What is it?
A nice idea on paper. Take one of the most practical and easy-to-live with estate cars there is, raise the ride height, give it four-wheel drive, a powerful diesel engine and a DSG gearbox, and then equip the interior with lots of toys and the exterior with a few subtle styling tweaks and you end up with the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack.
Sounds like a desirable package, then.
What's it like?
The Passat Alltrack is not a driver’s car, nor is it meant to be one. It’s supposed to be stylish and comfortable transport that blends into the background, asking no questions of the thousands of miles of service you’d expect of it.
In parts, it’s very well executed. The 168bhp 2.0 TDI engine is a particular highlight; it’s a brisk performer when you want it to be, and then a quiet, refined and efficient companion on long motorway runs, averaging around 42mpg.
The good work continues inside. The Alltrack has a very high spec as standard, and it’s a very comfortable place to cover motorway miles in. The driving position is excellent, the raised ride height offering a commanding view of the road. Sat-nav, six-way electrically adjustable seats, and plenty of leather and brushed metal trim are among the standard-fit items.
So with such a good engine and interior, it’s just a shame the rest of the car isn’t up to the same comfortable and easy-going standard. The six-speed DSG gearbox is the biggest problem; it’s far too hesitant and jerky when pulling away from junctions, and the integrated stop-start system is slow to react and can get confused in heavy stop-start traffic as to what it wants to do, suddenly cutting the engine just as you want to pull away.
The Alltrack also fails to hide its considerable mass. The ride is lumpy at low speeds and fidgety at higher speeds, meaning it never really settles into a comfortable cruise. The considerable kerb weight is also noticeable when cornering; there’s a lot of roll, even at moderate speeds.
Should I buy one?
There’s no denying the Passat Alltrack is a desirable car. It looks smart and is very well equipped as standard, and the security of four-wheel drive and an off-road mode may tempt some out of more expensive SUVs who like a raised driving position, the extra practicality and occasional off-road ability.
But the driving compromises are just too great. The Passat Alltrack doesn’t ride as well as you would expect it to, and although an automatic gearbox would seem a natural fit for a car of its size and weight, this six-speed DSG isn’t up to the job.
Volkswagen Passat Alltrack 2.0 TDI 170
Price: £31,030; 0-62mph: 8.9sec; Top speed: 131mph; Economy: 47.9mpg (combined); CO2: 155g/km; Kerb weight: 1725kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1968cc, turbodiesel; Power: 168bhp at 4200rpm; Torque: 258lb ft at 1750rpm; Gearbox: 6spd DSG