After about half-a-minute behind the wheel of the 2021 Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, I’m questioning why anyone would buy an SUV.
VW’s high-riding wagon has everything you need for a family – plenty of space, both for people and cargo, a high-riding stance, all-wheel drive and stylish good looks. And it’s packed with equipment, often found wanting in SUVs of similar size and price.
The Passat Alltrack line-up has been refreshed for the 2021 model year, and encompasses just two models – the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, which is priced at $46,990 plus on-roads, and the car we have on test here, the Passat Alltrack Premium, asking for $58,790 plus on-road costs.
Our test car was finished in the rather fetching Aquamarine Blue metallic paint, an $800 option and one of just four optional hues available, all asking for an additional $800. Want no-cost paint? Then it’s a Pure White Passat Alltrack for you.
|2021 Volkswagen Passat Alltrack|
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Power and torque||162kW @ 6200rpm, 350Nm @ 1500–4400rpm|
|Transmission||Seven-speed dual-clutch auto (DSG)|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim, combined (ADR)||8.1L/100km|
|Fuel use on test||8.4L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up/down)||650L/1780L|
|ANCAP safety rating||Five-star (tested 2015)|
|Warranty||Five years/unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Audi A4 Allroad, Skoda Superb Scout,|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$59,590|
And that’s it for options, with no other boxes to tick. What you see with the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack Premium is what you get. And you get a lot.
Equipment highlights include 19-inch alloys, matrix LED headlights and ‘Premium’ LED tail-lights with dynamic indicators, ambient interior lighting with 30 selectable colours, and a 9.2-inch colour touchscreen running VW’s Discover Pro operating system with satellite navigation. No DAB+ radio, though, which continues to be a bugbear with all VW product. We’re not sure why VW continues to eschew modern radio tech. It’s a minor gripe, though.
There’s also VW’s digital instrument display – Cockpit Pro – as standard. It’s configurable to suit your personal tastes – we prefer digital dials flanking sat-nav – and can also provide a wealth of driving information. It’s possibly not as well-resolved as Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, but it’s pretty damn close.
Other highlights include a premium Harman Kardon sound system, and one of the best 360-degree cameras we’ve seen. Its resolution and image projection are crisp and clear, among the best we’ve experienced, certainly according to my passenger who was suitably impressed: “It’s like I’m watching a movie in HD,” she quipped. And it is.
Inside, the Passat Alltrack Premium is liberally coated in Vienna leather – Mistral, in our case, a soft and pleasing grey and one of two no-cost options, the other a more conservative and conventional Black. The grey works well, especially with the striking Aquamarine Blue exterior. It looks smart, stylish, and, like it says on the badge, premium.
The front seats are comfortable and supportive, as well as heated and ventilated, while most of the touchpoints are yielding.
There’s wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which worked seamlessly, while for those who prefer cables there are a couple of USB-C points to help you connect or keep you charged up. There’s no wireless charging.
Ergonomically, everything is pleasingly laid out within easy reach. The climate controls are touch-sensitive, allowing users to control temperature and fan speed with the slide of a finger or a light touch. It took a bit of getting used to, but once acclimated it was intuitive and pleasing to use.
The second row is as you’d expect of a large wagon – spacious, comfortable and, again, premium. The rear seats are amongst the most comfortable we’ve experienced in recent times, cushioning and sumptuous. There are separate climate controls back there with vents, as well as a USB-C point and a 12V outlet.
The Mistral grey matched with the standard-fit panoramic roof ensures the cabin remains light and airy, although if it all gets a bit too sunny inside, the rear side windows come fitted with pull-up sunshades as standard. Privacy glass is standard back there, too.
The seats fold in 40:20:40 fashion and can be operated by levers in the cavernous boot. They fold almost flat, too, and perfect for stowing longer objects. There’s a cargo net as standard, while a retractable cover keeps your goodies hidden from prying eyes. And, in something of a rarity these days, a full-size, 19-inch alloy spare wheel lives under the boot floor.
