New York – If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
The No. 2 automaker by sales in the world, Volkswagen has struggled for sales in the U.S. It’s outsold by small-niche Japanese manufacturer Subaru. So VW has taken a page out of Subaru’s book and introduced an all-wheel drive compact wagon at this year’s New York auto show.
The 2017 VW Alltrack already is on sale in Europe, and packs the brand’s excellent Haldex all-wheel drive system into the award-winning, VW Golf Sportwagen clothing. The acclaimed Haldex 5 system — found in the hot hatch Golf R — can transfer up to 50 percent of power to the rear wheels, giving the car a sporty feel as well as excellent bad-weather traction.
Similar to the Audi A4 Allroad wagon that debuted at the Detroit auto show this year, the Alltrack is raised higher than the regular Golf hatch or SportWagen to give the car a crossover feel.
To further accent the rugged off-road vibe, VW adds body cladding, a unique grille, large wheels and “off-road mode” with hill-descent control. VW hopes the Alltrack will give the similar Subaru Crosstrek and Outback a run for their money — and give them a leg up on a wagon segment that has struggled against AWD crossovers.
“We heard from dealers and customers that they wanted to see a Golf SportWagen with the all-terrain capability that comes from an all-wheel drive system,” said VW America Product Marketing Chief Joerg Sommer. “We are excited to introduce the Golf Alltrack to meet the active lifestyle needs of our customers.”
Sitting on VW’s nimble MQB architecture — shared with the Golf and Audi A4 — the Alltrack will be powered by a 170-horsepower, 1.8-liter, four-banger.
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit News. Reach him at email@example.com. Or Twitter: @HenryEPayne