Mud isn't an issue as the woods west of Seattle haven't seen much rain recently, but the ground is still slick with dusty rocks and loose gravel. Undeterred, the four-door Golf Alltrack crawls - sometimes pausing momentarily to find a more grip - up the dirty trail until it eventually reaches the top of the wooded hill.

It's a bit odd to see a Golf in this environment, especially when Volkswagen offers the Tiguan and Touareg crossovers - both are arguably better at clawing their way up the side of a mountain. But those two traditional crossovers had better look out, as the pair will soon be joined on the summit by a newcomer called the Golf Alltrack. The all-new model, which is based on the Golf SportWagen, is aimed at active buyers who prefer that their vehicle to be lower and drive like a sport sedan - not like a tall sport utility vehicle.

The Alltrack, in its most basic sense, is familiar to everyone who knows the current Golf SportWagen because the two share the bulk of each other's DNA (especially now that Volkswagen is offering 4Motion on the standard SportWagen in 2017).

Both the SportWagen and Alltrack offer the same award-winning Golf Mk7 architecture with a five-passenger station wagon body over a very capable chassis. They share the same turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. They share the same brakes, and the same steering systems. They share the same physical dimensions in length and width. And, even their cabin dimensions are identical.

Yet there are many modifications that differentiate the new Alltrack from its SportWagen sibling.

The most obvious are found with the exterior physical appearance. The newest member of the Golf family boasts a redesigned front end, body cladding on the side sills, and a new rear end with matching exhaust outlets on each corner. The ride height has been raised 0.6" too, which lends a more capable aesthetic to the wagon. Put the two side-by-side, and the Alltrack projects a much more aggressive and rugged demeanor than its road-going sibling.

The interior of the Alltrack has been enhanced with standard V-Tex leatherette (the are-you-sure-this-is-not-leather vinyl imposter is impressively durable and is easily cleaned of mud, grime, pet hair and spills - genuine hides are not offered from the factory) with a new Marrakesh brown color option. A few of the other upgrades include a premium black headliner, stainless steel "Alltrack" kick plates on the door sills, and Volkswagen has placed "4Motion" badging on the center console. And, to ward off chills, the segment's obligatory heated seats are standard equipment.



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