Volkswagen Golf: A wagon that will help VW set things right

 31 Dec 2016 - 13:06

Volkswagen Golf: A wagon that will help VW set things right
The Volkswagen Golf is a good, reasonably affordable compact wagon. MUST CREDIT: Daniel Byrne, Volkswagen.

Warren Brown | The Washington Post

It is my nature by religious training and faith to forgive offenses when contrition is offered and genuine remedy is proposed to set things right.

In that regard, I personally accept Volkswagen's apology for its ruse to deceive the world's environmental protection agencies and the company's millions of retail customers with a clever trick to cover up ruinous diesel emissions.

I neither expect nor urge everyone - dealers, suppliers, retail customers - to accept VW's contrition or its proffered compensation. VW made a terrible, costly mistake - one that hurt and embarrassed the company as well as its many fiercely loyal retail buyers.

What is set forth here is my personal forgiveness based on what I think are the company's sincere efforts to make amends and fix what is broken - largely by offering now excellent products such as the 2017 Golf Alltrack TSI SE all-wheel-drive wagon.

I do not know if the Golf Alltrack TSI SE, a gasoline vehicle, is included as a possible replacement vehicle in VW's proposed $1.2 billion compensation fund going to retailers and, ultimately, to the company's retail buyers worldwide.

If it is not included, it should be - with corporate grace, assuming there is such a thing, and a sincere, practically workable promise that the company will do whatever it can to support the gasoline Golf Alltrack's now apparent excellent quality with any technical fixes, if needed.

It is a good, reasonably affordable compact wagon, one that should be included as a palliative in any plan to help disgruntled customers who are burdened with the costs of paying for faulty diesel vehicles that are threatened to be additionally fined for dirty exhausts every time they visit an emissions station.

The gasoline Golf Alltrack TSI SE driven for this column won't please everybody. Diesel lovers, particularly those who were forced to climb out of what they thought was a nifty Golf diesel, might not like it.

But there are benefits. The Golf Alltrack, with an optional six-speed automatic transmission, which can be operated manually, gets an average of 25 miles per gallon city-highway. It can get nearly 32 mpg if driven at legal highway speed limits. The standard six-speed manual transmission can deliver a few miles per gallon more.

Although motivated by a turbocharged (forced air) 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine - turbos often use premium - this one normally takes regular grade fuel and does quite well with that. The Golf Alltrack TSI's direct-injection four-cylinder engine delivers a quite-adequate 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque. It fits and handles nicely on the highway and is equally at home - more so actually - in congested city traffic.

It is not a race vehicle and was never designed or meant to be. It is a solid, compact wagon - safe, comfortable and reliable for small families of moderate to middle income. It will get them where they have to go - easily posting speeds of 65 or 75 miles per hour where allowed - without worrying about what will happen to them and their wagon on those occasions when they visit an emissions station.

It is a good piece. It is too bad VW did not spend as much on this one as it did on diesel emission trickery.

It is quite simple really. Most of us aren't interested in seeking bloody revenge. We don't want a war or to see someone suffer after they've made and admitted a mistake and are trying to put things right.

We just want to be treated fairly. We want to pay for what we thought we bought. We don't want to be laughed at as money is leaving our pockets. We don't want to feel like fools.

VW would be wise to include the sturdy, efficient Golf Alltrack TSI in its proposed compensation fund. It would be wiser still to add more standard advanced electronic safety equipment - adaptive cruise control, park distance control, autonomous emergency braking, bi-xenon headlamps with high-beam control and lane-departure warning - to the package.

Sure, that will cost VW more money. But it will make more customers happy. Now is not the time to play marketing games. It is time - past time - to say "I'm sorry" and mean and show it.

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Nuts & Bolts

2017 Volkswagen Golf

Bottom line: Get back to the business of selling vehicles people trust and love, Volkswagen. The 2017 Golf Alltrack TSI is a good start. Put as many of them in customer hands as possible. The compensation fund seems a good conduit.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Good marks in all areas - "good" meaning perfectly likable for people who want to get from Point A to Point B while obeying posted speed limits.

Head-turning quotient: It looks good on any school or church parking lot.

Body style/layout: A front-engine, all-wheel-drive with the compact wagon.

There are three trim levels - TSI SE, TSI S and TSI SEL. Stop playing games, VW. Load the SEL package into the SE as standard equipment. That is what people want.

Engine/transmission: This comes with a turbocharged 1.8-liter, 16-valve, direct injection gasoline engine with variable valve timing. A six-speed manual transmission is standard. A six-speed automatic that also can be operated manually is optional.

Capacities: Seating is for five people. Cargo capacity with all seats in place is 30.4 cubic feet. Maximum cargo capacity is 66.5 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 1.5 gallons of gasoline. Regular grade is okay.

Real-world mileage: I averaged 30 miles per gallon in highway driving.

Safety: Standard equipment includes ventilated front disc, solid rear disc brakes; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; side and head air bags; turn-signal mirrors; stability and traction control; front fog driving lights.

Pricing: The gasoline 2017 Golf Alltrack TSI SE with all-wheel-drive starts at $30,530. Price as tested is $31,350, including $820 in factory-to-dealer shipment costs. You can bargain.