The raised and rough-road-oriented version of the Passat wagon (launched late last year) is back with more kit, a new look and just one, but much stronger engine.
Like the Golf Alltrack we recently reviewed, the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack is a standalone model in the Passat family and gets a raised ride height, a range of model specific styling and 4Motion all-wheel drive. The new Passat launched in Australia late last year and this new Passat Alltrack arrived in February this year with a one variant-only price of $49,290+ORC. Offering just one cost optional package, the Luxury Package costs $3500. Metallic paint costs $700.
This is the second-generation Passat Alltrack, the first debuted in 2012 and it offered two engines to choose from, whereas this one only offers one. Because it’s based on the Passat Wagon, the Alltrack variant offers the same cavernous 639 litre boot.
The Alltrack variant sits higher at 174mm, or 27.5mm more than the regular Passat wagon. This isn’t bad, but it’s not as high as its key competitor, the Subaru Outback (213mm). The Passat Alltrack gets a new front grille design, new front and rear bumper, while the underbody protection is now plastic rather than steel on the previous generation.
There’s no spare tyre in the boot of the Passat Alltrack which, at first, might seem a little odd, but the Alltrack runs Continental ContiSeal tyres which are claimed to be able to keep driving even when punctured by something up to 5mm in diameter. Apparently there’s a “protective layer” on the inside of the tyre that will seal the hole.
As mentioned, the Passat Alltrack gets VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system which sees the car behave like a front-wheel drive car most of the time, with the latest-generation Haldex 5 coupling activating when wheel slip is detected and directing drive to rear axle, indeed it can send up to 100% of torque to the rear.
The slightly raised ride height (27.5mm more than standard) and the extra body cladding and the new front and rear bumper and grille give the Alltrack variant a sharper look than the standard Passat wagon. Inside, every surface you touch is either soft plastic, leather or faux brushed alloy and while the large 8.0-inch touchscreen unit dominates the centre of the dashboard there are also traditional climate control dials and buttons below. The unit can connect to both Apple Car Play and Android Auto, but it can also be used independently of smartphone integration and offers a nice simple menu structure.
Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel offering 140kW at 3500-4000rpm) and 400Nm of torque from 1750-3000rpm. This engine is mated to a six-speed DSG and fuel consumption is a claimed 5.4L/100km. The Passat Alltrack gets VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system but this is essentially a front-wheel drive system with an “electronically controlled multi-plate clutch” that activates to distribute drive to the rear axle when slip is detected.
Like the system on the Golf Alltrack there is a drive mode menu offering an Off Road Mode, as well as Normal, Sport and Eco, but the Off-Road system activates the hill descent assist, tweaks the ABS intervals to allow a wedge of dirt to build up ahead of the wheels to assist in stopping on dirt, and it soften the throttle pedal to avoid over revving if your foot bumps up and down on the pedal when driving across rough terrain. More than this, it raises gear shift points that allow you to putter along in a lower gear when on rough terrain for longer to maintain momentum.
Since I’ve mentioned gears shifts, let’s talk about the six-speed DSG for a moment. Unfortunately, the six-speed DSG in the Passat Alltrack I tested wasn’t a particularly good example, and over the course of our week-long test it consistently rolled back, shuddered when taking off on a hill in first gear, and thumped through gears when up and running.
Beyond this the steering is nice and direct and is one of the better electric assist systems on the market. It’s nice and stable at highway speed and quick and nimble enough when navigating fast corners.
The suspension errs towards firm which is great for driving on bitumen, but out-of-nowhere bumps will thump into the cabin, although they won’t upset the steering. Away from bitumen and onto gravel and the ride is less comfortable.
Like other VW’s the Passat Alltrack offers Front Assist with City Emergency Braking and, while on the whole these systems are a great idea they are not to be relied on, as the one in this Passat Alltrack was provoked by all sorts of things that shouldn’t have activated it as I was taking actions to avoid what it considered to be an immovable object. More than this, I found that the counter steering which uses cameras to monitor any wandering out of your lane, could quite often be tricked by thick lines on the road, or even long cracks and caused me a few heart-in-mouth moments when I had to fight against the steering.
Like most other manufacturers these days, Volkswagen offers capped price servicing for the Passat Alltrack with servicing schedules every 15,000km or 12 months. Pricing runs from $413.00 up to $985.00 for the 60.000km service. Additional items not covered under capped price servicing are Pollen filter every two years $56.00; Brake fluid every two years $138.00 and Haldex fluid change every three years $181.00.
Beyond its headline-grabbing safety systems, the Passat Alltrack gets airbags for front and rear seat passengers, heated windscreen washer jets and rain sensing wipers, ISOFIX mounts on the outer seats in the back, daytime driving lights, traction and stability control as well 4Motion all-wheel drive, reversing camera, driver fatigue detection, active cruise control and much more.