2016 VW Passat Alltrack road test and review
LET'S talk dirty and Volkswagen. I'm not about to enter the Shades of Grey realm or the global Dieselgate saga, but rather the new Passat Alltrack - which loves things rough-and-ready.
The new wagon has been released this week in a breath of fresh air for the company, off the back of what can be best described as a challenging 2015.
Launching into the new year armed with fixes for its recalled diesel engines and this new high-riding wagon, VW is beginning to lift its head above the CO2 for some fresh air.
Starting from just below $50,000, the Passat Alltrack forms an important weapon in VW's sports utility vehicle attack. It's an armoury which is somewhat undersized in a market where car manufacturers are waging war with a flurry of SUVs in all sizes.
With just the compact Tiguan and large Touareg in its fleet, VW is asking a burning question to a nation besotted with the faux off-roaders: Do you really need a SUV?
Glossy finishes, elongated air vents, stainless steel-look pedals and sill plates along with an analogue clock capture the eye on a dash which is clinical yet easy to navigate.
Wonderfully comfortable leather-trimmed front sports seats create the ambience of an up-spec offering.
Adult accommodation is welcoming for five with generous head and leg room, although two on the rear bench seat is a more comfortable fit.
The driver has a typical VW instrument setup, with a concise analogue tachometer and speedo flanking a digital display which you can toggle through to get various trip information.
Sitting central is the colour touch-screen which is straightforward in operation. Featuring modern app expectations for Apple and Android phones, finding your way through sat nav, radio and stereo functions takes little analysis after first introductions.
On and off the road
With 174mm of ground clearance, 27.5mm over the standard Passat, the Alltrack makes easy going of gravel roads and some semi-challenging tracks.
While steel underbody protection has been abandoned in favour of "extremely tough plastic" for a 16kg weight saving over the outgoing model, it has the ability to easily negotiate conditions likely to be ever faced by most SUV buyers.
Running primarily in two-wheel drive while on the bitumen, when slippery conditions are detected (or challenging cornering) all-wheel drive is enacted via electronic differential locks on each axle.
On some testing dirt roads through the Blue Mountains, the Alltrack negotiated the conditions with ease albeit with a sense of floatiness if attacking slippery sections with too much enthusiasm while some off-camber sections also felt sketchy on occasions. We'll reserve final judgment until fully laden with the family.
Highway travel proved a joy, with the Alltrack extremely quiet and well mannered, while cornering was better than anything that can be achieved by an SUV due to its lower ride height.
What do you get?
Equipment is generous with nine airbags, leather seat trim, three-zone climate controlled air-con, radar cruise control, CD stereo with 10 gigabyte hard drive for compatible music files along with Apple CarPlay, MirrorLink and Android Auto apps, as well as sat nav, sports front seats with lumbar support and 18-inch alloys.
Safety is excellent via the expected suite of gizmos such as stability control and anti-lock brakes, but you also get a fatigue detection system which analyses your driving and advises when to take a break, rear view camera and a traffic alert to help advise of any obstacles or traffic when reversing, blind spot warning, emergency braking which stops the car after an accident to avoid further collisions and forward collision warning that can automatically apply the brakes to avoid or lessen an impact.
A Comfort Package is available for $3500, which includes a panoramic sunroof, some external and internal decorative extras, turning LED headlights and an automatic parking function.
There are dual cup holders in the front, along with bottle holders in the doors, while there are a further three cup holders in the fold down arm rest in the back. Rear seat backs fold in a 40-20-40 configuration with a lever in the boot to drop them flat, or a seat-top button.
You also get a full-size spare, while Continental rubber comes with "ContiSeal" which can self-repair punctures of up to 5mm.
A hefty 639 litres of space is available in the boot, which can expand to more than 1700 litres with the seats folded.
Our lead-footed experience on the dirt returned fuel consumption of more than eight litres for every 100km, whereas the highway trip had us just shy of the official average of 5.4L.
Capped price servicing is available when returning to a VW dealer for maintenance.
Looking refined and especially hunkered from the rear with dual exhausts set into the bumper, it's a sharp and inoffensive looking wagon. White is the only flat colour, with metallic or pearl effect alternatives costing an extra $700.
What's Volkswagen's biggest selling car globally? The Golf? No, it's the Passat. Apparently the worldwide numbers show one is sold every 28 seconds.
But the elephant in the room remains the wagon versus SUV debate. Volkswagen has equipped the Alltrack well and it is an impressive all-round performer.
With a slightly jacked-up ride height it offers the driving position much sought-after, along with more space than afforded by many SUVs.
What matters most
What we liked: Roomy and stylish cabin, large boot, performs better than an SUV.
What we'd like to see: Extra space for phones and items in the console area.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty, with roadside assist for the same period. Servicing schedule is annual or every 15,000km, with capped price servicing on average about $530.
Model: Volkswagen Passat Alltrack.
Details: Five-door large all-wheel drive wagon.
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel generating maximum power of 140kW @ 3500-4000rpm and peak torque of 400Nm @ 1750-3000rpm.
Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch automatic.
Consumption: 5.4 litres/100km (combined average).
Towing: 2200kg, tow ball 90kg.
Performance 0-100kmh: 8.0 seconds.
Bottom line plus on-roads: $49,290; Luxury Package $3500.