new U.S. entry into the outdoor market, we wanted to see more.

Which is how we ended up in Seattle for a weekend to learn about the Volkswagen Alltrack and, ultimately, on Bainbridge Island, where we’d test drive the car along with taking in a bit of hiking and photography – all against a gorgeous Washington backdrop, complete with Mt. Rainier in the distance.

A Volkswagen Weekend in Seattle

Mt Ranier, Seattle, Washington
Mt Ranier, Seattle, Washington
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

The Pacific Northwest, commonly shortened to PNW, is an amazing place. A photography and outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, the PNW is home to some of the most majestic scenery in North America, with mountain ranges, rocky shorelines, and breathtaking views around each bend. In addition to fabulous outdoor activities, the area is home to cities with character, charm, and much to do. The largest city in the region, Seattle, was our base for this visit to the PNW and where we’d be introduced to the new Volkswagen Golf Alltrack.

Volkswagens the Kimpton in Seattle
Volkswagens at the Kimpton in Seattle
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Arriving in Seattle on a Thursday afternoon, we were whisked away from Sea-Tac airport by a gentlemen driving a beautiful blue Passat and taken to our hotel for the weekend, the Kimpton Palladian Hotel in downtown Seattle.

Welcome to the Volkswagen Alltrack Drive in our room at the Kimpton Palladian Hotel
Welcome to the Volkswagen Alltrack Drive in our room at the Kimpton Palladian Hotel
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

After dropping our bags in the room, we headed down to our first activity of the weekend, a walking tour of Pike Place Market, located just a couple of blocks from the hotel.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market sign, Seattle, Washington
Pike Place Market, Seattle, Washington
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

The iconic Pike Place Market dates back to 1907 and is one of the longest running farmers markets in the United States.

Produce market at Pikes Place Market, Seattle
Produce market at Pikes Place Market, Seattle
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Each year over 10 million people visit the year-round market, which is home to over 500 small businesses that includes bakeries, fishmongers, produce vendors, craftspeople, specialty food stores, restaurants and shops.

Pike Place Market Urban Garden, Seattle, Washington
Pike Place Market Urban Garden, Seattle, Washington
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

From flowers to yogurt to fish to spices, Pike Place Market has been satisfying Seattle’s affinity for fresh, local goods since its inception. Around the turn of the 20th century, middlemen were drastically marking up prices on farm products sold to the consumer, with the farmers making little to no money and buyers overpaying. To counteract the situation, farmers began appearing near the waterfront, selling their products from wagons – the beginning of the Public Market in 1907. Eventually, buildings were built and over the next century, Pikes Place Market transformed into the top attraction in Seattle.

Mounted police at Pikes Place Market, Seattle
Mounted police at Pikes Place Market, Seattle
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Following our walking tour of the Market, we took some time to roam the streets of downtown Seattle. The vibrant, eclectic city is home to a wide range of attractions, museums, shops, and restaurants. But, simply strolling the streets taking in the urban landscape, exploring Seattle’s unique atmosphere and quirkiness, can be a perfect way to spend an hour or an afternoon – with stops of course along the way at one of the coffee shops located on every block.

Introducing the Golf Alltrack

Introduction to the Golf Alltrack
Introduction to the Golf Alltrack
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Upon our return to the hotel, the group gathered for an introduction to the star of the weekend, the Golf Alltrack.

So, what exactly is an Alltrack? The vehicle is based on the existing Volkswagen SportWagen, has a higher ground clearance, a more rugged exterior, and an Alltrak specific interior. Our initial impression that the Alltrack could be a suitable alternative for the Subaru Outback appeared to be on target, as the second slide of the presentation jumped straight in with a feature comparison between the two go-anywhere vehicles.

Comparing the Volkswagen Alltrack and the Subaru Outback

Engine

2017 Golf Volkswagen Alltrack engine
2017 Golf Volkswagen Alltrack engine
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

The standard engine in a Subaru Outback is 2.5L naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder engine, although we opted for the 6-cyclinder for our Outback. Comparably, the Volkswagen Alltrack comes with an EA888 1.8L direct-injected and turbocharged 4-cylinder TSI engine.

Size & cargo space

The Outback is slightly bigger than the Alltrack. The Alltrack has a roof rack height of 59.7 inches, while the Outback sits at 66 inches. With the rear seats in place, the Alltrack has 30.4 cubic feet of cargo capacity. The 2017 Subaru’s cargo capacity is 35.5 cubic feet. With the rear seats folded, there are 66.5 cubic feet of luggage space in the Alltrack versus 73.3 cubic feet in the Outback.

Trunk space in 2017 Volkswagen Alltrack
Trunk space in 2017 Volkswagen Alltrack
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

In the areas of style and comfort, the Alltrack excels in standard features.

Smartphone integration

The Alltrack includes Standard Car-Net App-Connect with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink on all model levels.  The 2017 Subaru Outback has a similar package called Subaru Starlink™ on it’s models.

2017 Volkswagen Alltrack interior
2017 Volkswagen Alltrack interior
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Sunroof

The Outback has a standard-sized sunroof available. The Alltrack has a huge tilt-and-slide panoramic sunroof available on the SE & SEL models that has more than twice the area of Outback’s.

2017 Volkswagen Alltrack sunroof
2017 Volkswagen Alltrack sunroof
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Seats

Leatherette is standard on all Alltrack models. Cloth is standard on the Subaru, with leather optional and only available on the upper level models.

Interior 2017 Volkswagen Alltrack
Interior 2017 Volkswagen Alltrack
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Comfort

Heated seats, mirror-integrated turn signals, cooled glove box, fog lights, and leather steering wheel & shifter are all standard on the Alltrack, while optional on the Outback.

