What is it?
The Volkswagen Passat Alltrack is now part of the furniture in the jacked-up ‘lifestyle’ estate world. These are cars aimed at folk not quite ready to sell their soul to the SUV, but do see the appeal of something altogether more rugged in a package they’re comfortable with.
The Passat Alltrack, now a year or so into its second generation, ticks all the usual boxes in its transformation from normal estate to higher-riding, tougher-looking estate. Its ride height is raised by 28mm over the regular Volkswagen Passat estate upon which it is based, there's plenty of black-plastic cladding to the lower half of its body, and it gets four-wheel drive as standard.
The Passat Alltrack range is a slim one, with Volkswagen’s familiar 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine offered with either 148bhp and a six-speed manual gearbox, or a 187bhp version (tested here) wedded to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic.
What's it like?
About as inoffensive as cars come. That's damning with faint praise, yes, but then this is motoring at its most rational and functional. Make the interior nice, the ride comfortable, make sure the steering doesn’t feel weird, nor the engine do anything but quietly tick over in the background, sipping as little fuel as possible, and you have the motoring equivalent of a comfy knitted jumper.
The Passat Alltrack is all of those things. The interior is a real high point; not chintzy, solidly built, and with the right amount of useful technology, clear screens, and sensibly laid out switchgear. The seats are big and comfy, and the view out from the cabin is commanding. It’s an interior that wouldn’t feel out of place another rung or two up the pricing ladder.
Key among the appeal of a rugged estate over an SUV is the more traditional-car-like handling. The Passat Alltrack is the latest of the breed that doesn’t roll around corners like its trendier, higher-sided SUV stablemates, and feels a more familiar driving experience. Still, it’s a very neutral-handling car; buyers aren’t looking for any real driver involvement in this part of the Volkswagen range.