2017 Golf New Car Test Drive
The Volkswagen Golf sets the standard for its class. New to the lengthy lineup is the 2017 Golf Alltrack wagon. Based on the Golf SportWagen, the Alltrack has standard 4Motion all-wheel drive and an extra half-inch of ground clearance. All-wheel drive now is available for the 2017 Golf SportWagen S as well. Also new is the 2017 Volkswagen Golf Wolfsburg Edition positioned above the Golf S.
Turning to the sporty GTI, entry-level S models now have plaid cloth upholstery rather than imitation leather. Sport trim level is new for 2017. 2017 Golf Sport, Autobahn, and SE versions now include the Performance Package, which boosts engine output to 220 horsepower.
Last redesigned for the 2015 model year, the Golf group consists of two- and four-door hatchbacks, sporty GTIs, and a pair of wagons, plus the battery-powered e-Golf. Diesel-engine models are gone, in the wake of the emissions-testing scandal that was uncovered in 2015.
Base engine is a turbocharged 1.8-liter, direct-injected four-cylinder that makes 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque. A 5-speed manual gearbox is standard in some trim levels, with 6-speed automatic transmission optional. All-wheel-drive SportWagens and Alltracks may have either a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic or a 6-speed manual.
In the GTI, a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine produces 210 horsepower (220 hp with Performance Package), mating with the 6-speed manual or dual-clutch automatic. We lean toward the dual-clutch unit, which yields precise, crisp shifts. That GTI easily does double-duty, serving well as both a performance car and a daily commuter.
Strongest of all is the 2.0-liter turbo four in the Golf R, generating 292 horsepower, with Haldex all-wheel drive. Golf R and GTI models may be fitted with adjustable dampers, aimed at fine-tuning the car's responses.
Safety is a strong point. In crash-testing by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Golf earned a five-star overall score, but four-star for frontal collision and rollover protection. When equipped with advanced safety features, the Golf was named a Top Safety Pick+ by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, with Good scores in every crash-test. Active-safety features are standard on the Wolfsburg Edition and GTI Autobahn, and optional for other upper trim levels.
Golf S ($19,895) has cloth upholstery, 5-inch touchscreen audio, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity, manual shift, 15-inch wheels. Four-door models include steering wheel-mounted controls and a rearview camera. A panoramic sunroof is available, and an automatic transmission ($1,100). (All prices are MSRP and do not include destination.) Golf Wolfsburg Edition ($21,595) comes with heated leatherette seats, keyless ignition, 16-inch wheels, forward collision alert with automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, and rain-sensing wipers. Available with automatic ($1,100). For 2017, Golf SE and SEL trim levels are sold only to order.
Golf SportWagen S ($21,580) is equipped similar to S hatchback, with available all-wheel drive ($2,250). SportWagen SE ($27,030) comes standard with automatic transmission, plus a sunroof and foglamps. SportWagen SEL ($29,970) has automatic plus active safety features, including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and blind-spot monitoring.
Alltrack S ($25,850) rides slightly higher than a SportWagen, with all-wheel drive and body cladding. Active safety features are available. Manual gearbox is standard, automatic transmission optional ($1,100). Alltrack SE ($29,430) adds a sunroof and keyless entry/start. Alltrack SEL ($32,890) has automatic transmission, power front seats, automatic climate control, and navigation.
Golf GTI S ($25,595), the only two-door GTI model, comes with the 210-horsepower 2.0-liter engine, a rearview camera, cloth upholstery, foglamps, and air conditioning.
GTI Sport ($27,995) includes a Performance Package (220 horsepower), keyless entry, and pushbutton start. GTI SE ($30,890) has leather seating surfaces and a sunroof. GTI Autobahn ($34,095) includes a power driver's seat, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert.
Golf R ($35,655) is similar to GTI, but with performance upgrades that include the 292-horsepower engine, all-wheel drive, and a stiffer suspension. Golf R is available with navigation and dynamic chassis control, which aims to minimize harshness and road noise ($39,375).