On track for greatness
Once, the humble estate car was the choice of the middle classes with things to move, a couple of Labradors for instance.
But then the SUV arrived and the Labs were having to jump higher whenever the family headed for the country. But Volvo took a different track and installed a four-wheel-drive system in it's V70 estate, bolted on some extraneous plastic mouldings raised the ride height. And there it was, the first go-anywhere estate.
Others liked this idea and followed suit – Audi with its A6 Allroad and now Volkswagen with the Passat Alltrack
Maybe it's the security, the added traction, or the perceived ability to go where normal estates fear to tread, I'm not sure, but one thing is certain, you'll pay about £4,000 more to get the rear end of the Passat hooked up.
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The first question you must surely ask is, how tricky is the multi-storey in the depths of winter? As you ascend to the upper reaches of John Lewis's car park, will that extra traction avert a disaster? Or, would that £4,000 be better spent on a Chatsworth grand leather sofa and a weekend in Cotswolds?
Alltrack is the halo model in the Passat line-up, designed for those who prefer a premium feel to their load lugger and premium is what they'll get. Just one trim level is available with a choice of two drivetrains. First up is the a 2.0-litre TDI 140 PS with six-speed manual gearbox, the one on test here. And then there's the 2.0-litre TDI 170 PS with six-speed DSG transmission, which will send the price beyond £31,000. That pushes the Passat into the orbits of Range Rover's Evoque and Audi's A4 Allroad, both nailed on premium models, so VW must be certain of its market to tackle such opposition.
What the Passat has over both of these models in spades though, is load space. Neither the Audi or the Evoque can match the VW for carrying capacity or cabin space. The vast cabin of the Passat is clad in Alcantara, a pseudo suede leather invented by a clever Japanese fellow in the 70s.
Easy to work with and costing less in cows, it's fine alternative.
There's a vast amount of equipment – far too much to list – but vitals include parking sensors, DAB radio with iPod connectivity and cruise control, well at least that's the stuff I consider essential.
It's doubtful Volkswagen will sell many Alltracks, they admit that expectations for sales are low – just five per cent of all Passat estates sold, but those that do venture into one of these fine estates will enjoy a ride much better than the standard model. An extra 30mm of ride height makes light of those pesky road humps and away from the trials of city life the Alltrack proves a fine companion for long hauls and short blasts. Acceleration from the 140PS diesel is brisk if not and searing and when settled at motorway cruising speeds noise intrusion is minimal. Thicker side glass, a double-skinned windscreen and extra insulation under the bonnet keep wind and road roar at bay.
Economy figures are decent, if not anywhere near the numbers claimed by VW. Over an hour of motorway driving the Alltrack achieved a little over 30mpg. I'm sure if I drove all the way to Glasgow the figure would climb at the same rate as my bank account diminished.
So then, the Passat Alltrack is a premium go-anywhere estate car for those who don't want the lofty perch of a compact SUV. Volkswagen dabbled in the premium sector once before with the Phaeton saloon, a stunning, well-built and exceptionally well-equipped car aimed squarely at BMW's 7 Series and Mercedes S Class, it bombed. For all the great things about the Alltrack, I fear a shellacking in the sales chart.