Audi’s A6 Allroad may be the default choice for Europe’s wealthiest equestrians but the new VW Passat Alltrack is more of a four-wheel-drive estate for the rest of us. This then is the people’s version of a car that, theoretically, nobody needs. With so many choices of SUV out there that are just as roomy and even more capable, the question of how anyone could justify buying this particular four-wheel-drive estate is enough to incite hours of beer-fuelled conversation amongst middle-aged men at caravan sites across the country.
This, however, is a rugged estate car that should attract people who, for whatever reason, need four-wheel drive functionality but wouldn’t be seen dead in an upright 4x4. They are people who love to live the outdoor lifestyle: sailors, mountain-bikers, rock climbers, skiers or the less socially acceptable caravaners or owners of big dogs.
Volkswagen, though, is entering a niche market that is already well-populated with all-wheel-drive cars, including the excellent Audi A6 Allroad, Skoda Octavia 4x4 and Volvo’s XC70. These cars are all very well-respected so Volkswagen’s entry is going to have to work hard to attract buyers.
We were driving the diesel-powered 167bhp 2.0-litre TDI 4Motion equipped with BlueMotion energy-saving tech and Volkswagen’s six-speed DSG automatic transmission. It’s a practical and functional car that represents a very sensible purchase for very sensible people. But as good as it is, it lacks some of the character of rivals and you can’t help feeling that somehow it’s hiding how good it is under a bushel.
From the outside, the car looks completely unsurprising. It looks exactly how you would expect it to; like a VW Passat estate on steroids. It has a higher ride height and bulging, wider wheel arches plus underbody guards and roof rails. The result is a rugged-looking Passat estate that promises to do exactly what it says on the tin.
Inside, the Passat Alltrack is functional, well-built and comfortable. It is practical rather than luxurious, if a little bit dull. Leather seats and a brushed aluminium console raise the interest level a little bit but there is no doubt that this is a very understated interior. There is plenty of luggage space and the cabin is roomy. This feeling of space is helped significantly by the panoramic sunroof, which runs the length of the roof. Unusually, it opens half the way back resulting in a very light and airy interior.
On the road the VW Passat Alltrack is competent rather than thrilling. With this engine, it feels quick enough and is competent in the corners, though there is some body roll. Different suspension settings – normal, comfort and sport – allow you to alter the setup to reflect how you like to drive and an optional adaptive chassis control system helps generate a sportier drive, allowing for more enthusiastic driving. At the very least, it should be able to eat speed bumps in the City for breakfast.
There is plenty of pull thanks to the excellent DSG automatic gearbox and so overtaking is easy. The ride is comfortable and quiet and one gets the sense that the Alltrack could knock off the miles confidently and efficiently.
If you don’t crave status or image then this is a very well put together family estate car with go-almost-anywhere-practicality, but at times it seems unnecessarily dull. Unfussy and unexciting, it’s a car for nasty winters and late, cold, miserable nights so you could well be wishing you had one soon.
THE FACTS: VW PASSAT ALLTRACK
0-62MPH: 8.9 secs
TOP SPEED: 131 mph
CO2 G/KM: 155g/km
MPG COMBINED: 47.9mpg
VALUE FOR MONEY ****