Death of the VW Alltrack – Why?

RIP Alltrack and SportWagen - white VW Alltrack with cry emojis

Last summer, Volkswagen announced that they would no longer offer the only two wagon-style vehicles that are still manufactured in the United States. Both the VW Golf SportWagen and the VW Alltrack were selected as models that the German car manufacturer would cease producing after 2019

But why?

Recently, many small vehicles from a bevy of manufacturers have found their way to the discontinued side of the market. For instance, models like the Ford Focus and the Chevrolet Cruze are no longer being manufactured. So, why are so many small car models failing instead of catching on?

Wagons and Smaller Cars

In the case of both wagons and smaller cars, it seems that the SUV and crossover market is booming in the United States. Americans are not buying wagons or smaller cars as much as they did, and are instead opting for SUVs and crossovers. The number of purchases for both SUVs and crossovers is on the rise across the country.

Much of what is happening with the car market nowadays has to do with supply and demand. What drives the market is whatever types of vehicles the consumers want to purchase at any given time. Wagons no longer are a standard trend for American car owners, although they were once upon a time.

Nowadays, SUVs and crossovers are what’s in style. So, because people were no longer buying wagons since they preferred SUVs, it seems the attraction to both the VW SportWagen and the VW Alltrack died out years ago with the wagon trend

The SUV Trend

Volkswagen made changes to its lineup years ago to become well positioned for the SUV trend. VW debuted its first three-row SUV, the VW Atlas, as a 2018 model. Following that, VW spruced up its Tiguan crossover. These two models are trendy and sell like hotcakes.

As recently as two decades ago, we’d routinely see station wagons and minivans used as the typical family car. However, that was long before the inception of the SUV, and the introduction of the crossover. Once SUVs and crossovers hit the market, they became the staple cars for families. Both wagons and minivans are now dying automotive breeds. 

Most car manufacturers, including Volkswagen, seem to have an ever-increasing list of SUV and crossover models because technology and marketing are allowing for ever more models. 

Wagon sales were 0.6% of vehicle sales in 2018, a decrease from 0.9% in 2014.

Wagons are not selling, mainly because people prefer SUVs, so that’s the primary reason why the VW Alltrack was discontinued

When wagons first appeared on the American car market, they originally were all the rage. People loved them because they were roomy, and they responded well. Although they were spacious cars, they were easy to drive. But SUVs and crossovers nowadays handle much better than wagons of the 60s, 70s and 80s, and are much more stylish. The demand for style and a car that handles well are now being met by SUVs and crossovers. 

Day Run up to Copper 2

Alltrack day trip MPG report

Like my Alltrack day run four weeks ago, no problems. Everything worked, nothing broke, failed, triggered a warning light or displayed flaky behavior.

Tires are 7-month-old Continental ExtremeContact DWS 06, and because they’re the only thing that holds the car to Earth, they’re the most important elective item on your car. They’re good in snow, but would never be mistaken for actual snow tires. They’re all seasons.

Round trip was 155 miles, average speed an excruciating 27 MPH. Fuel economy on the way up was 29.8 MPG, and on the way down was around 32 MPG… I failed to check this when we got home.

Out leg was 1:45, return leg was 2:50, again featuring the mind-numbing hourlong climb up from Dillon/Silverthorne to the Eisenhower Tunnel that kills elapsed time and fuel economy.

Note: for this and my prior Copper Mountain day trip report, my JB4 was not installed. I took it off a few months ago for a trip to the dealer for maintenance and have been evaluating the car’s character without it. It’s been on my Alltrack for the majority of my ownership, otherwise.

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Copper Mountain Village

Day Run up to Copper Mountain

Alltrack at Copper Mountain, Colorado

26.5 MPG on the way up, which is good because it’s a climb from 5280 ft to 12,313 ft. I’ll have the overall MPG later this morning. My 2017 Alltrack got 32 MPG round trip. No traffic (6am) going up, bad traffic on the return leg.

Car ran fine, nothing to report. The heated seats work wonders in 7° F (-14C) cold.

On the way home there was traffic, of course, and I’m proud to announce the world’s only MPG report for a 2017 Alltrack 5-degree uphill idling creep in 1st gear (manual transmission) yields a constant MPG of 11.

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Alltrack Life: 2.5 Years In, These Are My Ownership Take-Aways

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The door stops are weak.

Bug level: high

They don’t hold the doors unless you’re on a level surface. This bothers me because it’s very annoying. My mom’s 2017 Subaru doesn’t have this problem. Why should my Alltrack?

