VW Passat Alltrack

Mud-plugger wagon rolls up its designer cuffs

ALEX INWOOD

FIRST OVERSEAS DRIVE

THROW a pair of hiking boots and khaki shorts at the new Volkswagen Passat wagon and this is what you get.

Itís the second-gen Passat Alltrack, which brings a Alltrack, which brings a dose of off-road ability to VWís sleek mid-sizer thanks to a jacked up ride-height, heavy-duty bash plates and an armoury of high-tech off-road systems. Think of it as the Passatís rugged, more-outdoorsy brother and youíve got the picture.

Like the regular Passat, which arrives Down Under this month, the new Alltrack is lighter, faster and more efficient than the car it replaces, and is set apart by unique bumpers, trapezoidal exhaust tips and bespoke wheels.

Thereís also an on-demand allwheel- drive system, suspension raised by 27.5mm and the inclusion of an Ďoff-roadí mode that alters everything from the traction- and stability-control systems, to the suspension, gearbox, hill holder and descent control for added performance on rough surfaces.

Aussie variants are also likely to boast VWís XDS+ electronic diff, which provides selective braking to the front wheels to increase traction. Perplexingly, though, the Alltrackís launch in Germany didnít include any off-road driving, so the verdict is still out as to how capable this new model is when the going gets tough.

What we can report is that injecting a dose of 4x4 ability has done nothing to blunt the latest Passatís superb road manners and refinement.

Thereís the same luxe interior, the same unflustered handling and, importantly, a suite of hightech toys, headlined by a new, purely digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster. The optional system is almost identical to Audiís virtual cockpit, only cheaper, and letís you shrink the dials to boost the size of the integrated sat-nav.

Four engine options are available (one 2.0-litre petrol and three 2.0-litre diesels), but VW Oz has chosen to offer just one Alltrack variant when it arrives in 2016, powered by the mid-spec 140kW/400Nm turbo-diesel.

This new-gen TDI is lighter and 15 percent more fuel efficient, but it can feel sluggish from a standstill.

Sadly, the Alltrackís best engine Ė a twin-turbo 176kW/500Nm diesel Ė isnít coming here, though VW Oz may consider it in the future.

The six-speed dual-clutch gearbox can also get caught out in traffic and occasionally delivers jerky shifts. On the move, though, thereís plenty to like. The 140kW Alltrack delivers ample mid-range grunt, its cabin is impressively quiet, and the ride on adaptive dampers is nicely compliant.

VW is tipping a price tag of just under $50,000, which wonít only make it a lot of car and tech for the money, but should stick it firmly on the shopping list of anyone considering a mid-size SUV. re

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Volkswagen Passat Alltrack 1984cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, TD 140kW @ 3500-4000rom 400Nm @ 1900-3300rpm 6-speed dual-clutch 1630kg 8.0sec (claimed) 5.1L/100km (EU) $48,000 (estimated) Q2 2016

PLUS & MINUS

No high-output diesel for Australia; DSG stumbles in city traffic Refinement; classy, quiet cabin; superb road manners; interior tech

Performance parked

IF YOU were hoping the newgeneration Passat might see a return of the mighty R36, prepare to be disappointed.

When quizzed about the chances of a new halo model, Passat technical manager Heiko Nause said there are no plans for a performance variant Ė for now, at least.

While denying any official work has begun, Nause said he is personally in favour of the project. ďI would love to do it; Iím all for it,Ē he said. The short-lived Passat R36 launched in 2008 and drove all four wheels via a 220kW/350Nm 3.6-litre V6. i