Volkswagen presented the first Passat Alltrack at the 2011 Tokyo Motor Show. This model was aimed at bridging the gap between their passenger and SUV range. It was an interesting move, following Audi’s A4 and A6 Allroad, both of which could have been trying to break into the market segment that had been dominated by vehicles like Subaru’s Outback.
A big part of how Drive Life works is to position ourselves in the shoes of the target market. Look at it how they would, and work through the pros and cons from their point of view. This process was usually not as difficult as it was with the AllTrack. I spent a large part of the week leading up to the test thinking about who this car was aimed at…most of the time I would come up blank or with some micro analysis target audience. Like a couple in their late 20s, who both work in the business sector, have one dog, like the outdoors and were expecting a family. But that sounded pretty ridiculous, however at the end of the week’s test drive, it all became clear, which I shall tell you more about later.
I must admit that I was pleased to find that the car I had imagined was not the car that sat in front of me. Going off what I had known about the Audi Allroad and previous Alltrack, I expected an ocean of slap-on plastic trim and an awkwardly high looking vehicle, which in the past had denoted that a Euro manufacturer has made an off-road vehicle. The plastic was still there, but it now been dressed more tastefully. And right off the bat, you got the impression this was a strong, confident blue collar wagon, as it did not scream “I can off-road too”. The flip side though now, was that I was left wondering if I would I take something like this offroad.
Once inside you were again hit with the same question: “Would I take this off road?” The inside was really nice, well presented and solid. Nice materials, soft touch leather, and plastic with a carbon like trim insert running throughout the cabin. You quickly forgot that you were in a off-road vehicle, as it just looked and felt like you were in a normal Passat or similar mid to high end business car. The seats were quite comfy, something I have started to notice more these days. New vehicles seem to either have somewhat odd seats that you can never find that “favorite spot on the couch position” that you’re happy with or there are seats that feel like they were made for you. And the Alltrack’s seats are the latter.
I soon hit that previous problem, while taking it off road, as I jumped in and out for some photos. My boots were covered in muck and quickly, covered the drivers matt and surrounding areas. I let all of this mud dry, and gave the car a clean. And after brushing off the mud and a quick vacuum, it was like new again. Over time I could see this ruining the look of the interior, and would recommend rubber floor mats if you’re a regular off-roader.
For the most part the interior was like your typical Golf, which is a good thing, as Golfs these days are well equipped. The list is somewhat endless; airbags for front driver and passenger, side airbags all round, and knee airbags for the driver. Electric parking brake, rear view camera, privacy glass, 3 zone climate control, cruise control, bluetooth, multi function steering wheel, 8 speakers, USB for iPod and IPhone, 6.5 inch touch screen media display, Navigation and App-connect (sadly we didn’t get to test due to a damaged usb port).
I like my Euro cars and like the look, feel and materials they use. But was a bit disappointed to see the weird material used around the centre console display screen. It’s grey and shiny and I suspect plastic. It screamed cheap and tacky to me, and was quite contrasting to the material used in the rest of the entire cabin. The other one, which is a bug bear with me on many cars, is the start/stop button. This button should be forever an exciting button to press, it should be big and red and say Press to Start. No matter how bad your day might have been, this little button with give you a lift. My own Audi RS6 suffers from this too, yes they are small things, but small details can sometimes affect the overall experience.
There are some nice touches in here, some of which are clever and subtle. One I really love is the way they have integrated the air vents into the main dash, sitting them behind a continuous grill that runs across the cabin. They have even cleverly engineered them so that when you direct the air vent it does not break the line across the dash.
The boot was an impressive space, the door opened high so even tall people like me did not have to duck to reach inside. When the rear seats were up, you have 639 litres, which is a good space. When the rear seats go down, and they go down flat, you get a massive 1769 litres. There are a lot of smart/integrated storage features which have been migrated from Skoda’s design language. I really liked the ability to put the boot cover in under the boot floor when you needed the full rear space for transport, nice simple and well executed feature. The other thing that blew my mind was the spare, never mind a full sized spare it was a full spare alloy, matching the rest of the wheels, impressive.
The Drive – On Road
The nice thing I like about driving VWs is that they generally all feel quite nice, fun, and easy to drive. I have a big fat Audi wagon, and it feels like a big fat wagon, and the Alltrack is a big wagon too. But spend some time behind the wheel and you quickly forget you’re in a big car, it handles much like a Golf. A good part of this will be to do with their MQB platform sharing technology, but it also shows they have not forgotten about what we want their brand to feel like. The Alltrack is no power wagon, nor is it trying to scream sport, but it is fun to drive. It feels light in the corners, and wherever you pointed the wheel, it hit the mark effortlessly.
Like any VW it had a long list of safety features, Electronic Stability Control. ABS with brake assist, ASR (traction control), EDL (electronic differential lock), EDTC (engine drag torque control) and trailer stabilisation. The engine was good, but it was a diesel. Anyone from anywhere could have said this is a diesel, as it had that iconic early 1900’s diesel tractor sound. Considering the quality of the rest of the car, this was about it’s only flaw – a decent one though The engine itself, was great, if not for the sound, didn’t feel like a diesel at all. With a single turbo, it produces 140kw of power and 400Nm of torque. 140Kw is not a lot, but it did the job and that 400Nm is what really counts. It’s not eye watering power, but it’s more than the car needs, so at no point did I feel the engine struggled with what I wanted from it. If we were on the motorway cruising it would quiet down a bit. And when you needed a burst of power it was there and got the vehicle up to speed quickly. Efficiency wise, it was pretty good too; normally we get cars with full tanks, this one only had half a tank for some reason. I normally cover around 600km a week, so I was quite impressed when and the end of the week I only needed to put $10 of diesel in to make sure I got back to the drop off point. I wasn’t able to hit the advertised 5.2 L per 100km, though I was able to get it down to 7.0L per 100km with a good mix of city and motorway driving.
