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.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
News
people
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SAP Project Manager

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

    SAP Project Manager

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

    Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

    £600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

    Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

    £65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star