Elegant Passat Alltrack impressive
Not everyone who needs fourwheel-drive and a bit of extra ground clearance wants an SUV, hence halfway houses such as Subaru’s Outback and Skoda’s excellent Octavia Scout. Now there’s a VWalternative, with the high-riding Passat Alltrack. This elegant beast sits taller than the standard wagon thanks to 30mm of extra ground clearance, taking the total to 165mm, and the Haldex-based 4Motion all-wheeldrive equipment plus related guff such as hill descent control adds 107kg of weight. The petrol tank is two litres smaller and the boot space drops 15 litres to 588 but the powerplant is identical to its two-wheel-drive 125kW sibling, the 2.0-litre 125kW/350Nm turbo diesel also featuring Bluemotion tech like start-stop and brake energy regeneration. The extra grip boosts tow rating by 200kg, to 2000kg braked, and VW says changes to the bumpers improve approach and departure angles, there is a solid steel underbody guard, and the off-road button tunes the dynamic and assistance systems such as the electronic diff locks, accelerator control, stability control and ABS for off-road going. I suspect most buyers will be like me, using the Alltrack as an anyroads car, not an off-roader. And they will be impressed. This engine is strong off the line, refined while cruising, with enough pull during most real-world applications to please. Ride is supple and well controlled with body roll at a minimum – one bonus of this crossover format being that Alltrack handles more like a car than an SUV. Drinks more like a car, too – with claimed thirst at 5.8l/100km.
This is an elegant car, the extra height translating to a solid demeanour which inspires confidence. The cabin boasts typically VW design restraint and pleasant materials accompanied by good ergonomics and a generous range of features. Along with 17-inch alloy wheels and extra chrome touches comes more practical stuff such as six airbags (two more for the rear seats cost $750), park distance warning front and rear, climate-control air con and a chilled glovebox along with several bits of clever-clogs tech as options. This Allroad can park itself for example, checking the space is long enough, then steering itself in – the driver only managing brakes and throttle. Weird the first time but arguably more reliable when that hard-won space is tight.
Volkswagen NZ general manager Tom Ruddenklau says, ‘‘The Alltrack is a perfect reflection of what customers now want in that SUV and wagon category.” It’s an important segment, with 30 per cent of all vehicles sold in NZ being SUVs. As a result, “Since we launched Alltrack our Passat wagon sales have doubled, demand has exceeded forecast and we’re doing about 20 amonth with a backlog as we’re short of supply; I reckon there’s capacity to sell 200 or 300 per year,” particularly once the standard Passat 4Motion wagon drops from the lineup and Alltrack replaces it. Passat makes up five per cent of VW NZ sales with Golf still taking the lion share, and SUVs making up around between a quarter and a third of sales.
Extra ground clearance and grip without compromising handling – or looks, indeed the Passat wagon suits the physical presence imparted by the extra height.
You’ll pay a lot less for a similarly talented Skoda Scout.