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Volkswagen Passat Alltrack estate (2012 – ) expert review

By Martin Gurdon, 22nd February 2012

The verdict

The Passat Alltrack can go pretty much anywhere a traditional 4x4 can, but is just as civilised as a normal estate car on the road.

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Expert rating:

4.1

Pros

  • It’s several vehicles in one
  • Surprisingly good off-road
  • Has a pleasant ambience

Cons

  • Reduced fuel economy compared with the regular Passat
  • No petrol option
  • It’s likely to remain a niche model

Full Review

1. Exterior

Volkswagen has beefed up the Passat Alltrack’s looks without going overboard with macho additions. There are roof rails, flared wheel arches, unique alloy wheels, and subtly re-styled bumpers, with exterior chrome trim designed to make the car stand out. It’s jacked up ride height is apparent, but not as obvious as say the Audi A6 Allroad and Volvo XC70.

Our rating: 4

2. Interior

The car’s interior has a grown up classiness that will be familiar to drivers of the front-wheel drive Passat, and VW’s signature soft touch plastics and trim materials are used extensively, along with brushed alloy dash inserts, alloy effect pedal facings and chrome kick plates. The front seats get winged backrest bolsters, and leather trim is used extensively.

Our rating: 5

3. Practicality

Front passengers will find the car spacious and comfortable, with plenty of head, shoulder and legroom. The rear has space for three adults in reasonable comfort, and two will have plenty of lounging about space. Volkswagen hasn’t stinted on places to stow oddments either. Luggage-wise, with the back seats up some 604 litres can be carried in a long, deep, rectangular space. Fold the split rear seats – a simple job- and this rises to a very useful 1,641 litres. The interior’s solid fit and finish is confidence inspiring.

Our rating: 4

4. Ride and handling

The ride is slightly firmer than the standard Passat, but remains comfortable and is if anything more pliant than the corresponding Audi Allroad models. The steering is accurate if not especially engaging, but the car corners neatly, has plenty of grip, and despite the 30mm ride height increase, doesn’t roll about like a drunken duck. In fact the Alltrack has the failsafe, predictable road manners of its two-wheel-drive stablemates. Not surprising, since on tarmac, just 10 per cent of the engine’s power usually goes to the rear wheels. Although it’s not a Land-Rover rival, the Alltrack is genuinely useful off road and will get over hill crests and traverse slopes that would defeat the standard car, using a clever mix of partially driver-controlled electronics and hydraulics lifted from other VW 4×4s like the Tiguan, to distribute power to the wheels that needs it most, control hill descents, braking and throttle action to keep the Alltrack moving. Lugging a caravan or horsebox would come naturally to this car, which can tow a braked, 2,000kg trailer

Our rating: 4

5. Performance

Two 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesels are offered, with stop and start and energy regeneration systems. The 138bhp six-speed manual hits 62 in 10.9secs and is capable of 123mph. For 167bhp DSG automatics the figures are 8.9 secs and 131mph, but in real world conditions you’d be hard pressed to notice the difference. The DSG, which has steering wheel paddle controls, works with speedy unobtrusiveness.

Our rating: 4

6. Running costs

Claimed combined fuel economy for the manual car is 49.6mpg, which drops to 47. 9 mpg for the more powerful DSG variant. Emissions are respectively 150g/km of CO2 and 155g/km, so the cost penalty for having an extra pair of driven wheels isn’t huge.

Our rating: 4

7. Reliability

The current Passat has been around for some time, uses many well-tried components found in other VW group models, and we’re not aware of any reliability glitches.

Our rating: 4

8. Safety

The Alltrack comes with the expected regiment of safety kit including a plethora of airbags, traction control and anti-lock brake systems (ABS). An electronic stability programme (ESP) is standard as is a driver alert package. The car’s 4×4 system uses a modern mix of hydraulics and electronics to keep the vehicle safe if it is used off tarmac, and also adds to its on-road stability in tough weather conditions.

Our rating: 4

9. Equipment

All versions of the Passat Alltrack get dual-zone, electronic climate control, Alcantara leather upholstery, cruise control, low pressure tyre monitoring equipment, colour, touch screen sat-nav, Bluetooth phone preparation, MDI iPod connectivity and model specific 18-inch alloy wheels.

Our rating: 3

10. Why buy?

This car will appeal to a fairly select band of buyers who want the extra traction of four-wheel drive, either for towing or venturing into terrain that would stymie a normal Passat, but don’t want the bulk and perhaps the image of a true 4×4. For someone like a country vet or a building contractor, the Alltrack’s mix of everyday practicality, classy ambience, pleasing on road dynamics and 4×4 skills could be just what they were looking for.

Our rating: 5

Expert review 4.1stars

  • Exterior4
  • Interior5
  • Practicality4
  • Ride and handling4
  • Performance4
  • Running costs4
  • Reliability4
  • Safety4
  • Equipment3
  • Why buy?5

Although it’s not a Land-Rover rival, the Alltrack is genuinely useful off road and will get over hill crests and traverse slopes that would defeat the standard car.