The Alltrack comes with a Driving Mode Selection with options for Eco, Normal, Sport, Individual and Offroad. Eco mode, like many other cars, is a dulled down more lethargic feel to the car, allowing for the most efficient use of power delivery from the engine. Sport mode gave the car a bit more life, stiffening the ride, higher gear ratio, and giving you a lot more sensitivity on the pedal. Individual allowed you to customise the best of all worlds, making it feel the way you want it. And last but not least there was Offroad, which softened the ride allowing for more travel, and made the steering a bit lighter. All of these modes were great, except for Sport, and by this I do not mean how it felt, but how it was engaged. On the gear stick you have P, R, N, D/S and the + and – to the left of that. The D/S position mean that if you go down into D from when you start the car you are in Drive mode, like any normal auto. From here you are able to pull down on the gear stick, to a lower position that switches D to S. It’s like a spring loaded pull back switch that goes back to the position it started in but it had changed the selection. This is great for when you need a bit of power, just a quick pop of the gear stick down to switch to S and you’re away. But in fact you’re not away, because it hasn’t really changed anything. S via the gear stick now just held the gears longer, it had not changed the car’s feel or sportiness. To do these you need to do the gear stick change to S and the Diver mode selection to Sport, which is a bit off, and could have just changed automatically when it activated on the gear stick. I think the Golf GTi and Golf R do this automatically.
The Drive – Off Road
The week I had the Alltrack was a cold, wet and windy one, Which was quite good, as it gave the Alltrack a bit to work on. So off I went switching over to off-road driving mode, which displayed a degree of descent or climb, rotation of the wheels, and height above sea level. I did not get to test its true ability going up a down a steep climb, but the dirt track roads I traveled along would have been too difficult for a normal car, with logs, ruts, and divots, full of mud all over the place. The Alltrack handled it in its stride, the diesel providing heaps of low end torque to give you the confidence when maneuvering over rough terrain. The bottom part of the entire car was covered in plastic, and with combined with the extra travel in the suspension, large rocks or and or branches across the road were no problem for it, and if they contacted with the car, they generally did not leave any marks due to that protective layer. To be honest it was kinda weird, as it was so nice inside and so wet and muddy outside, quite a contrast. I got up to where I was taking photos early in the morning, and had to admit it was a pretty impressive vehicle. And for the family that like to get out and about and are not keen on SUVs, the Alltrack is a serious contender. On the way back when I got over the worst of the track I decided to have a bit of fun, and flicked off all the safety stuff. Now it was time for the fun stuff, large puddles and mud that resulted in a nice off-road coating. And at no point during this did the car get out of shape, it was so easy to control.
Some Outside Opinions
Being a Audi and VW owner, my Audi RS6 and the wife’s VW Golf R32, I was a member of VASK – Volkswagen Audi Sport Klub NZ. And I posted one of the photos up on their facebook page to see their off the cuff first impressions and thoughts. And everyone loved it, the new sharp look and style, and the majority of them pointed out the value for money, it was a no brainer in terms of a decent sized well spec’d wagon. So I think it was somewhat safe to say that they all like it.
What it’s up against
If you look at this specific market segment itself, there are not a huge amount of options in the same price range, as they spread across a wide level of pockets. However, what the Alltrack and similar vehicles really do is add additional options to the existing market segments for Wagons, and Crossover SUV, resulting in a lot more options for you to choose from.
Offroad Crossovers Wagons
|Brand / Model||Engine||Power||Fuel L/100km||Boot Capacity||Price Highest to Lowest|
|Audi A4 Allroad||2.0L i4 TDI||140kw / 400Nm||5.0 L / 100km||505 Litres||$87,400|
|Volvo V60 Cross Country||2.4L i5 TD||140 kw / 440Nm||4.2 L / 100km||430 Litres||$72,990|
|VW Passat Alltrack||2.0L i4 TDI||140 kw / 400Nm||5.2 L / 100km||639 Litres||$57,990|
|Subaru Outback 2.0D Premium||2.0L Tubro 4 cylinder Boxer||110kw / 350Nm||6.3 L / 100km||512 Litres||$57,990|
|Skoda Octavia Scout||2.0L TD||135kw / 380Nm||5.0 L / 100km||588 Litres||$50,490|
|Subaru Forester 2.0D||2.0L Tubro 4 cylinder Boxer||108kw / 350Nm||6.3 L / 100km||422 Litres||$46,990|
What do we think ?
At first I found it hard to figure out who this vehicle was targeted at, but after living with it for a week, I realised that it’s targeted at almost everyone. It’s a big, comfy, spacious, practical, good looking and great value for money vehicle. This segment is something not well understood by most people, but VW have found the sweet spot, where practicality, looks, driver feel and cost meet in perfect symmetry. I think they are onto a winner here. And we love it.
Rating – Chevron rating 4.5 out of 5
VW Passat Alltrack
|Vehicle Type||4WD Wagon Off Road Crossover|
|Starting Price||$ 57,990 NZD|
|Tested Price||$ 67,240 NZD|
|Engine||2.0L inline 4 cylinder Turbo Diesel|
|Transmission||6-speed dual clutch gearbox (DSG) transmission|
|0 – 100 kph||8.0 seconds|
|Kerb Weight||1705 kg|
|Length x Width x Height||4777 x 1832 x 1506 mm|
|Cargo Capacity||639 Litres (1769 Litres with seats folded)|
|Fuel Tank (range extender)||66 litres|
|Fuel Efficiency||Combined – 5.2 L / 100km|
|ANCAP Safety Ratings||5 Stars|