The boot itself measures in at 650L to the load cover, expanding to 1780L with the second row folded away. Load length is measured at a generous 2018mm, making short work of flat-pack bookcases and the like.
As good and as premium as the interior is, the drivetrain combination does its best to ensure the Passat Alltrack Premium lives up to its name.
That 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder petrol under the bonnet is a peach. It makes 162kW and 350Nm, and straight off the bat it’s plenty powerful enough. It’s mated to VW’s seven-speed dual-clutch auto (DSG) sending drive to all four wheels.
Acceleration from standstill is brisk and entirely predictable with no signs of hesitation from the DSG, which simply gets on with the job of keeping the wagon moving. Around town, the Alltrack is easy to drive, feeling light on its wheels. It feels more nimble than it should.
At city speeds, the Alltrack is effortless, with good throttle response and an easy loping gait.
It’s a similar experience out on the highway, the 162kW and 350Nm on tap plenty for a car of this calibre. Rolling acceleration isn’t a struggle, the Alltrack simply getting on with the job of piling on speed. And once up to the mandated 110km/h, the big wagon remains quiet and composed, never feeling strained.
It’s a similar story under wheel, the ride and bump absorption top-notch. There’s no lumpiness to the way the Alltrack dispatches bumps and lumps, the wagon seemingly gliding over minor road abrasions such as expansion joints and small potholes. Even larger hits do little to unsettle the wagon, the Passat settling back down quickly and with minimal fuss.
And noise deadening, too, is at a level you’d expect from something with Premium in its name, the cabin remaining quiet and isolated from all but the worst of what Sydney’s roads have to offer.
Tellingly, the Alltrack can serve duty as a bit of a fun car to hustle. We took the opportunity on our extended test drive, and found the Alltrack a willing and eager participant. It’s not an out-and-out performance car, nor does it purport to be, but there’s plenty of smile-inducing character from the wagon.
The steering remains light – although dialling up the drive selector to Sport adds a little heft – and the DSG is commendable in selecting the right ratios. Use the paddle shifters if you want – and gear changes are almost instant – but really, the DSG is best left to its own devices.
There’s a precision to the way the Alltrack holds the road, too, the all-wheel-drive system inspiring confidence in grip and poise. We didn't exactly throw it some corners like you would a hot hatch, but the way the Alltrack links a winding road together can be best described as a dance – a choreography between driver and machine. It adds up to a family hauler that can be little bit of fun when you want it to be.
Perhaps its best place is chewing up kilometres on the highway; an easy and effortless tourer that will ferry you and your family (and all of their stuff) in a comfortable and quiet manner.
Volkswagen quotes a combined fuel consumption figure of 8.1L per 100km. We spent a day around town, on the highway and with some spirited driving thrown in for good measure, and saw an indicated 7.2L/100km. That’s impressive. Even after several more days of mainly urban driving, the indicated fuel figure was hovering around 8.4L/100km.
ANCAP awarded the Passat range a five-star safety rating back in 2015. There’s certainly plenty of safety tech housed inside the wagon. Dubbed as VW’s IQ Drive, the full suite includes adaptive cruise control (although increments are adjustable in 10km/h using the +/- buttons and 1km/h using 'set' and 'reset' buttons, not exactly intuitive), autonomous emergency braking, lane-keeping assist, rear-cross traffic alert, blind-spot assist, front and rear parking sensors, and that amazing 360-degree camera.
Volkswagen covers the Passat Alltrack with its five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, while servicing is required every 15,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first. A word to the wary, though, servicing isn’t on the cheap side, asking for a total of $3493 over the first five years/75,000km. And to avoid bill shock, be especially aware the fourth service alone, at 60,000km, asks for a whopping $1474.
Still, you’ll want to keep your Passat Alltrack Premium in tip-top shape because it’s simply a delightful vehicle. With space to burn and a willingness from its drivetrain combination to perform in a variety of conditions, the 2021 Volkswagen Passat Alltrack Premium is a pleasure to drive.