In an era when Australian families want the versatility of an SUV and the comfort and drivability of a passenger car, the VW Passat Alltrack makes a whole lot of sense.
After all, the Alltrack is simply a Passat wagon on steroids.
Alongside the car on which it is based, the wagon is beefier, thanks to additional plastic wheel arch covers, and stands a little taller.
The biggest difference between the domestic Passat and more rugged Alltrack is the Haldex 4WD system which, in combination with some electronic aids, enables it to travel off the black top.
It has also been lifted by 30mm, meaning a ground clearance of 165mm - which gives it the capacity to handle an array of off-road conditions - and it has been fitted with steel under-body protection for those times you may have got a little too ambitious. But it is still a lot closer to the more conventional medium-sized SUVs it is likely to be shopped against.
However, for day-to-day use it drives and feels like the highly accomplished Passat - well, almost.
Inside, apart from a few extra controls, it shares the same dash layout as the Passat and comes equipped with all the same technology and luxury.
Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic air-conditioning, reverse camera, front and rear parking sensors, Bluetooth connectivity, sat nav, colour touchscreen, electric driver's seat, leather trim, rain-sensing wipers and a 30 GB hard drive.
The equipment list also includes eight airbags, a fatigue-detection system, tyre-pressure sensors and electronic stability control.
The leather seats are comfortable and supportive and there is plenty of room for both front and back-row passengers.
Unusually for VW, the Alltrack only comes with one engine option, its proven 2.0-litre turbo diesel. It has been tuned to develop 130kW and maximum torque of 380 Newton metres, which is a good fit with the medium-sized wagon.
It's not the smoothest (in fact it has quite a rattle at start-up) or punchiest diesel but it's honest and hearty.
Acceleration is solid rather than brisk but the additional off-road features add 150kg, which is the equivalent of permanently carrying two extra adult passengers compared to the Passat.
The six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission does help it overcome the lack of power in some circumstances with some quick, smooth, gear changes.
The extra weight also affects its fuel usage, with the official consumption figure of 6.3L/100km 10 per cent more than the regular Passat wagon.
During the test period I was averaging 8.4L/100km which is a fair bit shy of the official figure but still a pretty good effort for a vehicle that is capable of comfortably transporting a family of five and a heap of gear in the back.VERDICT
The Alltrack is a car that makes sense for those families who still want the option of being able to occasionally go off-road without having to make many sacrifices in terms of comfort and performance for day-to-day use.
- VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT *
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo-diesel with stop/start
Transmission: Six-speed DSG
Safety: Five starsCOMPETITORS
SUBARU OUTBACK AWD
Model: 2.0D Premium
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged Boxer diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual (an automatic variant will be released next month)
Safety: Five starsSKODA OCTAVIA SCOUT AWD
Model: Premium 103TDI
Price: $51,139.57 (drive away)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo-diesel
Transmission: Six-speed DSG auto
Safety: Five starsAUDI A4 ALLROAD
Model: 2.0 TDI quattro
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo-diesel
Transmission: Seven-speed S-tronic auto
Safety: Five stars