IT’S THE PASSAT WAGON WITH MORE, THE NEW 2016 PASSAT ALLTRACK. More ground clearance, more underbody protection, 4Motion AWD, five selectable driving modes, and, shared with the regular Passat Wagon, an immense 639 litre cargo area.
Priced from $49,290 and in only two model configurations (a Luxury Pack model for $3500 more), there is a lot here to interest Australian families with a love of the outdoors.
It also offers something a little out of the ordinary as well as a distinct leather-trimmed premium feel. This is a smart comfortable interior.
It’s not for clambering up a firetrail, but it will get you in and out to your favourite beach, and all around the farm. We drove it on a looping run out of Bathurst, taking in some long sections of rutted gravel, coarse backroads and a freeway run back through the city.
Vehicle style: Medium AWD Crossover Wagon
Price: $49,290 (plus on roads). Luxury Pack, add $3500.
Engine: 2.0 litre TDI turbo-diesel/140kW, 400Nm
Transmission/drivetrain: 6-spd DSG sports automatic; 4Motion AWD (with Haldex clutch coupling)
Fuel consumption claimed: 5.4 l/100km; tested: 8.7 l/100km
Where does the Passat Alltrack fit in? It’s not a conventional 4X4, nor is it quite an SUV, though that’s where it will compete.
The difference with the Passat Alltrack is that it adds a layer of dynamism – 400Nm is not to be sneezed at – as well as taut handling and responsiveness at the wheel.
It has been three tough years for Volkswagen, but the fightback is on. “The launch of this vehicle is quite significant to our SUV strategy,” Volkswagen Australia’s Kurt McGuiness said.
- Standard features: Climate control air-con, black Vienna leather appointed upholstery; electric lumber and tilt adjustment (manual slide), adaptive cruise control, rear view camera, front and rear parking sensors driving profile selection with off-road mode, compass, aluminium scuff-plates, underbody protection and matt black external trim, anodised silver roof-rails, 19 Inch Kalamata alloy wheels, aluminium finish pedals
- Infotainment: 8.0-inch touchscreen, AM/FM/CD/SD card playback, ‘Discover Pro’ sat nav with app-connect, USB and Aux inputs, Bluetooth phone and audio, Apple Carplay and Android Auto and 10GB hard drive
- Cargo: luggage compartment cover with two-stage opening, luggage net, 639 litres expanding to 1769 with 40/20/40 seats folded, shopping bag hooks, load restraint hooks, 2 cup holders front, 3 rear, 12v socket.
- Options available: Luxury Pack ($3500) adds: tilt and slide sunroof, ambient lighting, electric folding mirrors, park assist function and LED daytime running lights (with cornering function)
Nothing amiss with this interior. The ribbed leather-appointed seats are as comfortable as they look.
With manual adjustment for reach and height, but with electric tilt adjustment, they are well-shaped for effortless long hours at the wheel. They also grip nicely when cornering and provide good underthigh support.
The broad swathe of metal across the dash, the titanium-trimmed highlights (and metal scuff plates), and the premium look generally, has the Passat Alltrack’s interior nudging close to the class and feel of an Audi cabin.
It is, really, a very pleasant place to spend some time.
The satellite navigation is easily accessed and used, the screen clear and placed high-enough to read quickly when taking the eyes off the road. The ‘tablet’ screens of the premium German brands are less of a distraction and more easily accessed when driving, however.
Below it, the controls are well-placed and have a solid quality feel (so too does the monogrammed metal ‘Alltrack’ logo).
The selectable modes (with off-road driving mode) are also easily found and accessed. So too is the Bluetooth pairing – the Passat range offers Apple Carplay and Android Auto app connectivity as well as a 10GB harddrive.
There is ample room in the rear for two sprawling adults or three younger passengers, nicely shaped outboard seats and ISOFIX anchor points. The seats fold individually 40/20/40 to accommodate longer items of cargo.
The boot area in that large wagon back is immense – larger than almost any comparable medium-sized SUV – with 639 litres (to the window-line), expanding to 1769 litres with seats folded. There are shopping bag hooks and tie-down hooks as well as a luggage partition net and a two-stage compartment cover
There is also a 12v socket there. Lastly, below the boot floor is a full-size alloy spare.
ON THE ROAD
- Engine: 2.0 litre TDI turbo-diesel/140kW, 400Nm
- Transmission/drivetrain: 6-spd DSG sports automatic; 4Motion part-time AWD (with Haldex clutch coupling)
- Suspension: Macpherson strut front, four-link independent rear
- Brakes: four-wheel disc brakes with vented front rotors and solid rear rotors
- Steering: electro-mechanical power steering, turning circle: 11.7m
The Passat Alltrack, in keeping with its ‘crossover’ persona, comes with Volkswagen’s smart and effective 4Motion AWD down below.
