5.4L / 100km 16.4 L/ 100km
It's hard to know how to describe the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack, apart from calling it Volkswagen's Subaru Outback. That's not to say it's better or worse than the boxer-engined Suby (we'll get to that), it's just that Subaru has done a fine job marketing and developing the all-wheel-drive wagon for a long time (all hail the L-Series). Therefore, anything similar automatically gets put in that box. But while that's the easiest way to describe Vee-Dub's newest medium all-wheel-drive wagon SUV, it's not the most accurate.
What're the numbers?
In numbers, the Alltrack is a five-door wagon with a 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine. It produces 140kW and 400Nm, while VW says it should only use 5.4 litres of diesel per 100km. It delivers that power to all four wheels via the company's 4Motion all-wheel-drive system and a six-speed DSG transmission. It can even tow up to 2200kg, which is more than respectable. It'll cost you $49,290 plus on roads, $700 extra for anything but white, then another $3500 more if you want the luxury pack. The pack adds a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights with dynamic cornering, park assist and a few trim upgrades.
What sets it apart from a normal Passat wagon is an additional 27.5mm of ground clearance, underbody protection, an off-road driving mode, plenty of fancy 'Alltrack' badging and highlights, plus the aforementioned 4Motion system.
Sitting a notch above top-of-the-range Passat Highline, the Alltrack is well equipped, even without all its off-road frills. Ticking off the normal 'luxuries', the Alltrack is upholstered in leather, has dual zone air conditioning, auto everything and a flash, eight-inch multimedia display screen with complete phone connectivity. Without boring you with a list, it has nearly everything you'd expect.
Where it gets fancier is in the safety technology. There are nine airbags in total, as well as a large suite of active safety aids. The Passat's adaptive cruise control will monitor forward traffic and match its speed. Volkswagen's Lane Assist technology will monitor the car's position on the road and recognise if its about to leave the lane, providing subtle, but active steering input to prevent the likelihood of the Alltrack veering into another lane. There are also blind spot monitors and 'city emergency brake', which can bring the car to a complete stop from speeds under 65km/h if it detects a potential crash ahead. As well as that, there's multi-collision brake, which applies the brakes after an accident to prevent the car careening off into others.
It's also a comfortable car to drive. As well as a manual forward/back, up/down seat adjustment, the driver can electronically change lumbar and knee support. Except on coarse, bitumen roads, very little road or engine noise invades the cabin. And even on gravel roads, the suspension is very capable of damping even harsh jolts – as we discovered on an unexpected cattlegrid, and over plenty of potholes on the Mount Horrible road, back of Bathurst.
How does it go off road?
In fact, when in the Off Road driving mode, the Alltrack is commendable. The mode, among other things, changes the throttle response, tells the DSG to hold gears longer and even adjusts the ABS so the pulse is slower. This works to build small mounds of dirt in front of the tyres, slowing it down faster. It works; I nearly hit a kangaroo and it could have been far worse. There's a full size spare and it has run-flat tyres, which rely on a sticky, viscous gel to quickly plug small punctures from things like nails or screws.
Off-road considerations aside, Volkswagen has done a very good job of building a practical, fuel efficient diesel SUV that isn't boring to drive (we're looking at you, Subaru Outback). With 140kW and 400Nm, it's got plenty of get-up backed by a nearly faultless transmission. If it weren't for the transmission lag when dropping down gears for quick acceleration, we could get rid of the 'nearly'. Even with its energy, we still recorded fuel economy as good as 5.7L/100km (from the trip computer) over a few hundred kilometres of driving.
On the surface, the Passat Alltrack does seem expensive, especially if you compare it directly to the aforementioned Subaru, which is nearly $8000 cheaper (or even something like the all new, proper off-road and four-wheel-drive, Mitsubish Pajero Sport). But consider the safety technology, extra power and its more sophisticated all-wheel-drive system, and it quickly makes sense. You might then compare it to something like the front-wheel-drive Ford Mondeo (Titanium – $49,340 plus on roads) and realise it's even better value still.
Which all makes the Passat Alltrack the car to buy if you like some mildly adventurous driving, don't mind excitement occasionally, but mostly don't want a giant car that sucks up a lot of fuel.