Volkswagen Passat Alltrack
Can VW's Alltrack (horsebox optional) convince 4x4 neigh-sayers?
Price: From about £28,500. On sale July
Engine: 1,968cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, turbodiesel, 140/170bhp
Transmission: Six-speed gearbox, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 123/131mph, 0-62 in 10.9/8.9sec, 49.6/47.9mpg, CO2 150g/155g/km
It's all about All, as in "all-wheel drive" and therefore "able to go on all sorts of road". In essence the VW Passat Alltrack is a Passat estate with an extra 30mm of ride height, some visual toughening-up via plastic cladding for the wheel arches, sills and valances, and four-wheel drive.
But metal-look underbody protection panels front and rear, plus a proper steel sump guard, suggest the Alltrack is more than just a cosmetic 4x4. It's aimed at winter-sports fans, people who might tow a boat or a horsebox, and anyone who thinks four-wheel drive in an estate car could be a useful combination.
VW's particular take on four-wheel drive uses a multi-plate clutch to control the drive to the rear wheels. Automatic variation of the clutch's clamping force allows most of the engine's efforts to go to the front wheels in normal driving, saving fuel by avoiding losses soaked up by the rear wheels' drive system. When slippage is detected at the front wheels, the clutch progressively engages more firmly, ultimately locking it solid so the front and rear wheels theoretically share the driving effort equally. In practice, though, if the front wheels encounter sheet ice and the rears still have grip, all effort is effectively sent rearwards.
Engines for the UK are two 2.0-litre turbodiesels, one of 140bhp driving through a six-speed manual gearbox, the other a 170bhp version with a six-speed double-clutch transmission (DCT), both of them relaxed and refined. Add a smooth ride, precise handling, and – in the 170bhp version – a double-clutch gearbox which works just as these things should with seamless, instant shifts and a properly intuitive automatic mode, and the Alltrack feels remarkably like a regular Passat estate to drive, complete with annoying electric parking brake.
However, there's also the AWD (all-wheel drive) button. This activates a Hill Descent Control, which automatically applies the brakes as required when descending a gradient steeper than 10 per cent at a speed below 6mph. It also inhibits the DCT's upshifts, alters the settings of the anti-lock brakes, traction control and stability systems to suit loose or slippery surfaces, and generally keeps the Alltrack moving. I tried an emergency stop on snow, steering round an "obstacle" in the process, with a horsebox on the optional electrically retracting towbar. The Alltrack impressively stayed pointing in the right direction, as did the horsebox – the latter's composure helped by clever selective braking by the Alltrack's wheels designed to nudge the horsebox in the required direction.
The Audi A4 Allroad is an obvious rival to the new Volkswagen, but it's more expensive and ultimately no better given the Passat's interior is roomier and its quality at least as good. The Volvo XC70 is bigger but dated by comparison; that leaves the imminent, and costlier, Peugeot RXH which is based on a diesel-engined 508 SW but adds the 3008 Hybrid4's electric rear drive. On the basis of value for money, the Alltrack is the pick of this bunch. Lane Assist (which nudges the steering back on course), Side Scan Assist (which monitors blind spots), High Beam Assist (which theoretically does the headlamp dipping for you, although most such systems are hopeless), Park Assist and Automatic Distance Control (a radar cruise control) are all options.
Which all builds up to an honest, straightforward and effective car – the sort you would buy and keep for many years as a useful family companion.
Life & Style blogs
Alexander McQueen at auction: What makes a really great piece of fashion?
A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
No female ejaculation, please, we’re British: a history of porn and censorship
Stressed nurses are 'forced to choose between health of patients and their own'
Pornhub: Kim Kardashian's sex tape is the most-watched porn video of all-time
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...