I must admit that this comparison hits close to home – I briefly went through the process before purchasing my latest car. While not exactly a VW Alltrack, my Golf Sportwagen is everything it is minus the plastic cladding and the increased ride height. The side-by-side comparison with the Subaru Outback is an easy one to make for they are the only two wagon-cum-crossovers available on the market. The Audi Allroad falls under the luxury category so isn’t exactly similar.
The Volkswagen Alltrack and Subaru Outback blend what’s best about cars and what’s sought after in crossover. Given this, one would think they would be popular options with the capability-obsessed buying public but this is not the case. While the Outback may have developed quite the following in certain specific markets, its numbers pale in comparison to comparable SUVs.
Thus, this comparison is for those who do not want to be like all their neighbors but require space and utility without getting an SUV. But which is better? Read on.
Which is more enjoyable to drive?
While similar in process, these cars want to be different things. The Subaru craves nothing more than to be an SUV while the VW is but a Golf with a beard and a flannel shirt. The Golf with the tuque is also far more agile and at home in the urban jungle.
The Alltrack’s smaller footprint and lower curb weight lend themselves well to spirited driving. The turbocharged 1.8-litre engine’s 199 lb.-ft. of torque are just about sufficient for fun in most instances, be it attached to the standard 6-speed manual gearbox or 6-speed DSG. Brakes, steering and suspension are tuned for comfort but have an undeniable dose of sportiness dialed into them.
By contract, the Outback’s heavier and taller stature better serve a more relaxed driving style. Base cars get the venerable 175-horsepower flat-4-cylinder 2.5-litre engine. With the standard-for-all Lineartronic CVT, performance is decent. As a side-note, Subaru discontinued offering the 6-speed manual transmission with the 4-cylinder which immediately sealed the deal for me. The optional 256-horsepower flat-6-cylinder 3.6-litre engine livens things up and comes in handy especially when towing.
Both cars offer fully-independent suspensions. The Alltrack is geared more for paved surfaces while the Outback is equally at home in rougher situations and on the road. As the very vast majority of these cars will never leave the beaten path, the VW’s responsive chassis and more involved drive take the honours.
Answer: 2019 VW Alltrack
Which is more fuel-efficient?
The surprise here is that despite the Subaru Outback being a considerably larger car, its fuel economy numbers are better on paper. The 2.5-litre model will return 9.4/7.3 L/100km (city/highway) while the 1.8T with DSG VW Alltrack manages 10.7/7.8 L/100km (city/highway).
The available 6-cylinder requires nearly 20% more fuel through the same cycles so unless you tow or crave more performance, the 2.5L is a greener bet.
Answer: 2019 Subaru Outback
Which is more spacious?
This is an easy one. The Subaru Outback’s larger body is directly responsible for its bigger interior. At just over 1,000 litres, the Subie’s boot is ginormous but when you consider that the Volkswagen is about 25cm shorter than the Outback, the Alltrack’s 860 litres of trunk space remain fairly impressive.
The Outback’s 10cm longer wheelbase and 15 extra centimeters in overall height give it a considerable advantage when it comes to head- and legroom in the second row. Up front, both cars are plenty big for normal adults.
Answer: the 2019 Subaru Outback
Which has the better value?
If we compare a $32,600 Highline DSG Alltrack to a $32,785 2.5i Touring Outback, the Subaru wins the value proposition. It includes a power tailgate and blind spot detection, lane change assist and rear cross traffic alert. The latter safety features are a $795 option on the VW but the power hatch is not available.
A loaded Execline DSG Alltrack with the Driver Assistance Package Plus retails for $38,420. It lines up perfectly with the $38,395 2.5i Premier with Eye Sight which again includes the rear hatch and rear heated seats, driver seat memory settings and a heated steering wheel
Technology-wise, both cars are generally on the ball with the latest connectivity and safety features.
This one ends up a no-brainer.
Answer: the 2019 Subaru Outback
Which would we recommend?
Nearly all points lead to the Subaru Outback and though it’s a great car, the Alltrack is impossible to simply dismiss. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder however I cannot help but find the Alltrack more attractive, distinctive and sophisticated. The same goes for the interior.
Relatedly, I’ve realized that the 2.5-litre Boxer-4 engine is coarser and lacks refinement compared to the 1.8T and the H6. The CVT’s efficiency outshines the DSG but its tendency to drone upon acceleration (albeit not as bad as previously) is still irksome.
Both Volkswagen and Subaru have had their share of issues in the not too distant past so reliability-wise, they’re about equal with the Subaru perhaps barely edging out the Volkswagen.
So, in the end, if you love to drive and need cargo and people space, the Volkswagen Alltrack is tops. For every other reason including more room and a longer list of features, the Subaru Outback is the way to go.