Volkswagen Passat Alltrack review
The VW Passat Alltrack takes the off-road ability and space of an SUV ands wraps it up in a more conventional package
The Volkswagen Passat Alltrack doesn’t look big and obvious like a full-size off-roader, but offers a little more attitude in its rugged design than a standard Passat Estate. This makes it just right for around five per cent of Passat wagon buyers who opt for the Alltrack model. There are two Alltracks to choose from, a 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel with a six-speed manual gearbox or a 168bhp version of the same engine with a six-speed DSG auto. Both cars are four-wheel drive as standard.
Our choice: Passat Alltrack 2.0-litre TDI 140
The Passat Alltrack gets subtle matte chrome and anthracite body protectors which run around the bottom of the bumpers, sills and over the wheelarches, the bumpers themselves are beefed up to improve approach and departure angles, and the suspension has been retuned and raised 30mm for extra ground clearance. The interior is very similar to the regular Passat Estate though, with Alltrack badging and an Off Road button, which activates a more relaxed setting for the ABS and a hill decent control for tackling steep inclines. It’s a good, if subtle, blend of small tweaks inside and out that add up to a rugged and handsome car - and it certainly packs more of a visual punch than the standard Passat. However the VW still lacks the premium appeal of natural rivals like the Audi A4 Allroad and Skoda Superb Outdoor.
The Alltrack drives just like the standard Passat but with the added reassurance and grip of four-wheel drive. In normal driving, you don’t really feel the 4Motion system at work, as 90 per cent of drive goes to the front wheels. It’s only when the conditions get slippery that up to 100 per cent of the power can be sent to the back axle, helping the car feel more planted when cornering on the road and allowing a little extra go-anywhere ability off it. The 4x4 is really designed for those who will use their Alltrack as a tow car, where the system comes into its own on grassy paddocks. Alltracks can also tow 2,000kgs, regardless of whether you drive the high or low power model - 200 extra kilos over the standard Passat Estate. Both the manual and DSG automatic gearboxes are smooth but the seamless auto fits the Passat best and makes it an effortless - if slightly forgettable - long distance cruiser.
The Passat Alltrack is built on the already proven underpinnings of the Passat Estate. This means it also acquires that car’s reputation for reliability. Like the standard car, the Alltrack gets a five-star rating from Euro NCAP, while the added security of four-wheel drive should keep you from needing to utilise the Alltrack’s list of safety features. A plethora of airbags are included as standard, while useful features like hill hold assist, which stop you rolling backwards into the car behind when performing a hill start, are standard equipment as is traction and stabilty control.
The Passat Estate is already a practical car, and the Alltrack is unchanged in terms of its carrying capacity. The interior is spacious, and offers comfortable seating for all. There’s also a vast boot, which gives 588 litres of space with the rear seats up or 1,716 litres with the seats folded. It doesn’t offer the option of seven seats, which some of its SUVs and MPV rivals do, but you’ll never be short of places to put luggage as a result. VW offers a clever integrated booster seat for the rear bench, which allows children to be transported in safety and comfort but this is a rather costly option.
As well as blending the look of an SUV and estate car, running costs are somewhere between the two as well. It’s cleaner than a full-size SUV - as it weighs less and is more aerodynamic - but doesn’t quite deliver the same MPG and CO2 performance as the Passat Estate on which it’s based. Our pick of the range is the low power model, because it offers all the performance you’re likely to need and still returns almost 50mpg and 150g/km of CO2. However crossover models like the Mazda CX-5 and Audi Q3 offer similar or greater levels of performance and lower runnings costs too.