VW Caddy Alltrack 2.0 TDI: is the price of this glam panel too hefty?

Volkswagen's coolest and most comfortable Caddy ticks a lot of boxes

17 March 2019 - 00:02
The VW Caddy Alltrack 2.0 TDI is a glam panel van.
The VW Caddy Alltrack 2.0 TDI is a glam panel van.
Image: Supplied

Alltrack? I don't know about you but this name conjures up images of an all-wheel-drive system and improved offroad ability.

Well that's what I thought too, oddly enough. Though after briefly spinning the front wheels up a hill, in a rainstorm, it became blatantly obvious that the Caddy Alltrack was equipped with no such traction-giving technology.

Instead it creates a clever illusion of improved off-road ability thanks to that slightly misleading name and lots of black plastic cladding placed in strategic places, namely the wheel arches, side skirts and front and rear aprons. Marketing 1 Consumer 0.

Oh. Well that's disappointing. Can the Alltrack redeem itself from this?

It can and it does. Get over the fact that it's no more capable across unpaved roads than the average Caddy Trendline and you'll find that the Alltrack impresses with a pretty generous cache of standard features.

Aside from the obvious exterior cosmetic enhancements (aforementioned cladding, 17-inch alloy wheels and silver roof rails), the interior benefits from the following: automatic climate control, auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather steering wheel, cruise control plus a Bluetooth-compatible audio system with six speakers.

Other fantastic additions include heated front seats (a boon when you're old before your time) and a multifunction onboard computer. In Alltrack guise the Caddy feels impressively far removed from its no-frills panel-van roots.

Interesting. What's under the hood - I'm guessing nothing too special?

Pop that stubby bonnet and you'll find Volkswagen's ubiquitous 2.0 TDI engine that here delivers an attractive blend of both power and economy. In fact I'd say this particular motor is a textbook example of the Goldilocks Principle: not too hot, not too cold - just right.

FAST FACTS: VW Caddy Alltrack 2.0 TDI

• ENGINE: 1968cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
• POWER: 103kW at 4,200rpm
• TORQUE: 320Nm from 1,750 to 2,500rpm
• 0-100KM/H: 10.6 seconds (claimed)
• TOP SPEED:186km/h (claimed)
• FUEL: 7.6l/100km (achieved) 
• PRICE: From R471,000

Sure, it may be a little laggy at low revs but once on song it gives the Alltrack satisfyingly strong performance, especially out on the highway where it'll fling you along at speeds well over the legal limit for hours at a time. Overtaking slower vehicles is a cinch too.

Unlike in lesser Caddy models, this one also benefits from the firm's excellent seven-speed DSG transmission that makes the Alltrack even nicer to drive. There are no paddles on the steering wheel, mind, so if you want to row the cogs manually then you need to use the gear lever between the two front seats. No biggie, especially in a car like this.

Did you enjoy driving it and is it practical?

For what it is - a glammed-up panel van - the Caddy Alltrack drives surprisingly well. It's a tall machine (1,822mm to be precise) yet it can still be hustled around corners with a fair amount of vigour. Indeed, you wouldn't expect something so sensible to be imbued with such a playful streak.

The steering does require some getting used to though as it's a) not very fast and b) totally devoid of any feel whatsoever. Ride quality? Well this left me conflicted because the Alltrack seems to occupy this weird no-man's land between harsh and soft.

Depending on the surface and your speed it either soaks up bumps well or feels strangely choppy and flustered. I have a feeling this has something to do with the 17-inch alloy wheels. As good as they look I suspect the Caddy is better on 16s.

Practicality is top-notch. Hoick open that heavy rear hatch (it's even heavier to close, I'm warning you) and you'll be met with ample boot space that can be made even bigger thanks to that clever second row of seats that can be folded, double-folded or completely removed from the vehicle.

Perform the latter and there's not much the average person can't cram into the Alltrack. Especially since dual sliding doors provide generous and convenient apertures for loading things in and out. Up front there are lots of useful little cubbyholes for stowing personal items and door cards that can swallow plastic 1/1.5-litre water bottles with ease.

I'm scared to ask but is the Alltrack expensive?

Unfortunately it is. The DSG-equipped version I had on test will set you back R29,000 short of half a million. Throw in a few extras (LED headlights, a tow bar, metallic paint and park distance control) and you'll quickly be in at over the R500,000 mark. And this is a lot of money to pay for a machine that, in its most base form, starts at R284,500.

Which is why, if it were my money, I'd be inclined to forgo some of the standard features - not to mention that aggressive exterior styling - and pick up the R313,200 Caddy Trendline 1.0 TSI. Yes, it doesn't have quite the same urge as the 2.0 TDI and, yes, it looks a lot more bland sat out in the parking lot, but to me the R157,800 saving is a no-brainer.

Yep, unless you have all the money in the world the Alltrack doesn't make that much sense.