Three Things I Always Do For My Alltrack

I’m a careful Golf Alltrack owner. Maybe paranoid. Whatever the case, I take good care of her.

  1. I never go past 3k RPM until oil temp is > 180
  2. 4/5 times I fill her up with Shell premium — 5/5 times premium
  3. I never take it to car washes

I have to work to get under 23 MPG city, for trips over 8 miles or so. The engine has loosened up. This is an improvement since the first month of ownership, when my Alltrack was averaging 23 MPG.

Alltrack Highway Manners, MPG, Crosswind Behavior – Alltrack Road Trip!

I’ve done about 350 miles on my Alltrack road trip, Denver to Santa Fe. Plus a few more dozens driving hither and yon to campgrounds, food trucks, and cafes.

Average speed is 66 mph, top speed was around 90 mph, and fuel economy is ranging from 38 mpg to 28 mpg, the lower number because of sometimes significant headwinds, perhaps reaching 30 mph. That’s my estimate based on getting out for a few rest stops and giving it my best guess. They were strong, pushing me as I stood.

My Alltrack is performing well. I can’t believe how good Apple Carplay is. Its maps aren’t as good as Google Maps with the odd destination request, like campgrounds. The routing for instance insisted I drive around the Santa Fe National Forest to get to the Black Canyon Campground, which was incorrect and circuitous.

Otherwise, CarPlay and its Apple Maps are great co-pilots. I don’t know how I did roadtrips before.

I use an app called Libby to listen to audio books (The Sea-Wolf currently), and of course it isn’t given an icon on the CarPlay desktop, but it is available under a generic catch-all icon called Now Playing. I can start, stop, FF and rewind with the steering wheel controls. Pretty cool.

Now, complaints

  1. seats — I’m just not happy with the base seats… they’re not as comfortable as those in my 20-year-old Volvo 850 that I traded in on the Alltrack
  2. slight crosswind drifting/buffeting

Alltrack Roadtrip Capability Summary

If the seat uncomfortability thing was solved (I’ll post at length about this coming up soon – OEM seat alternatives), the Alltrack would be a nice inexpensive highway cruiser. Maybe the nicest out there. As it is, if you want long legs capability, go up trim levels to the Alltrack SEL.

Going up to the SEL is a big dollar jump, and it wipes out much of the Alltrack’s fantastic value. It’s the classic car value proposition: buy the top trim of Car A, or the bottom trim of Car B, which in this case would be a base Audi A3 ($31,200 MSRP) or base BMW X1 ($33,750 MSRP), for example.

Golf Alltrack base, AKA “S” (from $26,950 MSRP)

  • Rearview camera
  • V-Tex leatherette seats
  • Touchscreen infotainment with Android Auto/Apple CarPlay
  • Heated front seats
  • 17-inch Valley wheels
  • Off-Road Mode

Golf Alltrack SE (from $30,530 MSRP)

  • Panoramic sunroof
  • Fender Premium Audio System
  • Keyless access with push-button start
  • Automatic headlight activation

Golf Alltrack SEL (from $32,890 MSRP)

  • 18-inch Canyon wheels
  • Discover Media touchscreen navigation
  • Dual-zone climate control
  • Comfort sport seats/power-adjustable driver’s seat

Alltrack Value

I got my base Alltrack for $24,400, and considering its MSRP of $26,950, it’s a very, very good car. If the seats were great it would be the best deal in cars, ever.

My Alltrack Went in for Smelly AC Service… And…

Golf Recirc AC button

It was covered. My 2017 Alltrack had an air conditioning smelly socks, vinegary smell since I bought it in April 2017, or to be very specific, it had had the smell since I started using the Alltrack’s air conditioning, which was in June. The AC smell was pretty bad, and noticeable only when the AC was switched off.

The smell came after the AC was shut off, and was probably a result of mildew in the climate control system, the Emich VW tech told me.

They vacuumed out the system and added a deodorizer, which smelled like cinnamon Lysol, if there is such a thing. They replaced the cabin air filter (pollen filter). The tech said there was some moisture on the filter. That alone could have been the cause.

Golf Alltrack unscheduled service
Golf Alltrack unscheduled service

Volkswagen covers one of these AC services in the first year of new VW ownership. After that, it’s $220. The service took about 1.5 hours, and my tech was very pleasant and informative. I drank coffee in the VW dealer lounge while I waited.

This was my Alltrack’s first time back to the dealer after buying it new. All in all, 5/5 stars… a pain-free (and free free) experience.

If You Want to Avoid AC Odor

My tech gave me tips on how to avoid the smelly socks odor in my VW’s air conditioning. The goal here is to cut down on moisture entering and staying in the AC system.

  • Less Recirculation button, or none at all (it frustratingly defaults to Recirc on)
  • Turn off AC before arriving at destination to allow it to dry out

About the AC Service at Your VW Dealer

  • 20k maintenance pollen filter part of maintenance schedule
  • AC service — vacuum, clean, deodorize — is covered under 12 months/12k miles, otherwise $220

After 3 Months: My JB4 Review

JB4 logged data - 2017 Alltrack manual transmission WOT

This is a non-scientific review. I don’t have drag strip run data, it’s only about my thoughts and impressions.

I removed the JB4 last night. I’ve driven just 20 miles without it today, and here is my review of the Burger Tuning JB4.

I think getting a read on the JB4 is made easy by removing it, just as much as it is installing it. The absence of the unit — after using it for 3.5 months — makes a difference felt just as strongly as adding it.

Without the JB4…

  • The midrange kick is gone – 2500 to 3500 RPM, of course
  • But the kick made the throttle touchy right where I set higher-than-stock boost levels (2k-3k RPM)
  • You know what? The stock VW 1.8 is pretty good the way it is!

