2012 VW Passat Alltrack review

* 4WD Passat Alltrack estate tested * Price from 28,500; on sale July * 49.6mpg; 150g/km of CO2...

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Will Nightingale
23 February 2012

2012 VW Passat Alltrack review

The VW Passat Alltrack is a rugged four-wheel-drive version of Volkswagen's popular family estate.

It's designed for buyers who need decent off-road ability and a big boot, but don't want a traditional high-sided SUV. Its closest rivals are the Audi A4 Allroad and the Subaru Outback.

The Alltrack isn't simply a Passat with four-wheel drive, though. The higher ride height gives it more ground clearance, while smaller bumpers allow it to tackle steeper approaches. It also has some clever electronic aids to help it claw its way out of sticky situations.

What's it like to drive? The Alltrack will be available with two 2.0-litre diesel engines (one with 138bhp, the other with 168bhp).

The 138bhp unit provides adequate performance, but is available only with a six-speed manual gearbox. That will tempt some buyers (especially those who need to tow) to go for the 168bhp version, which gets VW's superb DSG semi-automatic gearbox as standard.

To help out in the rough stuff, the Alltrack has a special 'off-road' mode, activated by pressing a button on the centre console. This switches on a descent control system, which automatically brakes the car when descending a steep incline. It also optimises the brakes and differential locks for slippery surfaces.

The result is impressive: the Alltrack hauls itself through boggy fields and up snowy slopes far more capably than you might expect. Don't expect Land Rover levels of toehold, but the Alltrack will embarrass plenty of other SUVs.

Thankfully the added all-terrain ability hasn't compromised the Passat's excellent on-road manners. It's still a comfortable and refined cruiser on the motorway, and undemanding to drive everywhere else, with light steering and supple suspension.

Don't expect much in the way of fun, but the Alltrack has more grip and tighter body control than most conventional high-sided SUVs.

What's it like inside? No different from any other Passat, which means the Alltrack is one of the most spacious and comfortable estate cars around.

There's little excitement to be had from looking at your surroundings, but it's easy to get comfortable behind the wheel and most of the materials are suitably plush apart from a disappointingly cheap slab of plastic on the face of the dashboard.

Like the regular Passat estate, the Alltrack has a huge 603-litre boot bigger than the Audi A4 Allroad's or a Subaru Outback's. It's a bit of a faff to fold down the rear seats if you need even more space, though; you have to remove the headrests, flip up the bases, then lower the seatbacks, to get a totally flat load area.

To go some way towards making up for the high price, the Alltrack has plenty of standard kit, including Alcantara seats, a touch-screen navigation system, climate and cruise controls, Bluetooth and 18-inch alloy wheels.

Should I buy one? If a front-wheel-drive Passat won't get you where you need to go, the new Alltrack isn't a bad option. It's surprisingly capable off the beaten track and is bigger, better to drive and cheaper than either an Audi A4 Allroad or a Subaru Outback.

That said, it's pricey for a Passat. Unless you really can't bear the thought of a lofty SUV on your driveway, we'd recommend looking at an Audi Q5 or a BMW X3. They're almost as spacious and will be worth more when you come to sell.

Read the full VW Passat Estate review >>

Audi A4 Allroad
Subaru Outback.

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Will Nightingale