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Four wheel drive estate cars are niche products, the preference of upmarket folk who live in the country or in a salubrious suburb of our capital city. With the SUV boom and the clamour for tank-like proportions on the road, the estate car has found itself pushed out so far that you’re almost a quirky type if you choose to go the long and lean route. Drive an estate car? You’re the new alternative.
However Volkswagen really does have this small market nailed with the new Passat Alltrack, which has arrived here for the first time in the model’s history. It’s a four wheel drive version of a standard Passat estate, and will take you from the road to the rough in a lot of style and comfort.
Go for Habanero Orange, a vibrant orange exclusive to the Alltrack, and there’s no mistaking the fact that the Alltrack is a bit special. Grey plastic cladding along the car’s lower extremities, a raised ride height, silver roof rails and the twinkle of some chrome, give the Alltrack an imposing presence.
Inside it’s the big, comfy, robust car you want it to be, with a sleek interior design and premium finish. The boot will carry 639 litres with the rear seats up, expanding to 1769 litres with the rear seats folded down. In terms of equipment it’s got all the essentials as standard including adaptive cruise control, electric windows and electric folding mirrors, a touchscreen infotainment system including navigation, heated front seats, air conditioning, alloy wheels and front fog lights.
Power comes from a 2.0-litre diesel with two different power outputs depending on which gearbox you go for. It’s 150bhp with the manual, but I tested the higher powered version with the DSG automatic transmission and 190bhp.
I did three motorway trips in three days in the Passat Alltrack and each time I stepped out of the car I felt like getting back into it and heading out on the road again. There was just not enough time to do all the driving I could have done in this. It’s an overwhelmingly powerful and smooth car to drive, and with four wheel drive, it puts its power to the road with little fuss, even in the most dismal of weather. The extra height and weight is apparent – there’s lean in fast corners – and you don’t exactly feel light on the road, but it’s a small compromise for all this comfort.
And what should happen if you do venture off road? A drive selector allows you to toggle between normal, sport, eco and off-road modes, the latter includes a hill ascent and hill descent control to help you look awesome at off-roading. The Passat Alltrack has a towing load of up to 2.2 tonnes but you could make life easier by heading to the options list and selecting the foldable trailer hitch that can be operated easily from a switch in the boot. There’s also an optional trailer assist feature to help park a trailer.
A car like this does not come cheap. The Alltrack range starts at €40,940, while the higher powered DSG starts at €46,755. Running costs are going to be a bit higher when compared to a conventional Passat, with official figures suggesting a return of up to 55mpg for the DSG, and motor tax of €280 per year.
As a four wheel drive estate car, the Passat Alltrack is a niche product, and if you’re just looking for a big estate car, a standard Passat estate will probably do the trick and save you some money too.
But if you do have that need for four wheel drive, whether for poor road conditions or driving on muddy tracks or through wet fields with maybe a caravan in tow, the Passat Alltrack really is the full package of comfort, space, power, refinement, utility and style.
Model tested: Volkswagen Passat Alltrack Business Edition
Price: €48,355 (Alltrack range starts at €40,940)
Engine & Transmission: 2.0-litre TDI 4MOTION DSG
0-100km/h: 7.7 seconds
CO2 emissions: 135g/km
Tax band: B2 (€280 per year)