I ran the JB4 with its stock settings for a month before increasing the boost at certain RPM levels… custom map.

JB4 logged data - 2017 Alltrack manual transmission WOT
JB4 logged data – 2017 Alltrack manual transmission WOT

See my brief comment about life with the JB4 here.

I’m going to leave it off for a few weeks to get even more of a gauge on how much power is missing and how fuel economy is affected. While I had the JB4 installed, I didn’t notice a significant loss or gain in my Alltrack’s fuel economy.

After a few runs to Castle Rock to get some data on MPG, I’ll make another JB4 post, this one specifically MPG apples – apples with actual numbers.

My Pretty Blue over Brown 2017 Alltrack

2017 Alltrack Night Blue Metallic w/ Marrakesh

She’s a Night Blue Metallic over Marrakesh V-tex leatherette (brown) interior. Manual transmission with a JB4 tune. Photograph 2 days ago in Denver. I never park where she’ll get door dings.

2017 Alltrack Exterior Paint Colors

Deep Black Pearl
Night Blue Metallic
Pure White
Reflex Silver Metallic
Silk Blue Metallic
Tornado Red
Platinum Gray Metallic

Tracking Engine Oil in Photos on a 2017 Golf Alltrack 1.8

Alltrack engine oil — I’m tracking its condition over the months. I missed the first few days… so this oil progression photo log starts at the 30-day mark.

I’m drawing no conclusions from this. I’ll have August up soon, and I’ll take a better photo then.

All dates are in 2017. Oil samples taken from a 2017 Golf Alltrack 1.8 bought new in April… This is engine oil. The paper is photo mat board touched by dipstick.

Tire Pressure Low, Right Rear (message)

Dreading taking the Alltrack back to the dealer 3 months after buying it new, I lived with this message and low tire pressure idiot light for a week. Naturally I checked the pressure with a gauge when it was triggered, and finding it to be within spec, I decided the car’s right rear tire pressure sensor was bad.

Then yesterday I remembered something in the menus: tire pressure calibration. I did it, and the message is of course gone. Whew.

Ok, I Love My Golf Alltrack’s Backup Camera

What I see backing out of my garage into the alley.

It took me a while, but I’ve begun to love my Alltrack’s backup camera. It’s really good at showing me what’s down the alley — is a car coming? — while reversing out of my garage.

It’s useful for seeing what’s to the sides, not just what’s directly behind, because it uses a wide-angle lens. I’d estimate it’s roughly a 15mm lens viewing angle equivalent in 35mm photography.

Volkswagen calls it a rear view camera.

The Rear View camera helps the driver when he is reversing. The camera image in the display of the radio or radio/navigation system shows the area behind the vehicle.

Rear View helps with parking by superimposing guidelines over the camera image. These show the path the vehicle will take with the current steering wheel setting, and when the steering wheel has to be turned.

This allows the vehicle to be backed up to any obstacle, regardless of whether it is a bumper or a kerbstone. And coupling up a trailer is no longer a problem.

And of course it’s great for simply knowing when you’re close enough to the parked car behind you while you’re parking.

On my Golf Alltrack, I like how the camera is hidden inside the VW logo/liftgate handle. The VW disc flips up automatically when reverse is engaged, and the video from the camera is sent to the infotainment display screen on the dash.

Everything is automatic. I do nothing except put the car in reverse.
What I see backing out of my garage into the alley.
What I see backing out of my garage into the alley.
What I see backing out of my garage into the alley.
What I see backing out of my garage into the alley.
What my Alltrack's screen shows behind me -- AND DOWN THE ALLEY.
What my Alltrack’s screen shows behind me — AND DOWN THE ALLEY.

Backup cameras will be required for all new cars sold starting in 11 months, in the United States. Naturally, this is not applicable to cars made before May, 2018, so if you have a car made up to then you do not need to install a backup camera. It’s not retroactive in other words.

How to Install JB4 on a Golf Alltrack

Why Burger Tuning JB4 for a Alltrack?

As promised in my VW forum post, here’s my JB4 install guide…

So I wanted a little more power delivered safely — well within the VW 1.8 4-cylinder’s happy place. And I didn’t want even “bolt-on” level of mods. This Burger Tuning JB4 isn’t even bolt-on level because it’s so easily reversed and removed. And at $429 it’s not cheap but it won’t break the bank either.

Additionally, if I didn’t like it I could remove it and sell it fairly easily.

On a new car, that’s the level of commitment I’m comfortable with.


JB4 Install on a 2017 Golf Alltrack – Overview

  • The install took about 2 hours. It’s one of those where the next time you do it it takes 1/2 the time.
  • I removed the battery to get the OBDII wire through the firewall. It makes it so much easier with the battery gone.
  • Some people say they can get the lowest connector done without jacking the car or using ramps. I have no idea how. I didn’t even try without jacking and removing the belly pan/splash guard. Wrong! I tried this last night, a week after the install, and I could get my hand down there. Undid the clip even.
  • Some of the connection clips are difficult to undo. A very small flat blade screwdriver helps, and IMHO is the best tool.
  • Battery terminals: 10mm socket.
  • Belly pan torx: T25.
  • Belly pan bolts: 13mm socket.

I used these sources for reference

  1. Burger Tuning’s JB4 install PDF
  2. JB4 install video
  3. For jacking points, I found this, but it’s really the same as any modern car: use the strong points on the subframe, when raising the front of the car.

JB4 Install Notes and Tips

Plugs B, C and D are pass-throughs. That means they go in-between the female and male connection that are already there. Unplug what’s there, insert the JB4 connector, then put what’s left into the JB4 connector. Of course, the blue AFR wire and OBDII connections you don’t do this with.

JB4 driving and power impressions coming soon in a post here. Also look for a post about the effect of the JB4 on my Alltrack’s MPG.