Although the Passat has been around for quite a while, the four-wheel drive version of the Estate, namely the Alltrack, wasn't unveiled until the 2015 Geneva Motor Show and launched in UK with the choice of a 2.0 TDI 150PS 6-speed manual (£30,885) and the 2.0 TDI 190PS 6-speed DSG (£33,935).
The Alltrack is modified to provide both on-road and off-road capabilities providing, and I'm reading from the press bumf here, an excellent combination of performance, comfort, loadspace and traction in poor conditions. I have to agree, jumping into the 190ps version there's certainly a sense of calmness and practicality about the Passat.
The first thing I noticed, just like the new Tiguan, Scirocco and the Golf Estate Alltrack that we drove, was that the seats are super comfy, and big. You may wonder why I'm making such a fuss about the seats, but you can make the quickest, fastest and most beautifully hand-built vehicle in the world, but chuck in a pair of naff seats and all your hard work has gone to waste because the driving experience is tainted. All the VW's I've mentioned have some of the nicest seats my bum has touched for a long time and therefore enhanced my driving experience ten-fold.
If I'm going to be critical though, I thought the dash layout and design was a bit 'meh', Muddy Madam however loved it and therefore informed me that I was wrong, so wrong in fact that I even received a 'you have no idea what you're talking about' look. Having said that I did like the weighty and solid feel of the switchgear, plus I thought the overall fit and finish of the interior was top quality.
The Altrack has the standard equipment of Passat GT with Adaptive Cruise Control with Front Assist and City Emergency Braking, Discover Navigation, 3-Zone electronic climate control, remote electrically foldable door mirrors and so on, you get a lot of equipment for your hard earned pennies.
So, what's it like off-road? No idea, we'll hopefully get the opportunity to borrow one soon for a proper review, so watch this space.
What we do know is that the ground clearance is increased by 27.5mm to 174mm and a fair bit of underbody protection has been added. It also has the 4MOTION all-wheel drive system with an Haldex coupling that sends drive almost instantly to rear wheels when needed. There's an EDL (Electronic Differential Lock) that electronically provides similar benefits to that of limited slip differentials at front and rear and 'off-road' mode adds Hill Descent Assist..
As well as having a towing capacity 2200kg (braked) there's a Trailer Assist option that simplifies reversing of any type of trailer.
In fairness, the Altrack isn't really designed for those of us who want to venture off the beaten track, rather as a tow car that will see you escape from both a muddy paddock and campsite with ease.
We took the Passat on as many road surfaces as we could to see how it behaved, and from the smooth sweeping A roads to the pot-holed unclassified farmers tracks, it behaved impeccably. It was quiet too, full marks are given to the sound deadening as well as the six-speed DSG twin-clutch box which shifts crisply with no hesitation.
Overall we thought that the Alltrack offers the Passat a lot more flexibility and extra safety during our winter months. Muddy Madam concluded that the Passat Alltrack felt solid and dependable and would be the ideal car to ferry her on the long and laborious trips to Birmingham every week, which believe it or not, is high praise indeed.