I thought VW's newest wagon was a huge mistake, but I couldn't have been more wrong

Volkswagen VW AlltrackBenjamin ZhangThe 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack.

• Volkswagen introduced the Golf Alltrack wagon at the height of its emissions cheating scandal.
• It’s based on the Golf SportWagen.

• The Alltrack’s premium feel and peppy driving dynamics impress.

Last March, Volkswagen introduced the new Alltrack wagon to the public.

To me, VW’s decision to give us a dressed-up Golf SportWagen was worthy of ridicule.

With sales lagging and the brand badly tarnished by a multibillion-dollar scandal, the arrival of a warmed over compact station wagon with body cladding, an inflated price tag, and limited sales potential was, well, ridiculous.

After all, what Volkswagen really needed to do was expedite the arrival of the seven-seat Atlas and the second generation Tiguan SUV. These are the models US car buyers crave and will actually have a meaningful effect on sales. Not a $US30,000 station wagon.

Recently, out of sheer curiosity, Business Insider took delivery of an option-laden Pure White 2017 Alltrack SEL test car with 4Motion all-wheel-drive. Our SEL spec model starts at $US32,890 and came to $US35,705 with optional extras.

(The base S model starts at $US25,850.)

First, the looks. The Golf Alltrack isn’t just based on the Golf SportWagen. It is, in fact, a SportWagen with an inch of extra ground clearance, bigger tires, and macho body cladding. Overall, it’s a handsome package. The taller stance and black plastic cladding back up the wagon’s off-roading pretensions. Speaking of body cladding, while I’m normally wary of manufacturers taking this route, VW manages to do so without pushing the Alltrack into early 2000s Pontiac territory.

Inside, the Golf Alltrack delivers on its premium asking price, especially in SEL grade. The interior of our test car, which was complete with Marrakesh Brown Leatherette seating and accents, was on par with competitors from premium brands. The overall ergonomics are well thought out and the VW’s infotainment system (running through a 6.5-inch touchscreen) is easy to use. In addition, the Alltrack comes with full Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.

During our week with the Alltrack, I made several trips between Business Insider’s suburban New Jersey road test center to Greenwich, Connecticut to drive another VW Group product. During which I subjected the Alltrack to everything from gridlock traffic in a torrential downpour to country driving in the sun.

Through it all, the Alltrack manages to impress. The combo of a 1.8-litre, 170 horsepower, turbocharged inline-four and six-speed DSG twin-clutch gearbox is a revelation. The motor truly punches above its weight, doing a fair impression of an engine with close to 200 horses. In fact, it far out performs the 2.0 litre, 200 horsepower, turbo four in my personal 2017 Tiguan. There seem to be no holes in its power curve. On top of that, it even managed to deliver 30 mpg of fuel economy on the high way. Overall, the Alltrack drives like the Golf on which it’s based and is fun and full of life.

With that said, the Alltrack isn’t perfect. Its commercial potential is still limited. (Fortunately for VW, the Atlas and gen-two Tiguan have come to the rescue.) And it’s $US32,000 price tag is still a lot to ask for what is essentially a Golf wagon.

Still, this is my apology to Volkswagen. I ridiculed your decision to bring us this wonderful little wagon and I’m sorry.

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