Thursday – Passat Vs Panda Shock!


Last day with the VW Alltrack before we swap it for something altogether more rugged – the, ahem, Fiat Panda 4×4… Both are parked outside at the moment and while I pander for the Panda, I’ll miss the no-nonsense functionality of the Passat too.

After a ‘short’ life time of driving a different car every week, I’m starting to appreciate the comforts of a big estate. Especially one that comes with such a classless persona (if you can ignore the hefty price tag!). That’s what happens when you hit 50…

The outdoorsy image of the Alltrack is pretty subtle on the outside, while there’s just the logo splashed on the centre console inside to remind you that this is one Passat that can perform well off-road too.

The chrome roof rails, obligatory black plastic cladding on the wheel arches and bumpers, and the underbody protection panels are less in your face than they might sound.

So, a well-built, more practical alternative to a conventional SUV. The Alltrack is the prefect antidote to those over-sized 4x4s that do more to massage our egos than our actual needs.

Wednesday – The Understatedly Cool Passat?


There was a time when the Passat estate was considered, ahem, not very cool. A middle of the road estate for people who didn’t really care how they got from A to B, as long as they got there.

There have been a few sporty and interesting versions along the way, the Passat has, after all, been around since 1973 when SUVs were a pipe dream and Britain first joined the EEC.

The Alltrack is by far the most expensive, not just because it has four-wheel drive but because it is fully loaded with every driving aid that VW could throw at it.

For all that, I think the Passat has developed an understated ‘cool’ – it stands for longevity, reliability and a classless aura that you just don’t get with a Mercedes or Audi estate.

Cool? Perhaps not in the true sense but I still look forward to driving it every day…


Monday – The Cut-Price Audi allroad


A cut-price Audi allroad? Maybe but the Alltrack is a very decent off-roader in its own right. Living on a farm, there’s plenty of opportunity to put the VW’s off-road ability to the test – and that’s where most of the additional work on this Passat estate has been directed.

With the regular Passat’s ride height upped from 135 to 165mm, it can cope well enough with rutted tracks and pot-holed lanes. The 4MOTION system pushes 90 per cent of the power to the front wheels for everyday driving, then adjusts accordingly when the rear wheels start to lose grip.

Just like a Land Rover, the Alltrack has a hill descent system too, which takes all the skill out of slipping down a slippery slope. It works in conjunction with the DSG automatic gearbox and is simplicity itself.

On road, there is a wealth of safety equipment, like blind spot monitoring and lane assist. It’s a very competent car in the dirt and off. The perfect machine for a family? Yes, if you can justify the high price tag.

Sunday – When Heaters Were An Optional Extra


The 1960s was a beautiful age of car making. Sadly, my father was more in to his garden than ‘digging’ his car. The result? A Hillman Husky estate (well worth a Google) than bore a remarkably sad face and was painted lifeless grey.

Cars like that can have a serious affect on a child. No wonder I grew up in the backseat looking at other, more aesthetically pleasing vehicles, wondering why we owned such a shed. Optional extras in the Hillman included way out luxuries, like a heater and a radio. We had neither – or a heated rear screen for that matter.

The Passat could be considered a new millennium equivalent of the Husky. An everyday family estate, of modest looks, it is, however, extraordinarily well-equipped in Alltrack form. My father would have marvelled just at electrically folding door mirrors, with LED integrated indicators and automatic dimming function.

He also never owned a car with heated seats, satellite navigation or rain sensing windscreen wipers for that matter. His vegetable garden was amazing though and we never went to bed hungry…


Saturday – Sensibly Smart


Nobody really wants to be called sensible, do they? Not unless you are an MP, a judge or looking for a place on the parish council. Sensible shoes, sensible hats and a sensible pension plan – it’s enough to make you consider buying a Skoda.

The Passat Alltrack is sensible too but in a rather good way. The rise of the SUV means that the great British car buying public has become obsessed with rufty-tufty 4x4s – vehicles that are all about status and kudos, and not really what most buyers actually need.

The Alltrack is  a sensible choice because it does everything an SUV does, drives like a normal car AND looks great. VW designers have obviously increased the ride height for better ground clearance, added some discreet styling trim and fitted front and rear underside scuff plates. However, to all intent and purposes, the Alltrack still looks like a standard Passat estate. No bad thing.

The Passat isn’t a car for the enthusiastic driver but as sensible as it is, the Alltrack is also super competent, has rock solid build qualities and is exceptionally well screwed together. And who wants to be a footballer’s wife in an SUV anyway?

Friday – Estate That Thinks It’s An SUV


The Passat estate is the surprise car of the year so far. Last time I drove one of these it was a poor second to the Ford Mondeo – now Volkswagen’s family mover is a seriously refined machine.

Okay, that may be because this is the top-of-the-range Alltrack version that costs as much as a decent SUV. However, with 4Motion four-wheel drive it is equally as capable and sports a much bigger load area in the boot.

In fact, it’s hard to see why anybody would want a cumbersome 4×4 when you could opt for the Alltrack. It may lack a little extra ground clearance but let’s face it, how many SUV owners really put their cars to the test in anything more than a muddy field?

It also drives in a more car-like manner – which means no body roll on the corners and better handling all round. What’s not to like about this Passat, apart from the high price?

Thursday – VW Passat Alltrack


The Alltrack is one of those cars that slips under the radar. Typical Volkswagen styling means that it looks like a ‘normal’ Passat estate and hasn’t been overcooked by the design department.

What’s the betting that any other manufacturer building a four-wheel drive estate car would have opted for plastic side mouldings and a rash of 4×4 stickers to emphasis the off-road ability?

As such, the Alltrack blends in with the rest of the Passat family when it really does have a good deal more to shout about.  It isn’t cheap at £32,000 but it drives beautifully, especially on corners where most SUVs wallow and moan.

While the bodywork has been raised 3cm to give better ground clearance and it boasts 4Motion all-wheel drive, this is really an estate car build for the road. Join us this week to see how week get on…