The second-generation Passat Alltrack is claimed to be lighter, faster and more fuel efficient. Should it be on your SUV shortlist?
WHAT IS IT?
The regular Passat’s chunkier, funkier and more rugged brother, which brings a welcome dose of off-road ability.
WHY ARE WE TESTING IT?
The second-gen Passat Alltrack is lighter, faster and offers a suite of new engines, headlined by VW’s gruntiest ever diesel. It also gives us our first look at the new Passat wagon, which hits Aussie shores later this year.
Volvo XC40, Skoda Octavia Scout, Subaru Outback, Audi A4 Allroad, VW Golf Alltrack
PLUS: Refinement; classy, quiet cabin; superb road manners; interior tech
MINUS: No high-output diesel for Oz; DSG stumbles in city traffic
THE WHEELS REVIEW
THROW a pair of hiking boots and khaki shorts at the new Volkswagen Passat and this is what you get. It’s the second-gen Passat Alltrack, which brings a welcome dose of off-road ability to VW’s sleek mid-sizer thanks to jacked up ride-height, heavy-duty bash plates and an armoury of high-tech off-road systems.
Think of it as the Passat’s rugged, more-outdoorsy brother, one that’s ready to get its wheels dirty, and you’ve got the picture.
Like the regular Passat, which arrives Down Under this month, this new Alltrack is lighter, faster and more efficient than the car it replaces and is set apart by unique bumpers, trapezoidal exhaust tips and bespoke rims.
There’s also an on demand four-wheel-drive system, suspension raised by 27.5mm, and the inclusion of an ‘off-road’ mode that alters everything from the traction and stability control systems to the suspension, gearbox, hill holder and descent control, for added performance on rough surfaces.
Aussie variants are also likely to boast VW’s XDS+ electronic diff, which provides selective braking to the front wheels to increase traction.
Perplexingly, though, the Alltrack’s international launch in Germany didn’t include any off-road driving, so the verdict’s still out as to how capable this new model is when the going gets tough.
What we can report is that injecting a dose of 4X4 ability has done nothing to blunt the regular Passat’s superb road manners and refinement.
There’s the same luxe interior, the same unflustered handling and, importantly, a suite of high-tech toys, headlined by an optional, purely digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster that replaces the conventional speedo and tacho behind the steering wheel. This system is almost identical to Audi’s virtual cockpit, only cheaper, and lets you shrink the dials to boost the size of the integrated sat-nav.
Those looking to tow heavy loads will also appreciate a new Trailer Assist system which aids reversing, although it’s not clear whether this technology will be offered Down Under.
Four engine options are available (one 2.0-litre petrol and three 2.0-litre diesels), but VW Oz has chosen to offer just one variant when it the Alltrack arrives in 2016, powered by the mid-spec 140kW/400Nm turbo diesel.
The new-generation oiler is lighter and 15 percent more efficient (VW claims 5.1L/100km), but it can feel sluggish from a standstill. Sadly the all-new, top spec, 176kW/500Nm oiler isn’t coming Down Under.
The six-speed dual-clutch gearbox can also get caught out in heavy traffic and occasionally delivers jerky shifts. Get the Alltrack moving, though, and there’s plenty to like. There’s lots of mid-range grunt, the cabin is impressively quiet and the ride on adaptive dampers is nicely compliant.
VW is tipping a price tag of just under $50,000 for the Alltrack, which won’t only make it a lot of car and tech for the money, but should stick it firmly on the shopping list of anyone considering a mid-size SUV.
Model: 2016 VW Passat Alltrack
Engine: 1984, in-line 4cyl, dohc, 16v,turbo diesel
Max power: 140kW @ 3500-4000rom
Max torque: 400Nm @ 1900-3300rpm
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h: 8.0sec (claimed)
Fuel economy: 5.1L/100km (euro)
Price: $48,000 (estimate)
On sale: 2016