Comfort featurees of the 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
Comfort featurees of the 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Things that make you go “wow”

Both the Outback and the Alltrack have options that increase the comfort and up the wow factor. On the Alltrack, aside from that unbelievable optional sunroof, cool options include features such as Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning & Autonomous Emergency Braking and, for all those that still have nightmare flashbacks to parallel parking in driver’s ed class, Park Pilot and Park Assist.

Park Pilot, Volkswagen Alltrack 2017
Park Pilot, Volkswagen Alltrack 2017
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Models and Pricing

The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack comes in three models, the S model which starts at $26,950, the SE beginning at $30,530 and the SEL that starts at $32,890. The Subaru Outback comes in 6 levels ranging from the entry-level 2.5i at $25,645 to the top line 3.6R Touring which starts at $38,195.

Dinner and late evening Lego fun

Dinner at Atrium Kitchen at Pikes Place Market
Dinner at Atrium Kitchen at Pikes Place Market
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Following the Alltrack introduction presentation, we walked back to the Atrium Kitchen at Pikes Place Market for a reception and dinner. The Atrium is a state-of-the-art commercial kitchen available to in the heart of Pike Place Market available to local chefs for hands-on cooking classes, cooking demonstrations, tastings and private events.

The group enjoyed a wonderful feast of local specialities prepared from fresh ingredients from the market, while socializing and sending a few shots of the delicious dining offerings and the event out on social, #VWGolfAlltrack or #VW2017. After dinner, some late night Lego fun was on tap back at the hotel before retiring for the evening.

Late evening Lego fun, Seattle, Washington
Late evening Lego fun, Seattle, Washington
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

The ferry to Bainbridge Island

Bainbridge Island Ferry
Bainbridge Island Ferry
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

A trip across Puget Sound on the ferry to Bainbridge Island is a must for any visit to Seattle. The 35 minute ride provides spectacular Seattle skyline and Mt. Rainier views and provides transport to beautiful Bainbridge, a 28 square mile island that is a great place to explore and the location of our Alltrack test drive.

Alltrack boarding the Bainbridge ferry in Seattle, Washington
Alltrack boarding the Bainbridge ferry in Seattle, Washington
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

After passengers and vehicles boarded the boat, the Alltrack made its entrance, sporting a bright green canoe. We quickly made our way to the vehicle deck to capture some shots of the car as we departed Seattle.

2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack on the ferry to Bainbridge Island
2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack on the ferry to Bainbridge Island
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media
Greg Hull on the Bainbridge ferry, Seattle, Washington
Greg Hull on the Bainbridge ferry, Seattle, Washington
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

Time to test drive the Alltrack

Mt. Rainier from Bainbridge Island
Mt. Rainier from Bainbridge Island
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

We spend a lot of time outdoors. We ski, we hike, we bike…and getting there often means winding our way around back roads and through the countryside, so we planned to put the Alltrack to the test, checking out its performance, handling and fun-to-drive factor.

Red Volkswagen Golf Alltrack S model
Red Volkswagen Golf Alltrack S model
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

For our first test drive of the day, we selected a red Alltrack S model, wanting to start with the entry-level to see what the base model would deliver. The Volkswagen crew provided a detailed itinerary and overview, with three destinations around the island.

Heading out for a test drive of the 2017 Volkswagen Alltrack on Bainbridge Island
Heading out for a test drive of the 2017 Volkswagen Alltrack on Bainbridge Island
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

We took turns driving and we both enjoyed piloting the Alltrack. It was very responsive and handled well, taking turns with authority. The engine was energetic and the overall feel was both comfortable and sporty. After stopping for a short hike at Scenic Beach State Park, we headed for Port Gamble, our lunch spot for the day and the point where we would swap cars and try the SE model.

Scenic Beach State Park, Bainbridge Island
Scenic Beach State Park, Bainbridge Island
Photo: Kim Hull © Chasing Light Media

As expected, the comfort and gadget level increased with SE model. The SE added keyless entry, a premium audio system, the above mentioned driver’s assistance package, and that mind-blowing sunroof, which alone would be our reason to upgrade.

We also gave Volkswagen roadside assistance a quick test when I tried to open the sunroof and accidentally pressed the “call for help” button instead. A nice female quickly responded and after advising her it was simply a case of pilot error, she wished us a good day.

2017 Volkswagen Alltrack in blue at Port Gamble, Bainbridge Island
2017 Volkswagen Alltrack in blue at Port Gamble, Bainbridge Island
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

As Subaru Outback owners, what did we think?

We loved the Alltrack. It is fun to drive and has quite a few features that we felt make it a great option for those seeking an alternative to the Outback. The Alltrack seemed quieter and handled the road extremely well. While we obviously didn’t have the opportunity to test it out over any 12,000 foot mountain passes, the engine responded well and the steering was highly responsive, a neccisity for zigging and zagging up and down switchbacks in the mountains.

While we have both bike and ski racks for our Outback, we rarely use them, opting to throw our gear in the back. We tested out loading a road bike in the back with the seats down, and the Alltrack handled it with ease. The Alltrack also has 60/40 rear split seats with a center pass-through, providing ski hauling options as well.

Overall, the Alltrack was fun to drive, performed well, is super comfortable and is definitely worth a test drive.

Learn more about the Volkswagen Alltrack

The 2017 Volkswagen Alltrack is available in the United States beginning in October 2o16. Learn more and get the details on the Volkswagen website.

Lineup of Volkswagens the Kimpton Palladian Hotel in downtown Seattle
Lineup of Volkswagens the Kimpton Palladian Hotel in downtown Seattle
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media

Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to Volkswagen USA for hosting us as their guests. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.

Kim Hull test driving the 2017 Volkswagen Alltrack
Kim Hull test driving the 2017 Volkswagen Alltrack
Photo: Greg K. Hull © Chasing Light Media