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Making Tracks – Subaru Crosstrek/Volkswagen Golf Alltrack

Whether it’s 6 inches of snow on your neighborhood streets or the muddy dirt road leading to your weekend cabin, these rugged SUV alternatives stand ready to help.

(Photo: ® Subaru of America, Inc.)

While crossovers are known for their practical side, the all-new Subaru Crosstrek may be the Swiss army knife of the segment. It doesn’t offer 64 separate implements, but the second generation of this compact SUV is a versatile enough tool for wherever life takes you.

On the road, the Crosstrek offers a refined ride and respectable handling. The 2.0-liter horizontally opposed four-cylinder produces decent acceleration, though some folks will wish for more power.

What really sets it apart is off-pavement performance. The combination of Subaru’s trademark all-wheel-drive system, standard hill-descent control and 8.7 inches of ground clearance makes it especially capable on dirt roads or snow-clogged side streets.

Inside, those familiar with the previous Crosstrek will find a more attractive design and better quality materials, with details like my Limited test model’s orange stitching. Larger overall dimensions make for a roomier interior, though the five-seat cabin is still better suited to just four passengers. Engineers have also done much to quiet the interior.

In short, this new Subaru Crosstrek is one of the all-round most flexible crossovers on the market.

Base price: $21,895

MPG: 27 city, 33 highway

Crash Test: 5 stars

(Photo: © Volkswagen of America, Inc.)

Like you, the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack will happily run to the corner store for a quart of milk. But it, too, has places it would rather be, like gleefully bombing down the rough gravel track that leads to your secret fishing hole. And therein lies this compact crossover’s secret: it is equally at home in both scenarios.

The top-of-the-line SEL model I drove starts with the thoroughly likable Golf Sportwagen, and then adds rugged body cladding and 6.9 inches of ground clearance. The key component, however, is a robust all-wheel-drive system that gives this spunky wagon a whole new adventurous dimension. Add an off-road button that alters traction control settings and brings hill descent control online, and this VW is no off-pavement poseur.

Power comes from a responsive 170-horsepower four-cylinder that gives the Alltrack a distinctly zippy feel, especially in Sport mode.

Then there’s a handsome interior and more cargo room than some compact crossovers. Taken together, the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is an upscale, uber-practical wagon that’s ready to take you wherever you need to go.

Base price:$26,895

MPG:22 city, 30 highway

Crash Test: 5 stars

Looking for a new car ride? Find more car reviews online. AAA.com/TestDrive

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