Volkswagen Passat Alltrack
PRICE £31,030 FUEL 47.9mpg CO2 155g/km
While most of the estate set is getting curvier, the venerable Passat has retained that same utilitarian boxiness through five generations. And it’s paid dividends, with over half of UK Passat buyers opting for the larger estate. Now Volkswagen is out to add another string to the station wagon’s bow, equipping the Passat with soft off-roading abilities in an Audi Allroad style.
This is no Land Rover Defender, but with the UK now getting a good sized dose of snowfall in the winter, and an equal if not even larger downpour during the summer, the mud-plugging Passat offers enough extra grip to keep the most determined company car driver moving. And it does so without losing any of that well-proven Passat utilitarianism.
Volkswagen has been typically understated with the Alltrack. Shod with large cross-spoked alloy wheels and wrapped in silver-embellished plastic protective cladding it looks purposeful rather than garish and the interior follows suit. The extra ride height is barely perceptible, and doesn’t seem to affect the car’s stability. All are plus points.
But it’s entering is a changing segment. The Passat Alltrack might once have gone up against the Saab 9-3X, but that’s no longer an issue. What it does face is the very rugged Subaru Outback and very clever Peugeot 508 RXH, a low-carbon diesel-electric hybrid with a similar upmarket chunkiness and a new-found Germanic quality for the French carmaker. That’s a tough, well-hyped, rival.
The frugality of Peugeot’s offering may have come in for a beating from the press, but the Passat is also noticeably less efficient than the standard estate – a result of inferior aerodynamics and extra weight – usually averaging just under 40mpg against the 508’s high 40s.
But it performs well off road. On a closed test track, the car carved its way through sloppy mud and rutted roads without flinching. The main handicap is a lack of ground clearance for the really bumpy bits – but that’s the point at which you’d probably consider a “proper” off-road vehicle anyway.
Either way, though, with the CC no longer wearing a Passat badge, the Alltrack becomes arguably the best looking Passat money can buy – a slightly more masculine version of a well-proven, very capable station wagon.
The Alltrack is a timely addition to the Volkswagen range, with Saab’s demise and recent spate of poor weather to put additional grip back in drivers’ minds. There’s enough grip and ground clearance here for site visits and weatherproof motoring, but factor in the additional running costs before speccing up from the standard estate.
Volkswagen Passat Alltrack
SECTOR Upper medium PRICE From £28,500 FUEL 47.9 – 49.6mpg CO2 150 – 155g/km
What is it about cars that have had a spot of beefing up that makes them so much more appealing? In the Passat Alltrack, Volkswagen takes the fairly undemonstrative Passat Estate, adding a few splashes of stainless steel and body cladding to give it a more off-roady look.
The result is a very handsome thing, with some more than useful capability, that should appeal to drivers whose work takes them off the beaten track – surveyors, architects, vets and engineers are the types who will find the Alltack right up their lane.
These include stainless steel-look front and rear underbody protection panels (backed up by a steel-plate underbody engine guard) and flared side sills, as well as matt chrome roof rails, window surrounds, grille and exterior mirror casings. The result is a very classy looking machine.
With the ride height raised from 135 to 165mm, and the bumpers styled to increase the angles at which it can approach and leave hills, the Alltrack has been given extra off road capability.
This applies to the drivetrain too, which uses Volkswagen’s 4Motion system. In most normal situations, the front axle is driven, with only 10% of propulsive power going to the rear axle, saving fuel. But should the conditions dictate, almost 100% can be sent to the rear axle. To aid its capability in the rough stuff, the Alltrack has hill descent assist, while ABS is also altered, to provide better braking on loose surfaces, and the car has faster-reacting electronic differential locks to prevent wheelspin.
In the UK, the Passat Alltrack will be available as a 2.0-litre TDI 140bhp with six-speed manual gearbox or a 2.0-litre TDI 170bhp with six-speed DSG transmission.
Standard equipment includes Alcantara upholstery, 2Zone electronic climate control, cruise control, touch screen satellite navigation, iPod connectivity, Bluetooth and 18-inch alloys.
Open for ordering from April, with first deliveries in July, prices for the Alltrack are expected to start around £28,500 on the road. That makes this a pretty expensive car, being only about £3,000 less than the leading vehicle in this sector, the Audi A4 Allroad, and £6,000 more than the smaller, more workman-like Skoda Octavia Scout.
That said, the Alltrack has a better, more spacious cabin than both cars, but for a company wanting some level of off-road capability then the Skoda wins while premium buyers will plump for the ubiquitous Allroad.
There are myriad options including High Beam Assist, which automatically controls dipping of the headlights; Side Scan Lane Change Assist – which monitors the vehicle’s blind spot – Lane Assist, ACC Adaptive Chassis Control, Automatic Distance Control with City Emergency Braking function, Park Assist and an electrically deployed towbar.
Vital to this market is towing capacity, which has been increased to 2,000kg compared to 1,800kg for a standard Passat Estate, while the trailer stabilisation function detects the force of a trailer swaying and eliminates it by specific interventions of the braking system and engine.
The result is a car with decent – rather than amazing – off-roading capability, that is also surefooted on-road. It drives as every other Passat; easy to live with, quiet, refined and comfortable without ever threatening to be exciting. And, even with the added encumbrance of four-wheel drive, CO2 emissions for both manual and auto models still dip below that vital 160g/km level.
Classy, handsome and usefully capable, the Alltrack is a fine addition at the topof the Passat range. It is on the pricey side though, and quite how much market there is that isn’t already taken by A4 Allroad and Octavia Scout remains to be seen.