It's the second generation of Volkswagen's popular off-road oriented wagon. The Passat Alltrack launches in Australia this week and we get behind the wheel for a drive.
Every 28 seconds a Volkswagen Passat is sold somewhere in the world, with sales totalling over 22 million globally. That figure is set to increase thanks to the second-generation Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, which Volkswagen has proudly taken the wraps off this week.
If you’re not a follower of the SUV hype, a station wagon is the next best choice — especially one with a bit of extra ground clearance. Built on the regular Passat platform, the Alltrack boasts an additional 27.5mm of ground clearance, totalling 174mm.
To add to its rugged image, the Passat Alltrack also features underbody protection and brushed aluminium bash plates on the front. The image of ruggedness continues with plastic cladding over the wheel arches in addition to brushed aluminium wing mirrors.
It’s not hard to see that as one of the more premium products in the Volkswagen range, the brand has thrown the feature book at the Passat Alltrack. With a starting price of $49,290 plus on-road costs, the Passat Alltrack comes with a host of standard safety and luxury features to help differentiate it from the regular Passat wagon.
Available with one diesel engine option and one guise, the only option available is a $3500 Luxury Package, which adds extra kit — more on that later.
Under the bonnet of the Passat Alltrack is Volkswagen’s proven 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel engine that produces 140kW of power and 400Nm of torque. The engine is mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, with fuel consumption down to an incredible 5.4L/100km.
Sending torque to the wheels is Volkswagen’s trademark 4Motion all-wheel drive system that uses an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch. Primarily driving the front axle, the clutch is able to engage at a moment’s notice to begin delivering torque to the rear axle.
Arguably, one of the more impressive features are the use of Continental ContiSeal Mobility tyres that feature an interstitial viscous layer that is able to retard intrusions from things like nails and stones. Continental claims that the use of its viscous seal technology can prevent up to 85 per cent of flat tyres.
Our drive route for the local launch of the Passat Alltrack departed from Bathurst Airport and across almost 100km of gravel roads. While the gravel began as finely cut and smooth, it eventually degraded to large portions of sharp rock that would make most station wagon drivers weak at the knees.
The ContiSeal tyres proved their worth with no flat tyres across the fleet of vehicles driving the road. Additionally, the 4Motion system showed its true colours with tight hairpins and thickly coated sections that caused the car to be thrown about the road. Applying throttle on corner exit allowed the rear end to settle and hunker down.
The Passat Alltrack comes with an off-road mode that can be activated using the drive selector. The drive selector offers everything from an economy mode to a sport mode. The off-road mode engages hill descent control, but also adjusts throttle sensitivity and intervention timing of the stability controls.
In fact, the system worked so well that braking distances were dramatically reduced thanks to relaxed ABS timing that gave the car an opportunity to dig into the gravel and form a wall ahead of the tyres.
Over sealed surfaces the Passat Alltrack was just as impressive. The suspension tune isn’t as firm as the outgoing Passat Alltrack, which means the car is able to soak up bumps and sharp potholes with aplomb.
The country roads along our test route really worked the suspension and gave us an opportunity to appreciate the level of engineering that has gone into the Passat Alltrack package. In addition to the ride quality, feedback through the steering wheel was excellent.
Given its relatively low centre of gravity, the Passat Alltrack has the ability to tackle corners with more precision than an SUV. That was apparent with the windy mountain stretch we crossed near Lithgow in regional New South Wales. The front-end tucked in nicely while a punch of the throttle allowed the car to settle in for a slingshot out of the corner.
The six-speed automatic gearbox felt good on the open road but needed to be in its Sport mode for maximum potential. The regular drive mode was a bit sluggish and required strong throttle inputs for a reaction from the engine.
On the open road, one of our test vehicles also exhibited a whistling noise at around 80km/h, along with a vibration from the rear left of the vehicle. This was isolated to one of the two test vehicles we sampled.
Another element that revealed itself during the drive was the tyre noise at cruising speeds on coarse roads. There was a higher than average amount of noise from the tyres that intruded into the cabin. The sound intrusion was easily dulled by the radio, but was fairly evident with the radio off.
With a starting price of under $50,000, the Passat Alltrack is loaded with features. Standard features include leather seats, tri-zone automatic climate control, heated seats in the front row, automatic headlights and windscreen wipers, front and rear parking sensors with reverse-view camera, keyless entry and start and Discover Pro, Volkswagen’s eight-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system.
Standard safety equipment includes nine airbags (front, side, curtain and driver knee airbag), automatic emergency braking (up to 65km/h), lane keeping assistant, blind spot monitoring, multi-collision brake and a multi-angle reverse-view camera.
One of the highlights is the new Discover Pro infotainment system, which features an eight-inch colour touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. It also uses an inbuilt satellite-navigation system, which means there is always a backup available if you run out of telephone reception range for the connected services.
It’s an easy to use infotainment system that features seamless swipe technology and a proximity finger sensor that brings up additional menus as the user brings their finger near the screen. It pairs with a small LCD screen in the driver’s instrument binnacle that displays the trip computer and navigation information.
The interior feels quite upmarket and premium. Features like soft-touch plastics, a single-line grille across the dashboard and an analogue clock make the car feel like it sits well above its sub-$50k price tag.
An additional $3500 will score you the Luxury Package, which includes an opening panoramic glass roof with retractable cover, LED headlights with daytime running lights, an interior LED lighting package, a chrome strip along the bonnet, headlight washers and semi-automatic parking.
Interior leg and headroom in both the first and second rows is excellent. Air vents in both rows also make for a cool cabin environment — important for the 40 degree Celsius day we tested the Passat Alltrack.
Unlike some SUVs, the Passat Alltrack features a huge boot. There is 639 litres of cargo space on offer once the powered tailgate is opened. That figure increases to 1769 litres when the 40/20/40 split second row is folded.
The Passat Alltrack is available in seven colours, along with the hero Habanero Orange metallic colour.
While we still need to spent time in the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack for a comprehensive review, the initial impression is excellent. SUV-adverse buyers will love the packaging, practicality and features loaded into the Passat Alltrack. It’s backed by a three-year warranty and capped price servicing for the first six services.
Click on the Photos tab to see more images of the 2016 Volkswagen Passat Alltrack.