VOLKSWAGEN has toughened up its Passat wagon for time away from the bitumen, going nose-to-nose with the Subaru Outback as well as its siblings from Skoda and Audi.
VW Alltrack is only available here with a turbo-diesel and a six-speed twin-clutch automated manual, which immediately gives it an edge over the slightly cheaper, manual-only Subaru diesel.
Alltrack costs $47,790, an $1800 price hike over the equivalent 125TDI front-drive Passat wagon, putting it on the high side of a top-spec Subaru Outback Premium turbo-diesel manual by $1000.
Standard fare on the Alltrack includes the six-speed DSG, remote central locking, chrome roof rails, tinted and insulated windows, leather trim, dual-zone climate control, Bluetooth phone and audio link, a hard-drive equipped satnav and sound system with USB input and a powered tailgate.
There’s also a load space cover and net, heated and power-adjustable exterior mirrors, heated front seats, power-adjustable driver’s seat, splitfold rear seats with a remote release switch, 17-inch alloys with self-sealing tyres, and a space-saver spare.
The Alltrack inherits the 2.0-litre common-rail direct-injection turbo-diesel four-cylinder from its 2WD sibling, offering 125kW and 350Nm and a thirst of 6.3litres/100km, up by 0.6 over the 150kg lighter front-driver.
The turbo-diesel has a stop-start fuel saver system and a brake energy recovery system to boost the car’s electrical system.
The Alltrack’s electronic aids can be tweaked by pressing an Off-Road button on the centre console, which changes the anti-lock brakes’ program to work better on unsealed surfaces.
The off-road system also quickens the reaction time of the electronic differential locks to prevent wheelspin, automatically activates hill descent control, deactivates the stop-start fuel saver system and changes the accelerator pedal response characteristics.
Alltrack has the 4Motion drivetrain, which feeds only 10 per cent to the rear axle until the electro-hydraulic system sees a need to feed more to the rear.
The staid squared-off conservative look of the Passat wagon has been muscled up with wheel arch trim additions and bits on the front and rear bumpers, as well as chrome for the roof rails, dual exhausts, window trim, door mirrors and front grille.
Ground clearance has risen from 136mm to 165mm.
The Passat scores five stars under the NCAP regime and is not short of safety kit.
First impressions of the Alltrack are Passat with hiking boots and a bit more swagger.
Verdict: The Alltrack is a family wagon that can complete a broad range of modern SUV tasks.
Light beach work, fire trails and the school run are all within its reach, but it’s the snow bunnies who are really going to like it.