Dan Wiese is a freelance automotive writer. He is a regular contributor for Brand Ave. Studios and to AAA Midwest Traveler magazine's online Web Bonus.

The Volkswagen Golf Alltrack is an iconoclast. It doesn't seem to give a hoot if trend-setters think it's unhip or old-school.

In fact, this guy is openly bucking contemporary trends to which, it seems, the rest of the automotive world has resigned itself.

2019 VW Golf Alltrack

Based on the Golf SportWagen 4Motion, Alltrack increases ground clearance and adds hill-descent control. Photo provided by Volkswagen

First of all, in a world that's crossover-crazy, Alltrack is a small station wagon! Oh, sure, it has standard all-wheel drive, but it's still a station wagon.

And, second, unlike almost everyone else, this guy isn't abandoning the manual transmission -- it's expanding its availability!

Alltrack's theme song could well be Bob Seger's "Against The Wind."

Available in S, SE and SEL trims, Alltrack's changes for 2019 include an update of its driver-assistance features and a six-speed manual transmission that's now available on every trim level.

Regarding safety, every Alltrack now boasts a suite of electronic nannies that includes auto emergency braking, forward-collision warning, pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Buyers seeking more bubble wrap can move up to the SE for the option of ordering the Driver Assistance and Appearance Pkg., thus adding lane-keep assist, park sensors, self-parking talent and auto high beams.

More intriguing, Alltrack's six-speed manual, heretofore available only in S and SE models, can now be had in the top-trim SEL, which previously was limited to Alltrack's six-speed, Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) automatic. That's the one we drove: a 2019 Alltrack SEL with a six-speed manual.

2019 VW Golf Alltrack 2

Photo provided by Volkswagen

Essentially a beefed-up Golf SportWagen 4Motion, the higher-riding Alltrack adds half an inch of ground clearance -- 6.9 inches total -- and, to its driver-selectable Normal, Sport and Custom chassis modes, an Off Road choice that includes hill-descent control, giving this wagon a modicum of off-pavement talent.

Every Alltrack is powered by a 1.8-liter turbocharged four that makes 168 hp and 199 lb.-ft. of torque. Managed by the manual gear box, it's a whole 'nother experience piloting the sharp-handling Alltrack. That DIY shifter makes for a more intimate relationship between driver and machine.

Rather than being seamless and smooth, as is the manual in the Golf R we recently sampled, we found this stick to be nostalgically notchy -- perhaps appropriate in a vehicle that's, uh, nostalgically wagon-y.

We greeted 60 mph in about 8 seconds.

On the road, Alltrack rides firmly, even in Normal mode, but acceleration is enthusiastic off the line, thanks to a full load of torque at just 1,600 rpm. And the ability to retain high-rpm levels via the stick shift ratchets up at-speed passing enthusiasm -- not to mention the fun quotient.

Our SEL was loaded. Included were an eight-inch infotainment screen with navigation and such SEL-standard safety features as Adaptive Cruise, Lane Departure Warning with lane-keep assist and front and rear Park Distance Control with Park Assist.

2019 VW Golf Alltrack 3

Photo provided by Volkswagen

From a cosmetic standpoint, this wagon, adopting a little-tough-guy image, shows a high stance, black wheel-well and rocker-panel trim, shiny silver outside-mirror caps and standard 17-inch alloy wheels. The top-trim SEL wears 18's as standard issue.

Inside, SEL is rugged-chic, with black and tan hues and matrix trim on doors and dash. Perks include a panoramic sunroof and an

Apple CarPlay-Android Auto compatible Fender audio system complete with knobs for tuning and volume.

Under the massive sunroof, head room is good front and back but, this being a compact, front passengers have to cut a break to those aft if folks in the cheap seats are to have much leg room.

That rear seat, by the way, folds for 66.5 cubic feet of stuff-hauling space. Alltrack is a rebel -- a compact all-wheel-drive wagon not afraid to shake hands with the driver who wants to take full control.


This content was produced by Brand Ave. Studios. The news and editorial departments of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch had no role in its creation or display. For more information about Brand Ave. Studios, contact tgriffin@stltoday.com.