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Volkswagen Passat Alltrack driven
Driven May 2012
Of course people won't actually buy the VW Passat Alltrack. Not when they could have a Land Rover Evoque for similar money instead - we can understand that.
But what about the people who buy other SUVs? What's their excuse, come the time when they will inevitably overlook the Alltrack in favour of something taller? You know the answer. Buying an SUV is not about ability. It's about status.
This is a shame, as the Alltrack does a bang-up job of linking the best bits of a family estate with the necessary bits of an SUV. It has a Haldex 4WD system that sends 90 per cent of torque to the front wheels normally (helps efficiency), but can switch and send almost all to the rear wheels. It's proven, reliable, seamless technology.
It's placed under a Passat body that's been lifted by 30mm, raising clearance to 165mm. That's enough for the Alltrack to keep its belly clean in most circumstances, and, if it isn't, Volkswagen has equipped the underside of the engine with a proper metal skid plate.
That's the one you can't see. The ones you can - front and rear - are made of plastic, as are the new sills. It's perfectly good plastic, but it is the only bodywork change, so making the Alltrack short of any extra kudos.
In the UK (where it arrives this July), it'll only be available with a 2.0-litre diesel engine. The entry-level model is a 138bhp manual; the other, a 168bhp DSG twin-clutch. Both are smooth, quiet and thoroughly capable (if slightly high on CO2) engines, and there's nothing intrinsically wrong with the manual gearbox. It's just that the DSG makes life easier and has that bit more overtaking punch.
What impressed me more was the supple ride and handling. The suspension has been toughened up to cope with the supposed extra workload, and simply feels like it's been constructed from more expensive components. The Alltrack doesn't wallow and generally feels relaxed and quietly professional. It's also spacious, nicely finished inside and good to live with.