Tuesday, 20 March 2018

VW shows it can think on its fleet

There was little outward indication that this week’s drive would turn out to be something a bit special.

There was little outward indication that this week’s drive would turn out to be something a bit special.

Aside from the quietly handsome 18in alloy wheels on the Volkswagen Passat Alltrack 2.0 TDi 150 and some elegantly placed chrome trim, it looked more or less like any other smart executive estate.

Indeed, Volkswagen says a majority of the new Passats — that is, some 70 per cent — will be sold to company fleet operators.

But I reckon the private buyer could be missing out if he did not realise that these types of cars are very satisfactory to own and drive and not wildly expensive to buy.

Especially the Passat Alltrack estate. The clue is in the name. Unveiled at Geneva Motor Show in March 2015 the Passat Alltrack is a four-wheel drive version of the Passat Estate, modified to provide both on-road and off-road capabilities.

The resulting drive can be exhilarating — which comes as a bit of a surprise for a car that is supposed to be meant for hard-pressed execs hacking their way back and forth on Britain’s motorways.

The comfort is there as you might expect, both back and front. (For rear seat passengers there is lots of lounging room.) But I found this all-wheel driving technology ticked boxes in surprising profusion such as handling, quick cornering, and stability at speed.

Never mind off-road, I found on motorways the Passat Alltrack estate comes into its own. It ripped up the miles with consummate ease.

Volkswagen says it expects the version I was driving with its two-litre diesel engine and manual gearbox to prove the most popular.

I can see why. Usually these days I am thankful when some cars have automatic gearboxes. It makes life easier (and might indicate I am getting lazy in my dotage).

Yet in the Passat Alltrack, the manual transmission is a positive boon. There is also an automatic — the 2.0 TDI 190PS six-speed DSG, which I hope to test at a later date.

Way back, you used to drive turbo-diesels with the knowledge that there would be turbo lag between gear changes. Those days are of course long gone.

The Passat Alltrack, with its all-wheel drive, climbs quickly to speed when needed. Then it positively swoops along.

Although I did not get an opportunity to try it off-road — who does these days? — I found that during a long week of travelling back and forth on the M4, this car was distinctly comforting to be in. I reckon we spent three and a half hours each day in this car, mainly on a motorway for four out of five days. It was not an ideal situation — a personal matter where someone was taken into hospital — yet the Passat Alltrack never faltered.

Sometimes with covering so many miles in a short space of time, the driver can suffer. I can honestly say that though fatigued by the sheer volume of mileage, the cabin ergonomics in the test car proved a great barrier to any prolonged discomfort.

Not only that but the Alltrack was economical: of course, as I always say, fuel consumption depends on how you drive.

Going at top permitted motorway speeds most of the time, the Passat sipped the fuel. A diesel BlueMotion model returns an estimated 78mpg on the combined cycle.

Maybe it is because this car’s ground clearance has been increased by 27.5mm to 174mm with underbody protection added.

Maybe it is the 4MOTION all-wheel drive with Haldex coupling. This sends drive almost instantly to rear wheels when needed. Front-wheel drive is the default to minimise fuel consumption.

Whatever the engineering technology that is the driving force behind this car, it translates in huge benefits to the person behind the wheel.

There is a full range of electronic assistance and connectivity features available in this new Passat: Apple and Android compatible, Volkswagen Car-Net App-Connect (based on Mirrorlink, CarPlay and Android Auto applications), and Car-Net Guide and Inform.

Volkswagen says the Passat Alltrack is forecast to account for five per cent of Passat Estate UK sales.

I think if more drivers knew about the joys of this technology in relation to driving, they would be upping that figure by more than a few percentage points.

For my money, a car like this for around the £30,000 mark is a snip.

Passat Alltrack facts

Test model: Volkswagen Passat Alltrack 2.0 TDi 150

Basic on the road price: £30,855

Launched in UK with the choice of a 2.0 TDI 150PS six-speed manual at £30,885 and 2.0 TDI 190PS six-speed DSG at £33,935 (recommended on-the-road retail prices)

Ground clearance increased by 27.5mm to 174mm. Underbody  protection added

Passat Alltrack provides combination of  performance, comfort, loadspace, traction in poor conditions and overall cost of  ownership

Trailer Assist option  simplifies reversing of any type of trailer.  Towing capacity 2,200kg (braked)

A diesel BlueMotion model returns an  estimated 78 mpg on the combined cycle

Allroad has standard equipment of Passat GT (such as Adaptive Cruise Control with Front Assist and City Emergency Braking, Discover Navigation, 3Zone electronic climate control, remote  electrically foldable door mirrors, Bluetooth and parking sensors) plus a wide range of interior and exterior trim enhancements

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