What's it like?
About as inoffensive as cars come. That's damning with faint praise, yes, but then this is motoring at its most rational and functional. Make the interior nice, the ride comfortable, make sure the steering doesn’t feel weird, nor the engine do anything but quietly tick over in the background, sipping as little fuel as possible, and you have the motoring equivalent of a comfy knitted jumper.
The Passat Alltrack is all of those things. The interior is a real high point; not chintzy, solidly built, and with the right amount of useful technology, clear screens, and sensibly laid out switchgear. The seats are big and comfy, and the view out from the cabin is commanding. It’s an interior that wouldn’t feel out of place another rung or two up the pricing ladder.
Key among the appeal of a rugged estate over an SUV is the more traditional-car-like handling. The Passat Alltrack is the latest of the breed that doesn’t roll around corners like its trendier, higher-sided SUV stablemates, and feels a more familiar driving experience. Still, it’s a very neutral-handling car; buyers aren’t looking for any real driver involvement in this part of the Volkswagen range.
Elsewhere, the steering is precise enough, yet offers little to no feedback, while the ride comfort is a touch softer and more comfortable than the regular Passat Estate thanks to the extra suspension travel.
We picked a nice snowy weekend on which to test the Passat’s Alltrack credentials. Slushy roads were as extreme as the conditions got, but there was never any loss in traction, nor any diminishing of the car’s steady, predictable character. That’s helped by the strong, flexible diesel engine, the only black marks against which are the slightly higher than welcome din it makes at motorway speeds, and the fuel economy’s refusal to go too far above 40mpg, even in the Eco driving mode.