The Volkswagen Passat Alltrack is being positioned as the latest alternative for buyers who want a high-riding vehicle but not the stigma associated with big SUVs.
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Volkswagen’s new spin-off variant of its medium-sized passenger car follows models such as the Subaru Outback, Audi A6 Allroad, Skoda Octavia Scout, Volvo XC70 and even the Holden Adventra in offering a wagon body with extra ground clearance and a more rugged appearance.

The German car maker says the Passat Alltrack, which reaches Australia in late 2012, will appeal to buyers who want the versatility of an SUV but with the more conventional looks of a passenger car.

“There are several customers who don’t want the small wheelbase and tall body [of an SUV],” Volkswagen Gmbh spokesman Martin Hube told CarAdvice at the Passat Alltrack’s international launch in Austria. “They like to drive in a sporty way. They like a more distinguished car.”

VW admits the Passat Alltrack is limited in the types of terrain it can tackle but that its abilities will be sufficient for a variety of roads away from the bitumen.

“This is not an off-road car but it helps in some situations,” says Hube. “We like to compare it to a Swiss army knife. It is a good companion – it helps out in many situations.

“Even if you get into difficult terrain you can get out again.”

The VW Passat Alltrack is the company’s first passenger car to be offered with an off-road mode – borrowed from the Golf-based Tiguan compact soft-roader.

The mode includes hill descent control, ABS tuned for slippery surfaces and quick-acting electronic differentials to minimise wheelspin.

The VW Passat Alltrack range actually starts with a front-wheel-drive variant, though most models feature a Haldex all-wheel-drive system also used in other VWs such as the Tiguan and Golf R.

The system is still 90 per cent front-drive in normal driving but with the ability to send 100 per cent of torque to the rear wheels when the traction situation demands.

Compared to a standard Passat wagon, the Alltrack has a 30mm-higher ride height (165mm) and revised front and rear bumpers that increase approach and departure angles.

A range of petrol and diesel engines are being offered in Europe, but Volkswagen Australia says at least for now it will only import the 125TDI variant.

The 125TDI accounts for about 70 per cent of Passat sales in Australia and employs a 2.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder with 125kW of power and 350Nm of torque. A six-speed dual-clutch auto is standard.

Fuel consumption and emissions are rated at 5.9L/100km and 155g/km.

VW says most Passat Alltracks will be fitted with towing kits by customers, and the 125TDI version has a towing capacity of 2000kg.

VW Australia says it’s too early to indicate pricing for the Passat Alltrack, but will carry a premium over the standard Passat wagon 125TDI, which is front-wheel-drive, and starts from $45,990.

Read CarAdvice's review of the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack.