If you don’t want an SUV, but you need a four-wheel-drive car that can tow and tackle slippery roads and muddy tracks your choice is limited. But, you can now add the all-new VW Passat Alltrack to a list of models that includes the Audi A4 Allroad and Volvo XC70.
Much of the estate car’s clean and sharp styling is intact, but the Alltrack gets a few additional rugged touches. For instance there are stainless steel underbody guards at the front and rear as well as matte chrome roof rails, wing-mirrors and grille.
The Passat Alltrack gets a few distinguishing features on the inside too, including 4MOTION badges and an Alltrack label on the centre console. The rest of the cabin is unchanged and, considering the standard Passat's understated, stylish design and top-notch build quality, that’s no bad thing.
The most important changes are underneath, including a ride-height which has been jacked up from 135mm to 165mm and the same four-wheel-drive system used in the Tiguan. This means that 90 per cent of the power goes to the front wheels under most conditions to save fuel, but that 100 per cent can be delivered to the rear axle when necessary.
There’s an off-road mode included too, which comes with hill descent assist, tweaks to the ABS system to provide better braking on loose surfaces. Wheelspin has also been reduced by quickening up the time it takes the electronic differential to react.
The Passat Alltrack is available in the UK with a 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine producing 168bhp or 138bhp. We tried the lower powered unit with a six-speed manual gearbox, which never felt underpowered. Acceleration from 0-62mph takes 10.9 seconds and while the more powerful engine is two seconds quicker, buyers won’t be disappointed with the cheaper engine.
For the majority of the time the Alltrack will feel like any other Passat. The cabin is well isolated from engine, wind and road noise, while the soft suspension provides excellent ride comfort. Our car had the optional adaptive dampers and when set to Sport mode, the high-riding Passat feels surprisingly agile.
It's still no sports car though. There’s a fair amount of body roll in the bends and the steering feels lifeless, although it is quick to respond. That said, the standard Passat suffers from similar complaints.
The downsides to having four-wheel drive are present, including the high running costs. Our model is the cleanest in the line-up and emits 150g/km, with fuel economy of 49.6mpg.
On the plus side, there is a long list of standard equipment on each Alltrack model, including Alcantara upholstery, climate control, cruise control, sat-nav and 18-inch alloys.
It doesn’t come cheap though, with prices for the most basic Passat Alltrack starting at £28,500. Looking at other cars in this class, the price tag is competitive, but buyers will really need to be convinced this is the car for them. Crossover models like the Nissan Qashqai will do the same job for less.