Volkswagen Passat Alltrack review
The VW Passat Alltrack adds some off-road ability and styling to the firm's family estate
Anybody wanting a large family car with a bit more style than your average estate could do a lot worse than the VW Passat Alltrack. In some ways, it fills the role of being the flagship of the Passat range, largely becuase there's no performance model, and the Alltrack's mix of practicality and ruggedly handsome looks help it to stand out, not just from the rest of the range, but also from rival crossover estates.
There is substance to go with the Alltrack's off-road style, because it's equipped with a part-time four-wheel-drive system that gives it enough off-road ability to suit the average SUV buyer, while there's under body protection for the engine and gearbox should you want to take the car off-road. The electronics have been tuned to emulate a limited slip diff and give the Alltrack the traction of a permanent 4WD set-up, while hill descent control is activated when you use off-road mode, which is activated via a button by the gearlever.
UK cars come with a 2.0 TDI diesel in two power outputs: a 148bhp with six-speed manual gearbox and the 187bhp DSG auto. Both cars are four-wheel drive as standard.
Engines, performance and drive
The Alltrack's 2.0 TDI is a bit rattly from the outside, but like the rest of the Passat range, excellent sound deadening means the cabin remains quiet. The six-speed manual has a positive shift, while the six-speed DSG twin-clutch box shifts crisply, and there’s no hesitation in the power delivery. The box allows you to take manual control of shifts, but the car is more about relaxed touring than sporty performance, and in that regard the Passat is a good cruiser.
As well as a slick box, it has long-travel suspension that absorbs bumps well. The extra ride height has been used to good effect, and the Alltrack rides smoothly on the motorway. It fidgets at low speeds, but overall the Passat is composed and stable, and is marginally more comfortable than the standard estate.
The payoff for this comfort is that there’s some body roll in corners, but it's not excessive, and there’s plenty of grip. Add the optional Dynamic Chassis Control, and the adaptive dampers can be made firmer, giving the Alltrack the same cornering ability as the regular Passat.
The Off Road button next to the gearlever engages an electronic diff lock and optimises traction control to handle light mud-plugging. The VW is pretty capable off road, and hill descent control boosts its ability.
In normal driving, you don’t really feel the 4Motion system at work, because the majority of the time power is sent 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. But thankfully you can't really feel the transmission shunting power between the front and rear axles.
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 tow up to 2,200kg, while the optional tow bar and trailer stability assist systems make the most of the transmission.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
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 58mpg and 130g/km of CO2, which puts it on a par with crossover models like the Mazda CX-5 and Audi Q3.
Interior, design and technology
The eight-generation Passat was launched at the start of 2015, and its sharp lines were given a bit of added style to the saloon and estate. The estate is arguably more handsome than the saloon, while the upgrade to Alltrack spec looks smart.
The Alltrack adds plastic wheelarch extensions and extra matt silver trim on the bumpers and door sills, while the metal scuff plates are complemented by silver trim along the bottom of the doors. The ride height has been raised by 28mm over the standard Passat’s, and the roof rails stand proud of the roof. Exclusive 18-inch alloys add to the Alltrack’s rugged look and give it a chunky appearance.
Apart from Alltrack branding around the gearlever, the Off Road button next to it and some unique dashboard trim, the cabin is identical to the regular estate’s.
However, that’s far from a bad thing, because the layout is intuitive to use and has an air of quality that rivals can’t match. The switchgear feels solid and the major controls are well weighted, plus overall fit and finish is first rate.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
The Passat Estate is a practical car, but the Alltrack has a little less boot space, thanks to the addition of the rear transmission. The interior is spacious, though, and offers comfortable seating for all, while the boot is still a big and user-friendly load area.
There’s 639 litres with the seats in place, which is 11 litres down on the standard Passat Estate. This rises to 1,769 litres with the back seats folded. Freeing up the maximum capacity is easy, as operating levers are set into the sides of the luggage area. A flat floor, level load lip and wide boot opening are useful features, too.
There's no seven seat option, which some of its SUVs and MPV rivals do, but you’ll never be short of places to put luggage. 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.
Reliability and Safety
The latest Passat has been on sale for less than a year, but it uses the same MQB platform that VW is using on all of its new models, and the mechanicals and electronics will be extensively tested to ensure they are reliable.
The 2.0 TDI diesel is also used in a wide variety of VW Group models, and as long as it’s maintained to the manufacturer’s schedule, you shouldn’t experience any problems. The Passat saloon earned a five-star Euro NCAP rating, and the Alltrack will be just as safe in an accident. Safety kit includes seven airbags, Isofix points and tyre-pressure monitors, while driving aids include adaptive cruise control, front collision alert, front and rear parking sensors, auto lights and wipers plus hill descent control for when you head off-road.