The off-road section was challenging enough to prove this vehicle would have little trouble negotiating a rugged trail back to civilization.

BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, Wa. — Check out the photos above – now do you get the message?

No, Volkswagen has not gone into the kayak business but anybody attending the recent launch south of the line could be forgiven for thinking the watercraft was at least an optional extra with the 2017 VW Golf Alltrack.

Everywhere we drove the station wagon – the red model with the kayak was placed in a photogenic and scenic location.

The German manufacturer was driving home that this all-wheel drive family ‘wagen’, as they spell it, is clearly aimed at those who frequently breathe in the fresh air of the great outdoors.

And to prove its street cred, sorry backwoods cred, the launch route veered into offroad territory, complete with big bumps, deep ruts, which threatened to turn into mud within minutes of a downfall.

The rain did not materialize but nevertheless, the off-road section was challenging enough to prove this vehicle would have little trouble negotiating a rugged trail back to civilization.

For the second time in a couple of months, my co-driver grinned and commented this was likely the last time this particular vehicle would be forced to negotiate such unforgiving terrain.

Last time, we each made the same observation was at the Alberta launch of the Subaru Forester.

That said, VW should be applauded for bringing the all-wheel drive Alltrack at last to North America because if you are outdoorsy it can do if you wish it to do! – I suspect, though, that most owners will use it as a family car with lots of room at the back for groceries and kids’ sports gear and golf clubs.

Domestic and Asian manufacturers have chosen to serve this market segment with sport ute light vehicles, dubbed crossovers. And boy have they been successful, eating up huge percentages of the overall market to the point that some manufacturers are predicting the demise of the sedan.

The station wagon is a popular configuration in Europe and truly that style is best represented here by the higher end German manufacturers.

In the States, the Alltrack is distinguished from the Golf lineup by being sold as a standalone model with its own three trim levels. That’s more of a marketing decision because our US cousins are less convinced about the value of station wagons. Here it is one of the Golf SportWagen trims.

The Alltrack is driven by a 1.8-litre turbocharged and direct-injected four-cylinder, 170 horsepower engine, mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (watch for a six-speed manual shift in 2018 models. It’s kept on track by the proven VW 4Motion all-wheel drive system.

Though I hesitate to say it has anything like a sporty performance, it’s certainly not lacking in a highway performance, where it will operate for most of the time as a front wheel drive mode.

Of course, that ability to operate mainly as a FWD until AWD is called upon by the road is a major contributor to fuel economy. Final numbers are not available yet but VW Canada figure 10.6/8 L/100 (city/highway) would be close to the mark.

In appearance, the Alltrack is a SportWagen on steroids, bulked out with body cladding, bigger bumpers, silver roof rails, with an underbody guard and a stance that raises it about 15 mm higher than its sibling.

Inside, you won’t notice much different from the rest of the SportWagen family, save some subtle leather touches and a distinguishing black headliner. Standard is a 60/40 rear split seat with pass through for those skis, you didn’t want to expose to the elements on the roof rack.

Bonuses include a rearview camera, keyless access with push-button start and automatic dual-zone climate control plus a fabulous panoramic sunroof that takes in the whole sky or the forest canopy if you do indeed venture offroad! The infotainment system has a 6.5-inch colour touchscreen.

The Alltrack is available now with a starting price of $35,295. For $1,310, the Driver Assistance Package adds Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking (Front Assist), front and rear Park Distance Control, Lane Assist and Park Assist, which aids in both parallel and perpendicular parking of the vehicle.

Darn it, forgot to try the park assist in the back woods.

If you have $1,610 in loose change, the Light and Sound Package (includes Bi-Xenon headlights with the Adaptive Front-lighting System and Light Assist high beam control, LED daytime running lamps and a 400-watt, Fender premium sound system).

keith [dot] morgan [at] drivewaybc [dot] ca

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