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Car reviews - Volkswagen - Passat - Alltrack Wolfsburg Edition

Our Opinion

We like
Comfortable and quiet, extra Wolfsburg spec adds tangible value
Room for improvement
Engine response can be laggy, 19-inch rims really not suitable for off road use


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1 Mar 2017

THE high-riding wagon phenomenon is nothing new. Subaru’s Adventure Wagon really got the ball rolling in the 1980s, while its Outback is currently one of the marque’s top performers.

The Volkswagen Group joined the party a bit late – and in part as a stop-gap response to its current dearth of SUV products in key demographics. The A4 and A6 now offer raised wagons in their ranges, as does the Volkswagen Golf.

The B7 Passat added the Alltrack to its range in 2016, and it follows the trend of the other VAG cars in offering just one spec. VW’s 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel four-cylinder engine powers the car, and is backed by a six-speed dual-clutch transmission that teams up with a fifth-generation front-biasing Haldex all-wheel drivetrain.

Inside, the $54,590 (plus on roads) Passat Alltrack in well specced, with leather upholstery, auto lights and wipers, auto tailgate, a decent multimedia system and a full suite of driver assistance electronics such as AEB, radar cruise, lane departure assistance and rear cross-traffic alert.

Outside, the Alltrack differs from its regular Passat sibling by dint of a 27mm suspension lift, black plastic over-fenders and lower sills and a composite underbody panel stretched to protect the sump, transmission and vital all-wheel drive bits from major damage.

The front and rear bumpers, too, are re-profiled to add a bit more approach and departure clearance.

Is it a pukka off-roader? Despite the presence of an off-road mode within the driver select system and that extra ground clearance, not really. It will pick its way down a roughish forestry road to get to a camp site, or traverse hard-packed sand to get to a secluded beach … but it’s all too easy to get sucked into thinking that this civvy-spec wagon with an off road dress-up kit can tackle the great Aussie bush with impunity.

Which brings us neatly to the $59,990 Wolfsburg edition …For $5400 on top of the regular Passat Alltrack, VW will add adaptive suspension, better LED headlights and taillights, and its cool, clever Active Info Display dash that is being filtered out across the VAG empire one platform at a time.

It also adds a set of 19-inch alloys with Pirelli Cinturato road tyres – and it’s here that the off road mystique falls down.

The Pirellis are quiet, grippy and comfortable road tyres, and will handle hard packed gravel and dirt-over-hardpack trails easily.

However, the shallower sidewalls and prominent machined edge on the rims means that even a small bump with some trail debris can inflict real damage.

In fact (confession time), we damaged a tyre during testing while traversing a small ledge with a nasty rock hidden on the other side. The bump in the car was hardly noticeable, but the sidewall of the tyre was damaged beyond repair.

To be fair, the rock was positioned badly (and the dopey driver didn’t check his terrain before traversing), and it would have almost certainly marked even a tougher dual-terrain tyre – but the road-biased Pirelli didn’t stand a chance.

Kudos to Volkswagen, though, for outfitting the Passat Alltrack with a proper, identical full-size spare and a comprehensive tool kit, which meant we were able to escape our predicament easily enough.

Other than that, the Passat Alltrack Wolfsburg is a quiet, comfortable tourer with a ridiculous amount of interior space – it’s got more space inside it than VW’s Touareg, in terms of both luggage and legroom.

The Active Info Display – a 12.3-inch full colour screen that completely replaces the dash instrument array – is easy to read and a pleasure to look at.

Toggling through the various options isn’t especially easy, though, but we would suggest owners will find a page layout that suits them and then leave it alone.

The taller suspension gives the Passat a suppleness and softness that’s sharpened just enough by those low-profile Pirellis, too.

The Passat Alltrack joins a niche filled with oddly practical, good looking wagons that don’t fall into the trap of being a high-riding SUV of large dimensions but minimal interior room. The value of the Wolfsburg pack is sound, too, and makes a nice car even more pleasant to live with.

Just don’t mistake Alltrack for off-road, though.

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