Passat ventures off road

By Jack McKeown, 5 January 2013 10.00am.

The Alltrack is a jacked up four-wheel drive version of Volkswagen’s redoubtable Passat Estate.

It’s a car that shares an ethos – and many of the same parts – as the Audi A4 Allroad and Skoda's Octavia Scout.

Volkswagen have taken a popular, reliable and roomy model and given it enough off-road ability to handle snowy winters or life on a farm, but without the bulk and the expensive running costs of a big 4x4.

It makes a lot of sense in Scotland, particularly in Courier Country where a lot of people live along country lanes where four-wheel drive helps but owning something like a Toyota Landcruiser isn’t necessary.

The Volkswagen Passat Alltrack 2.0 TDI BlueMotion Technology 4MOTION 170PS to give its full title (although in German that’s probably all one word) starts at £28,480, with the six speed DSG auto I drove costing £31,030.

That’s not cheap – indeed it hauls it into the edge of Range Rover Evoque territory – but it’s important to note that prices for its sister car, the A4 Allroad, start out where the Alltrack leaves off.

It’s handsome in a grown-up way, managing to look good while simultaneously blending into the background.

The interior is bigger than some flats I lived in during my student days. There’s easily room for four six foot adults and all their kit will fit in the 603 litre boot. Drop the rear seats and there’s 1731 litres of space to play with.

A handy hatch makes it easy to slide skis through, as I discovered on a weekend trip to Glenshee.

A good chunk of the 30 grand price tag has gone into making the Alltrack well equipped and parking sensors, cruise control, electronic parking brake, multifunction steering wheel and touchscreen stereo are standard features.

My test car added more than £4,000 of additional equipment, including electric leather seats with massage function, Xenon headlights that bend round corners, and a panoramic sunroof.

Although it’s not designed for real rough stuff it should cope with gentle off road activity.

A four-wheel drive system is backed up by a 2.5cm higher ride height and underbody protection to guard against rocks and branches.

On tarmac, which is where it will spend most of its life, it’s a comfortable cruiser. A soft ride and relatively quiet cabin make motorway miles drift by effortlessly.

The only downside is the increased ride height plays havoc with the handling. While grip is fine, excess body roll means it’s no longer a fun car to throw around bends. That won’t bother most users, however.

A more serious issue is the DSG gearbox which, so good in other Volkswagens, here is hesitant and slow to engage. Meanwhile, the stop-start function frequently takes a beat too long to restart the engine, resulting in an unnecessary rush when pulling out at junctions.

While it has flaws, the Alltrack is a competent all rounder. It looks good, is very well equipped and has the security of off-road capability without the running costs of a big SUV.

jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk