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
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Travel
travelWhy Japan's love hotels are thriving through an economic downturn
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

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

    Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

    Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

    Email Designer

    £30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

    Psychology Teacher

    £110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

    Food Technology Teacher

    £85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week