The Volkswagen Passat is one of the most popular models in the German brand’s line-up. Well over 15 million Passats have found homes in the last four decades. Its enduring quality and wide range of variants has no doubt been the main contributing factor.
To increase its appeal further, Volkswagen has added a new model to the range – the Passat Alltrack. Based on the practical Passat wagon, the lofty Alltrack sits between the wagon and the company’s SUVs such as the Volkswagen Tiguan and Touareg.
Like Subaru with its successful Outback, Volkswagen recognises that not all drivers want, or indeed, require a full sized SUV. Most, however, still desires a versatile, stylish and roomy passenger car that has rugged qualities.
So, can the all-new Volkswagen Passat Alltrack persuade Aussies out of their unwavering love affair with SUVs? We spent a week with one to find the answer.
Design & Comfort
Volkswagen brought in just one Passat Alltrack model, the 130kW/350Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder TDI with 4MOTION all-wheel drive, matched with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission. If the standard Passat wagon is a little bland to look at, the Alltrack adds a bit of flare – literally. Besides the increased ride height, the Alltrack can be distinguished by its rugged SUV-style bumpers and flared wheel arch and side sill extensions.
The car’s underbody stainless steel-look protection panels not only provides an overall link between the passenger car and SUV design, they also serve the functional purpose of protecting the engine, gearbox, oil sump, exhaust system and various hoses from damage. So, on the styling front, it is a triumph.
The Alltrack’s showroom appeal is immediately obvious when you step into the car, with Volkswagen’s usual standard of fit and finish to the simple, yet ergonomically laid out cabin. There are also plenty of usefully sized storage spaces and drink holders, thoughtfully scattered around the cabin.
Conveniently, Volkswagen has fitted the soft-roader with a powered tailgate, behind which is a generous 588 litres of cargo space. This can be easily expanded to 1,716 litre via the boot mounted levers that fold down the rear seats. Up front, the well padded seats are supremely comfortable and supportive.
Performance & Handling
As with the rest of the Passat range, refinement in the Alltrack is impressive. The cabin is suitably quiet at cruising speeds, with hardly a hint of the diesel engine up font. When given the prod, it sounds decidedly sporty too – not surprising, given the engine is shared with the Golf GTD.
In normal driving conditions, 90 per cent of the drive goes to the front wheels. When slip is detected, the 4MOTION system automatically, and imperceptibly, directs up to 100 per cent of the power to the rear axle, helping the car feel more planted when cornering. There is also an Off-Road button for mild off the track adventures.
Once engaged, it increases the car’s ABS threshold, activates Hill Descent Control (when a descent angle is greater than 10 degrees) and alters the gear shift points and accelerator pedal response, giving the driver higher engine rpm and therefore power to work with.
Predictably, the Alltrack drives like a regular Passat, but with the added reassurance of all-wheel drive grip and none of the top-heavy roll of full sized SUVs. It’s steering is direct and feels natural, but lacking in feel. The ride is admirably compliant, soaking up bumps and potholes with ease, even with the optional Adaptive Chassis Control set to Normal. Switching to Comfort adds an extra sheen of suppleness that works a treat on corrugated roads.
At the other end of the spectrum, Sport mode stiffens up the suspension, as well as sharpens steering and accelerator response to enhance driving dynamics. It works and is one option that is well worth ticking.
Starting with the underpinnings of the Passat Wagon is a good thing, because the Alltrack inherits the car’s reputation for reliability and safety. While the cabin looks understated, it features Volkswagen’s consistently lush plastic and brilliant built quality.
It still isn’t up to Audi standard, but beats anything in its class, such as the Subaru Outback.
Volkswagon produces some of the best diesel engines in the business and the 2.0-litre turbodiesel under the Alltrack’s bonnet is no exception. It is quiet, smooth and punchy, yet returns an average fuel consumption of 7.9L/100km on our test route. This is helped, to some extend, by the standard stop/start technology that shuts down the engine when the car is idling at the lights.
The car is also equipped with a ‘coasting function’ that declutches the engine from the transmission during coasting. Nevertheless, we are still over a litre off the official figure of 6.3L/100km. Admittedly, we have been driving the car with a heavy right foot.
The Passat Alltrack is comprehensively equipped with all the usual modern convenience that we have come to expect these days. There is dual-zone climate control, cruise control, fatigue detection system, Bluetooth phone connectivity with music streaming, USB and SD card inputs, sat-nav and leather seats.
The test car also comes loaded with almost $10,000 worth of options, including the Driver Assistance and Visibility Package that adds bi-xenon headlights with LED daytime driving lights, Lane Assist (lane departure warning system that warns the driver if they stray out of their intended lane by gently tugging the steering wheel and counter-steering automatically when required), LED taillights, Side Assist (blind spot warning system ) and Park Assist.
There is a $2,000 adaptive cruise control system and Front Assist with City Emergency Braking, the latter
On the safety front, the Alltrack is equipped with 8 airbags (including rear side airbags), and the usual array of active safety systems such as ABS and electronic stability control.
The Volkswagen Passat Alltrack is a spacious, practical wagon with great road manners and the versatility and ability of an SUV. It is the sensible choice for those who don’t require a full sized SUV. With car-like dynamics, excellent built quality and a VW badge at the front, the Alltrack delivers as a soft-roader.
|Price (Excl. on-roads):|| From $47,790|
As tested: $57,840**includes:
|Engine:||2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo-diesel 130kW/380Nm|
|Transmission:||6-speed dual-clutch transmission (DSG)|
|Combined Fuel Consumption (manufacturer’s):||6.3L/100km|
|Dimensions:||Length: 4,881mm, Width: 1,820mm, Height: 1,550mm, Wheelbase: 2,711mm|
|Towing Capacity:||1,800kg (Braked)/750kg (Unbraked)|
|Towbar load limit:||90kg|
Competitors: Subaru Outback, Audi A4 Alltrack, Skoda Octavia Scout
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