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Volkswagen Passat Alltrack v Subaru Outback

Volkswagen Passat Alltrack vs Subaru Outback.

The intent is the same but the formula varies with crossover wagons. Craig Duff rates one for bitumen and the other for greasy going.

value

Volkswagen Passat Alltrack 140TDI

List price: $49,290

The VW brings incremental improvements in cabin ambience and technology but it needs to, given the premium. The eight-inch touchscreen outguns the Outback’s seven-inch job. Tri-zone aircon lets rear occupants set the temperature and the audio works with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Services are every 12 months/ 15,000km and the first three cost $1289 plus fluids and filters.

Subaru Outback 2.0D Premium

List price: $42,990

Subaru‘s dearer servicing doesn’t make much of a dent in the overall ownership equation. Anyone wanting the active driver assistance suite will need to allow $3000 for the automatic version. The Outback needs servicing every six months/12,500km at a cost of $2444 over three years. Standard gear includes heated front seats, auto lights and wipers, satnav and full-size spare.

design

Volkswagen Passat Alltrack 140TDI

Take a Passat wagon, raise the ride height 27mm to 175mm and give it a tougher, off-road look with flared sills and wheel arch moulding and new bumpers. It looks lower and leaner than its competition but in this context that may not be a good thing. These are intended to mount more than kerbs and the VW cedes almost 40mm of ground clearance. Its turning circle is appreciably bigger at 11.7m to the Outback’s 11.0m.

Subaru Outback 2.0D Premium

The Subaru’s higher ride (and chunky roof rails) translates into more wind noise but less discomfort through potholes and corrugations typically found offroad. It has marginally less cargo area with the seats up (512L to 639L) but a touch more when the back pews are folded (1801L to 1769L). The Outback is rated at 1700kg braked towing against 2200kg for the VW … but the Subie has a higher towball load of 170kg to 90kg.

technology

Volkswagen Passat Alltrack 140TDI

Engine

This 2.0-litre turbo (140kW/400Nm) uses a urea additive to treat exhaust emissions and a screen on the driver’s display monitors how much is still in the tank. A six-speed dual-clutch transmission linked to on-demand all-wheel drive is standard and the claimed fuel consumption is just 5.4L/100km.

Subaru Outback 2.0D Premium

Engine

The horizontally opposed 2.0-litre engine is turbocharged but at 110kW/350Nm can’t match the VW. The CVT has little of the drone that plagues some brands. Claimed fuel use is 6.3L/100km.

safety

Volkswagen Passat Alltrack 140TDI

Nine airbags are backed up by city speed autonomous emergency braking, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure and blind spot monitoring. ANCAP awarded it 35.89/37 in crash tests.

Subaru Outback 2.0D Premium

ANCAP rating of 35.99/37. Active driver’s aids are the most likely to stop you having a crash. But they also give off “false alarms”, beeping when you don’t expect them to.

driving

Volkswagen Passat Alltrack 140TDI

The lower profile rubber and stiffer suspension make the Alltrack a better bitumen driver than the Outback — but this is intended to take you off the beaten track. If you’re not heading off-road save $1300 and buy the top-of-the-line Passat wagon. The engine is responsive from takeoff and the dual-clutch auto does its best to not be noticed unless the car is being pushed hard.

Subaru Outback 2.0D Premium

On gravel and dirt roads the Subaru feels more planted and the traction control is less likely to intervene when powering up out of a corner. As an all-round workhorse it is hard to fault. It cedes a bit of ride comfort and refinement around town but that’s easily forgotten when the going gets greasy. Steering feedback is good on any surface and all-wheel drive is unobtrusive but effective.

Verdict

Volkswagen Passat Alltrack 140TDI

Subaru Outback 2.0D Premium

For bitumen-only use, back the Alltrack. These vehicles are built to do more than that and for those who dare, even if it’s only a trip to the snow, the Outback is a more rounded proposition.