It’s an AWD ‘on-demand’ set-up, being otherwise FWD in normal situations. On loose or slippery surfaces it activates automatically, in mere milliseconds, through a Haldex clutch coupling to provide AWD grip through all four wheels.
In the Passat Alltrack, additional to the four ‘regular’ selectable driving modes – Normal, Sport, Eco and Individual – accessed via the centre screen, is an Off-road driving mode.
It activates ‘hill descent assist’ (on gradients of 10 degrees or more) and is more alert to loss of adhesion in cross axle situations, braking the slipping wheels. A little counter-intuitively, it also provides a little more slip on loose surfaces (to allow the wheels to ‘cut through’ a loose upper layer to a firmer layer below, to improve braking and cornering grip).
It’s very smart and works very well. On the loose gravel surfaces we encountered, the higher level of control it affords was very apparent – the car points far more eagerly through a loose turn – while also allowing for a little more ‘slide’ before activating the traction control.
It also markedly improves braking performance on these kinds of roads.
The extra ground clearance down below, an additional 27.5mm on the conventional Passat, and the strong underbody protection, also adds a level of security for when poking down roads ‘less travelled’.
A level of caution is needed, it doesn’t have the clearance of an SUV or heavy-duty 4X4, but rutted gravel roads and rocks pose it no problems. That said, don’t point it at a firetrail.
The ContiSeal mobility tyres (with a self-sealing viscous surface on the inside of tyre, capable of sealing punctures up to 5mm in diameter) are a little noisier than conventional road tyres, but nowhere near as noisy as ‘run-flats’.
The comfortable ride, zero intrusion of engine noise at highway speeds, and relatively low road noise make the Passat Alltrack a very appealing highway drive.
Not so appealing is the very ‘laggy’ 2.0 litre TDI diesel. In Normal mode, it’s a pain. While there is ample power underfoot once it comes on song, the mapping of the engine management has it dropping off turbo-boost every time you lift the foot.
That may be okay on a longer freeway run, but it’s a real pain in the head on a winding road which has the car lurching on and off boost out of every corner. And there are no paddles at the wheel to help things along.
If you don’t want to feel like you’re driving like a Nanna, the only solution is to put it in Sport mode, which doesn’t fully correct it, but keeps the turbo ‘primed’ by holding revs higher when lifting off.
Give it the beans however, get all those 400Nm galloping, and the Alltrack can really move. Provided you’re prepared for the half-second lag, it will scoot out and around slower traffic in very quick time.
The six-speed DSG is lightning fast when changing up, each change is just a blink of an eye, and will change down pre-emptively when slowing for a corner.
You can take things in hand with the gear shift by bumping it across into Sport, with a push forward for upshifts, back to downshift (but we’d prefer paddles and kind-of expected them at the price of the Alltrack).
ANCAP rating: 5/5 Stars - The Passat range scored 35.89 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: The Alltrack comes standard with nine airbags (dual front, dual front side, dual rear side, full-length curtain, and driver’s knee), front assist with city emergency braking, driver fatigue detection, multi-collision braking, lane assist and side assist, ABS brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, traction and stability control.
Front and rear park sensors and rear view camera are also standard.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The Passat Alltrack and Subaru’s Outback sit in their own little space – conventional diesel wagons, but with the crossover attributes of an SUV.
To me, each makes more sense than a light duty SUV which, mostly, are just slower, fatter wagons that drink too heavily and don’t really offer much in the way of AWD capability. (But everyone, it seems, loves them… so I’ll just STFU.)
For driver enjoyment, you’d take the Passat Alltrack or Subaru Outback every time. However, that said, Kia’s Sorento is a damn good car and similarly priced in diesel, so too Hyundai’s Santa Fe.
Or, of course, Ford’s Territory is still a stand-out performer for ride and overall dynamics, if somewhat thirstier, but lacks the interior feel of the Alltrack.
VERDICT | OVERALL
For interior feel and presentation, Volkswagen’s classy new Passat Alltrack is nudging the premium segment. Certainly, settle into this cabin, and comparisons to Audi will immediately spring to mind.
This is a very smart car – and it looks terrific, inside and out. The styling changes to the front, in particular, give it a wide, purposeful and sportier stance that sets it apart from ‘the common rung’ of wagons.
It isn’t as… well… ‘wagony’ and conservative as some. Especially when dipped in the optional, and very striking, ‘Habanero Orange’. It’s one you’ll be proud to park at home.
The laggy ‘on-off’ diesel knocks some shine off the purchase, test drive it first and see what you think, and the price is getting ‘up there’- you’ll be looking at mid-fifties on the road.
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