A few weeks after it was picked as 2017 Canadian Car of the Year by the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC) I got to spend a week test-driving the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack.
As a member of AJAC I had a short drive in it during vehicle testing in October and in that brief time I suspected it would be an award winner.
Some cars take very little time to convince a driver of their winning ways. The Alltrack did everything right and did it quickly.
It’s solid both standing still and moving. Meaning when you slam a door it sounds serious, when you push a button the feedback is instant, handles, switches, upholstery are high quality. For a $38, 215 station wagon it feels very premium with its stylish interior layout and good visibility.
On the road solid, comes from the way it handles and steers. It’s unruffled over bad roads, sporty on good roads, and tracks like a lazer with precise steering. It’s a car that is easy to drive well. Though its 170 horsepower 4-cylinder engine might sound meager, it is anything but. The six-speed dual clutch transmission always seems to have power in reserve. With standard all-wheel-drive and extra ground clearance it is designed for mild off-road driving, and the adaptive cruise control works as well as any I’ve tested.
My only hesitation about the Alltrack is that the entry level VW Golf Sportwagen starting at $23, 145 is a compelling choice too. Outfitted with winter tires it’s a capable, fun to drive rival to its more expensive stablemate.
The week after I tested the Alltrack I stepped behind the wheel of the Audi Q7. At $88,000 it is a $50,000 upgrade of a vehicle intended for the same purpose, utility, hauling people and stuff and venturing off road on a cottage path. For the extra dough, Audi smothers you with love and kindness. The pillowy seats, the instrument panel as intricate as one found in a fighter jet, and the $5,000 optional sound system. It all makes you feel so important.
We never took the Q7on a rugged adventure, our biggest road trip was to Campbellville to check out the Mohawk Inn & Conference Centre. It’s been undergoing updates under new ownership, so we enjoyed lunch in the Mohawk Chop House and a chat with owner Bridget Saulnier. “A big part of our business comes from Mohawk Racetrack,” Saulnier explained. The track is next door to the inn and features harness racing and slots. Another popular feature is the KOA campground attached to the inn. While we were there motorcyclist Lawrence Hacking was planning his annual Overland Adventure Rally. The event takes over the Inn in July.
The Audi Q7 has everything you’d want in a luxury SUV. Though rather massive, the drive is nimble and enjoyable and its autonomous driving feature called Congestion Assistance is remarkable. I tested it in stop and go traffic on the QEW and it steers and brakes so adeptly it takes a lot of the stress out of unpredictable driving.
So a practical wagon or a hauler for the well-heeled, both with have own special charms.