2014 VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT ALLTRACK REVIEW
Vehicle style: Medium AWD Wagon
Engine/trans: 130kW/380Nm 2.0 turbodiesel | 6spd DSG, 4Motion AWD
Fuel economy claimed: 6.3 l/100km; tested: 8.4 l/100km
The traditional family wagon now occupies a minor place alongside SUVs.
But while Volkswagen has its Touareg and Tiguan, it hasn’t turned its back on buyers who want the space and versatility of an SUV, but also want more car-like handling and dynamics.
That’s where the Passat Alltrack comes in: it provides the practical features of an SUV, but with a more nimble city-friendly drive.
Taking on the Subaru Outback, the Alltrack neatly bridges the gap between the standard wagon and the SUV.
It is no coincidence, surely, that its name is more than a little similar to the barnstorming Allroad from Audi.
Style-wise, the Alltrack is rather like a Passat wagon that’s been given a mild dose of steroids. It comes with a little extra ground-clearance, some underbody protection and a more aggressive road presence.
- Leather seats, leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel
- Daytime running lights (DRLs) and fog lights
- Automatic lights and wipers
- Electric tailgate, electric parking brake, one-touch up-and-down electric windows
- Front-and-rear parking sensors and rear-vision camera
- Cruise control
- Dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning
- 6.5-inch touchscreen with sat-nav and 30GB hard drive
- Bluetooth connectivity with music streaming
Quality: While Volkswagen’s Audi cousins can boast the best interiors around, the Alltrack’s is a stylish affair with leather trim as standard, soft plastics and brushed-chrome dashboard highlights.
There are black-faced speedo and tacho dials with red needles and nice clear white numbers. An analogue clock adds to the overall ambience and sense of quality.
Not so classy is the silver plastic of the centre-console with Alltrack lettering (that looks more like an afterthought).
Comfort: Most will find the Allroad comfortable enough, but, in standard trim, the front-seat bolstering is pretty stingy.
The seats need a bit more shaping to stop sliding around on winding roads.
If you want better-bolstered sports seats, it comes at a $2800 cost as part of the ‘Sport’ option that includes other features such as steering-wheel-mounted gear-shift paddles. (It’s costly, but it’s a box we’d tick.)
Equipment: A strong suit of the Alltrack is its long list of standard inventory.
As well as leather trim and heated front seats, there are daytime running lights (DRLs), automatic lights and wipers, an electric tailgate, electric parking brake, front-and-rear parking sensors and rear-vision camera, dual-zone climate-control air-con’, 6.5-inch touchscreen with sat-nav and 30GB hard drive, one-touch up-and-down electric windows and Bluetooth connectivity with music streaming.
Also standard is a leather-wrapped multi-function steering wheel, fog lights, cruise control and an automatic-dimming electro-chromatic rear-vision mirror.
To set it apart from the Passat wagon, the Allroad also features under-body protection for the engine and transmission - a solid steel under-tray - and plastic protective body trims for the wheel arches and side-skirts.
There are also special bumpers, front-and-rear metal-look protective panels and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Storage: With 588 litres of cargo space with the rear seats occupied and a cavernous 1715 litres when folded flat, there’s no shortage of storage capacity.
Other storage cubby holes include a sunglasses holder, front-and-rear door pockets, a reasonably-sized glovebox, front-and-rear cupholders and a bin that nestles beneath the centre front-seat armrest.
ON THE ROAD
- 130kW/380Nm 2.0DT turbo-diesel | 6spd DSG
- Electro-mechanical power steering
- Under-body protection and additional 30mm of ground clearance
- 4Motion all-wheel-drive and ‘off-road driving program’
- Electronic differential lock and automatic hill-descent-control
- Suspension: MacPherson strut front end with lower wishbones, coil springs and anti-roll bar; four-link independent rear with coil springs and anti-roll bar.
The suspension settings work well to keep the vehicle flat when cornering and there is a well-weighted feel to the electro-mechanical power steering.
And, because it’s designed to be a bit more adventurous, its electronic stability program is tuned to be less-intrusive on loose gravel surfaces.
This adds to the driving fun, but, more importantly, by allowing the car to break through the loose surface on gravel when cornering or braking, it then allows the wheels to cut through to the harder surface below (where the ESP can then intervene effectively).
The two-litre turbo-charged diesel engine is well up-to-the-task of moving the Alltrack along.
There is a little turbo lag at step-off, but at highway speeds there is plenty in reserve for overtaking or hill-climbing. It also comes standard with a fuel-saving coasting function.
Off-road, the Alltrack gets some well-calibrated 4X4 technological smarts to help get to those out-of-the-way places.
In addition to improved approach, departure and ramp-over angles, it comes with an ‘off-road driving program’ that automatically remaps the workings of the 4Motion all-wheel-drive.
This smooths and dampens throttle response (for picking along in the rough), as well as utilising the electronic differential lock and ABS to keep traction. For coming down, there’s an automatic hill-descent-control system.
It’s no heavy-duty 4X4, but it can handle the occasional off-road track.
Refinement: The Alltrack’s cabin is pretty good on the highway; certainly more refined than most SUVs.
There is very little transferred road, wind or engine noise while driving and you don’t have to raise your voice during travelling conversations.
In the standard Alltrack, the wagon’s 17-inch alloys with their higher-profile tyres are quieter than the 18-inchers that come with the Sport option.
Suspension: At the front the Alltrack rides on an independent front-axle system with MacPherson struts, lower wishbones, coil springs and an anti-roll bar.
The rear is a four-link independent arrangement that also uses coil springs and an anti-roll bar.
Braking: There are ventilated discs at the front and solids on the rear. Typical of the Volkswagen Group, braking performance is very secure.
ANCAP Rating: 5-Stars
Safety features: Standard inventory includes eight airbags, ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, electronic stability and traction control, a driver fatigue-detection system, hill-descent assist and a tyre-pressure monitor.
The standard tyres come with an internal polymer layer that automatically seals holes made by nails, bolts or spikes up to 5mm in thickness.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
The Volkswagen Alltrack has just a handful of wagon competitors. Skoda has vacated the space temporarily, the Octavia Scout at $43,990 was pretty good buying and there are still a few dealer demonstrators about.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Young families looking for a spacious versatile vehicle can do worse than Volkswagen’s smart Alltrack.
It is as much at home delivering the kids to school in the suburbs as it is transporting the tribe and its gear into the bush at the weekend.
The turbo-diesel engine is a frugal affair and VW has packed a long list of standard features in behind the $48,290 price tag.
At that price, it’s not the cheapest of the AWD wagons, but it comes with a touch of class and a very good 4Motion drivetrain down below.
It is also a very comfortable vehicle on-road, something that few SUVs can claim.
On our assessment though, it is bettered by the strong and very capable Subaru Outback Premium. Which is also quite a bit cheaper.