The radio volume steps on the steering wheel button are perfect.

Praise level: high

Any greater stepping (larger “dots” on a continuum) would leave me wanting a little more or a little less. Any less stepping (smaller “dots” on a continuum) would cause unneeded button tapping. This? This is perfect.

The clutch travel is too long.

Bug level: high

It didn’t need this much travel, nor does it need an initial inch of dead travel at the top. It’s work that doesn’t need to happen… to simply use the clutch every day. Too much in and out, heh. It took me too long to get used to it because of this. I didn’t put my finger on it until recently.

The brakes are awesome.

Praise level: high

The brakes are damn strong. The pedal feel is just right. I haven’t tracked my Alltrack, so I can’t comment on brake fade after repeated stops. I’m still on the original brake pads and rotors on all four corners after 29k miles.

The AWD system I like.

Praise level: medium.

The AWD system is trouble-free and works well. My ownership has only seen me test the Alltrack’s AWD in wet and snow, no mud, sand or four-wheeling.

The handling is about the best one can expect from an economy wagon.

Praise level: medium

It corners mostly flat, the brakes stop the car damn well, it doesn’t freak out on rough/uneven pavement, and it’s a joy to drive.

Controls are well placed.

Praise level: medium

The turn signal stalk is right where it should be. The steering wheel is a nice size and positions well. The radio controls are not all relegated to the touchscreen (there’s a volume/on/off knob!). Many of the features of the radio and driving data and information are available on the steering wheel buttons.

The seats are meh.

Bug level: high

I’ve never liked them. I’ve talked about that here a few times. Yes, I should have sprung for the fancier SEL trim with the power seats. No, my budget didn’t allow the ~$7k additional.

It’s a good but not great roadtrip car. It gets decent highway MPG, and so-so city MPG.

2017 Alltrack Trim Levels, MSRP

Alltrack S MSRP $25,850

  • 6.5-inch touchscreen
  • Rearview camera
  • Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
  • 17-inch aluminum-alloy Valley wheels
  • Silver roof rails

Alltrack SE MSRP $30,530

  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Push-button start
  • Keyless access
  • Automatic headlight activation

Alltrack SEL MSRP $32,890

  • 18-inch Canyon wheels
  • 12-way power driver’s seat
  • Automatic dual-zone climate control
  • Discover Media navigation unit

Alltrack RIP, We Hardly Knew You

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Yes, the rumors are true. The Golf Alltrack is done after the 2019 model year.

Volkswagen of America announced today that the critically-acclaimed Volkswagen Golf Alltrack and Golf SportWagen will end production with the 2019 model year. Volkswagen will continue building the Alltrack at the Puebla, Mexico plant through December 2019 to provide enthusiasts additional opportunity to own an affordable, European-designed wagon.

https://media.vw.com/releases/1180

Also leaving us is the Alltrack’s sister, the Golf Sportwagen.

That leaves the world with just three years of production, model years 2017, 2018 and 2019.

So… Why?

Short answer: SUVs. VW says SUVs accounted for more than half of its total sales in the first half of 2019. Road & Track puts it in perspective:

Last month, Volkswagen sold 1314 wagons, accounting for a little over a third of total Golf sales (the automaker doesn’t break down Sportwagen vs. Alltrack numbers). That number pales in comparison to the 9378 Tiguans the brand sold in the same time period.

https://www.roadandtrack.com/new-cars/a28421951/vw-golf-sportwagen-alltrack-dead/

Highway MPG Report – Golf Alltrack – Mountain Twisties

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My Alltrack got 30.8 MPG at an average of 42 MPH on this tour of popular Colorado mountain towns. Everything off I-70 features 30-55 MPH state roads with some sections featuring lots of twisties. I-70 is a typical 65-70 MPH speed limit interstate. That’s the long east-west one in the map below.

  • Denver to Dillon
  • Dillon to Leadville
  • Leadville to Aspen
  • Aspen to Glenwood Springs
  • Glenwood Springs to Dillon
  • Dillon to Denver
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Route

My 2017 Golf Alltrack S did really well at these very high altitudes. Power was down so little I didn’t notice any loss at all, even in Leadville, Elevation: 10,151 feet. Total distance was 399 miles with various non-highway meanderings.

Leadville has the highest elevation of any incorporated city in the United States.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leadville,_Colorado
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Highway 82 twisties
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Highway 82 twisties, satellite map
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MPG
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Distance on 1 tank of gasoline

My new tires were a little squishy on turns, being all seasons made for snow and rain. Otherwise, the car handled about how I expected it to handle, which was better than 85% of other cars, but nowhere near sports-car or even sports sedan level.

