There we were, off the map, where the squiggly line vanishes into a murky greenish grey.

It was the perfect demonstration of the differences between the two models we drove from Munich to GTi Treffen at Worthersee. I was at the wheel of the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack, our colleagues behind us in the Golf R Variant. These two cars are based on the same MQB platform, lengthened to wagon proportions, all four (well, eight) wheels driven by 2.0L turbo four-cylinder engines hooked up by way of six-speed DSG transmissions, near identical interiors, yet have personalities that couldn’t be any more different when so similar on paper.

The Alltrack is Volkswagen’s ‘Outbackified’ Golf wagon, while the R Variant is the top Golf performance spec in convenient wagon body style. If you’ve ever had the urge to say, “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads…” without having a flying car handy, well, the Alltrack is your choice.

So there we were, the onboard navigation drawing a blank, but the suggestion of a path and a sense of adventure, and we just kept on driving up the rutted track that hugged the side of a heavily wooded hill, less travelled than even your typical logging road (like I know what a typical logging road is like from my zero years working in the logging industry). The Golf R Variant was left parked and watching from below. Anyhow, it was far more rutted and rugged than our usual Ontario gravel roads and even trails to remote cottages and campsites, if not exactly the Rubicon trail. Where did it go? Nowhere. The best kind of road.

What it did offer in lieu of a destination was a chance to test the Alltrack on exactly the kind of road it was designed to tackle. The height difference between the ruts and various small branches and rocks was easily several inches, with undulations and angles that were just within this car’s ground clearance but without any knee-deep mudpits or tree stumps that would risk damage or a stranded Golf Alltrack and calls to VW roadside assistance.

The Alltrack features an additional Off-road mode for just such an occasion, utilizing the Haldex differential as a longitudinal lock, a four-wheel Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) that uses the stability control braking functions to simulate “the role of electronic transverse locks at both axles”, and the “XDS+ system at the front and rear axles to help with steering response by applying brief braking interventions.” Off-road mode also appeared to reduce the throttle response to a simulated crawl ratio to allow finer control on tricky surfaces, though I’ve yet to find that specified in the VW literature, which is rather sparse at the moment this far in advance of the vehicle’s arrival to market next year.

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