You can't argue with the figures. Volkswagen's new Passat Alltrack is a big step forward in power, fuel economy and standard equipment — all for just $1000 more than before.
The new one, launched this week in the wilds of the Wolgan Valley in the Blue Mountains, will set you back $49,290, or $52,790 with the $3500 luxury pack, the sole option.
At this price, Alltrack claims the middle ground between the $35,000 Outback and the $69,000 Volvo.
The original Alltrack was impressive enough and the changes are icing on the cake.
For the money you get automatic transmission, leather trim, tri-zone aircon, power tailgate, satnav, rear-view camera, adaptive cruise control, heated front seats, front and rear parking sensors, fatigue detection, auto emergency braking and other driver aids. LED lights are part of the luxury pack.
The original Alltrack was impressive enough and the changes introduced with this edition are icing on the cake.
The 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine, now punching out 140kW of power and 400Nm of torque, is hooked up to a six-speed dual-clutch auto.
Its all-wheel-drive setup distributes power between the front and rear wheels and there are front and rear diff locks.
It misses out on gear-change paddles but the abundant torque makes them superfluous.
The wagon sits 27.5mm higher than a standard Passat and rides on 18-inch alloys.
Unlike some off-road wannabes, it comes with a full-size alloy spare. If things go pear-shaped, its self-repairing Continental tyres can plug a hole less than 5mm in diameter — VW claims this scenario applies to 85 per cent of flats.
Underbody protection is now made from plastic instead of steel.
On the road
The original Alltrack was a comfortable and capable car to drive and we would have happily made room for it in the driveway. The new one refines the formula — it looks slicker and has a little more luggage space with the seats up or down.
The car steers nicely and exhibits high levels of grip, but tends to push the nose in corners.
The leather seats are comfortable with power adjustment for the driver's backrest and lumbar support and the chunky steering wheel fits snugly in the hands. The tri-zone aircon means rear passengers can set the temperature separately.
The Alltrack hugs the road securely and its standard adaptive cruise takes the tedium out of long hauls.
Auto stop-start helps to bring claimed fuel use down to 5.4L/100km although on test we were reading more like 8.1L (coincidentally the same figure we returned in the original).
The electromechanical steering is firm and reacts to speed as well as driver input,
There are five drive modes to select, including off road, that change throttle and steering settings and gear shiftpoints.
The car steers nicely and exhibits high levels of grip, but tends to push the nose in corners, with plenty of tyre noise. Off road it proves a bit flighty, which is a concern when this is the very environment that it has been designed for.