AC worked great. Brakes never got hot, because with a manual transmission I did most of my braking via the engine. This is totally possible with an auto.

The Alltrack’s seats are not meant for spirited driving. I slid around like a puck on ice. They’re so-so for long-distance driving, being neither what I would call above average comfortable, nor offering many ways to adjust them. If you’re looking for long-distance Alltrack seats, look at the SEL models with their far-more-adjustible units.

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Lake Dillon CO
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Highway 82, Colorado
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Glenwood Springs, CO

Alltrack Tire Replacement Size and Cost

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Alltrack Tires

VW Alltracks with the 17-inch wheels come from the factory with a fairly rare tire size. I’ll put it simply: Alltrack tires are hard to find because of the size.

I chose a favorite tire — Continental ExtremeContact DWS — over the “correct” factory tire specs because I value something I know over getting the specs right. I did research first to find out if 225/50/17 would rub, and that research said they wouldn’t rub. And they don’t. So my gamble paid off.

Why Discount Tire?

Discount Tire meets any challenger’s advertised price, like Tire Rack, but in this case they didn’t have to. The two prices are a penny apart.

Why 225/50/17?

These Continental ExtremeContact DWS 06 don’t come in the 17-inch Alltrack’s size, so I got a slightly wider size.

Original tire size:
205/55/17

These:
225/50/17

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Alltrack’s tire size is a pretty rare size, so as this VW model comes in for its first round of tire replacement, there will be a little bit of Googling, hair-pulling and general head-scratching while owners look to source 205-55-17 tires.

I Just Ordered a Set of ExtremeContact DWS 06 for my Alltrack – Size 225/50/17

My 225-50-17 choice is an almost exact circumference match, so there is no gearing difference or speedometer/odometer difference. Also, the tires cause no rubbing on the fender liners.

Why Continental?

This is my third set of ExtremeContact DWS tires… so to say I love them is pretty obvious! The first two sets were on Volvos, which I’ve written about here. That car (Volvo V70 R) was, like our Alltracks, an AWD turbo wagon.

Continental ExtremeContactDWS - Alltrack Tire Replacement Size and Cost
I ❤️ExtremeContact DWS

Alltrack MPG: Best City & Best Highway

2017 Golf Alltrack - MPG talk

Here’s my Alltrack fuel economy findings after two years and 20k miles in my 2017 Golf Alltrack:

City

Floor: 20 MPG, Ceiling: 30 MPG

Highway

Floor: 30 MPG, Ceiling: 45 MPG

The Truth About Cold Engines

There’s a city MPG caveat. Anyone can get 10 MPG city if you just drive a mile. That’s because there’s a hole you have to dig out of every time you start your car, and that hole is the warmup period. When the engine is cold, like when you start it, it’s just going to give you crap MPG. Every ICE (internal combustion engine) car is like this. Just please, don’t idle your car to warm it up. This pollutes more than if you just drive.

When the warmup is complete, usually after 1-3 miles or around 5 minutes, you’ll get decent fuel economy. My figures include warmup time, but exclude trips of less than 3 miles.

Driving Style Affects Fuel Economy

The reason I have floors and ceilings on my MPG numbers is because driving styles vary… in my case they vary wildly. Sometimes I drive fast (but safely). Sometimes I accelerate very slowly and try to preserve momentum to reduce the frequency of using the gas pedal.

How Fast Is It? Alltrack + JB4

Alltrack with rear hatch open

Now I’ve got a couple actual examples of how fast my Alltrack with a JB4 is: a little faster than a GTI.

Today marked the second stoplight duel between a Mk 7 GTI vs. me in my 2017 Alltrack with a JB4 set to max boost.

The GTI was at my back bumper halfway through 3rd gear. I didn’t gap him, but the victory was clear. His front bumper was at my back bumper. I wanted to chat at the next light and rolled down my window but he wasn’t interested :'(

If the GTI does 0-60 mph in 6.0 sec, then my Alltrack does 0-60 mph in 5.9.

Keep in mind Car & Driver test results are generally impossible to recreate in the real world. So take my 5.9 seconds with a grain of salt.

This marks the second time in recent weeks I’ve pulled against a late model VW GTI, and both have been in my favor.

But I Lost at Seating

The only place I lost was in the seats: as cool as my Marrakesh Brown interior is, it’s no VW plaid.