Volkswagen Passat Alltrack [B8] (2015 - 2020) used car review

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By Jonathan Crouch

Introduction

Volkswagen's second generation Passat Alltrack wasn't the first SUV-style family-sized 4x4 estate we'd seen at its launch in 2015 but it was the one that struck the most appealing balance for many buyers who didn't need - and often didn't want - a traditional Volkswagen Tiguan or Honda CR-V-style compact SUV. This MK2 Passat Alltrack model couldn't go as far off road as cars like those, but its capability away from the tarmac was better, plus in this guise, it was even more suited to the needs of towers. Like the MK1 Passat Alltrack, this car had the quality look and feel of something premium and quite expensive, blended with an extra dose of subtlety that potential buyers liked. In other words, it ticked a lot of boxes.

Models

5dr Estate (2.0 TDI)

History

Not everyone wants - or needs - an SUV. Quite a few folk though, appreciate some of the things that cars of that kind can do in terms of towing and light off road work. And a few of them would like these attributes delivered with subtler packaging. Maybe in the form of a car like this, the second generation Volkswagen Passat Alltrack.

It's not hard to imagine what a Passat Alltrack owner might be like. Someone with mountain bike, skiing or karting equipment that needs moving about; maybe around mid-forties, has a decent job and appreciates quality but perhaps fights a little shy of the bling-ier brands. Someone who probably wouldn't previously have been attracted to a Passat Estate. But then, this one isn't quite as we know it. The ride height is a touch higher and the bodywork a touch showier to tweak the lifestyle appeal a small but crucial click towards more outdoorsy hunting, shooting, fishing - heck maybe even jetskiing - folk. People who would usually need to buy a fully fledged SUV, all the while gritting their teeth against a perceived social backlash from eco-friendly neighbours. By equipping this car with 4MOTION all-wheel drive and giving it a modicum of light off road prowess, Volkswagen tried to ensure that they didn't have to.

The original Passat Alltrack was launched in 2012 based on the previous seventh generation Passat Estate. Volkswagen had seen just how profitable sister brand Audi allroad and Skoda Octavia Scout models were proving to be in the growing 4x4 estate sector and saw an opportunity. Buyers who couldn't quite stretch to an Audi allroad but didn't want the plasticky feel of an Octavia Scout or its Subaru Outback rival now had an appealing alternative. Enough of them took it up to persuade Volkswagen to extend the Alltrack concept into the Golf Estate line-up. And inevitably, when the eighth generation Passat Estate was launched in late 2014, we knew there'd be an Alltrack version of that too.

This was that car and, on paper, it seemed at launch to offer some useful improvements over its predecessor. Improved ground clearance, more under-body protection and a more capable 4MOTION 4WD system all made it a more credible SUV rival in the rough. Plus there was a clever 'Trailer Assist' option to create even more interest amongst towers. And of course, buyers got all the advantages of the MK8 model Passat in terms of improved cabin quality and enhanced electronic safety and media connectivity. This model was sold here until 2020.

What You Get

The changes that set this Passat Alltrack apart from more ordinary versions of this model were intentionally subtle - to the point that the first time you see one, you'll know something's different, but it's difficult to put your finger on exactly what. There's a raised ride height - this car sits 27.5mm further from the ground than an ordinary Passat Estate from this period would - but that, like the comprehensive underbody protection, is rather difficult to spot. More obvious are things like the rugged wheel arch and side sill mouldings, plus the small 'Alltrack' badges on the front grille, the tailgate and the front wings.

And inside? Well, apart from the 'Alltrack' logos emblazoned on the ashtray, the seats and the door sills, it's pretty much standard eighth generation Passat through and through. The cabin is dominated by one long air vent with sleek integrated chrome fins that extends across the entire width of the interior like a band, interrupted only by the instruments and a smart analogue clock in the centre of the fascia. The usual brushed aluminium trim, satin chromed switchgear and piano black inlays feature and in this Alltrack model, you also get decorative dashboard and door trimming inserts finished in a so-called 'Tracks' design.

Take a seat in the rear and you find that that despite this second generation design's marginal reductions in exterior length and height, it actually feels more spacious in the rear than the original Alltrack model did. It is too, with more room for legs and heads thanks to a lengthier wheelbase that enabled Volkswagen's development team to package this car more effectively. Out back, the 4MOTION all-wheel drive system necessitated a slight reduction in the amount of carriage space this car could provide in comparison to the standard front-driven Passat Estate upon which it was based. To be specific, the 639-litre capacity you get is 11-litres down, but that's not a difference we think many buyers are likely to notice. Use the sidewall-mounted levers to flatten the rear bench entirely and a 1,769-litre space can be opened up.

What You Pay

Prices for this B8-series MK2 Passat Alltrack model start at around £15,800 for an early '15-era 2.0 TDI 190PS model (around £18,300 retail), rising to around £28,700 (£31,700) for a later '20-era car. All quoted values are sourced through industry experts cap hpi. Click here for a free valuation.

What to Look For

It's not very likely that this Passat Alltrack will have been taken over any really gnarly off road tracks, but check around the underneath just in case. Our owners survey did reveal many satisfied users of this 'B8'-series model, but inevitably, there were a few issues reported. One owner reported that the auto electronic handbrake failed to disengage sometimes. Another found that the anti-collision system was automatically braking when it shouldn't do. In another case, one variant puffed blue and white smoke from its exhaust, insisting on dropping diesel into its oil sump. We came across a number of reports of cabin rattles, especially around the dash, so check for those. There's often engine vibration/resonance through dashboard at low speed. And one owner reported incessant creaking from somewhere in/around the door pillars which was markedly worse in warmer weather. He also reported some temperature-dependant creaking from the dashboard around the rev counter/speedo area. Obviously, a fully-stamped service history is vital. Otherwise, it's just the usual things. Insist on a fully stamped-up service record and check the alloys for scratches and scuffs.

Replacement Parts

[based on a 2019 model Passat Alltrack 2.0 TDI 190 DSG auto] Parts prices for a Passat Alltrack from this period can be reasonable if you shop around. We trawled around the internet and found these: An oil filter is in the £5-13 bracket. An air filter is around £9. Front brake discs cost in the £70-£146 bracket. Rear brake discs cost in the £60-£170 bracket. Front brake pads sit in the £26 bracket. A set of rear pads is around £17. A wiper blade is about £10-£17. A fuel filter is in the £11-£44 bracket.

On the Road

This MK2 Passat Alltrack got the improved 4MOTION 4WD system you couldn't have in this period on mainstream Passat Estate models - and used it to good effect. As with the previous generation model, it was an 'on-demand' set-up that usually leaves the car front-driven, bringing the rear wheels into play only when a loss of traction makes this necessary. It all works through an improved fifth generation Haldex coupling that was here engineered to be lighter, faster-reacting and able to predict wheelslip even before it occurs. There's also a useful 'Off Road' mode in the standard 'Drive Profile selection' system that tailors all of the car's systems for use away from the tarmac, tweaking the brakes and throttle for more sensitive off road use and activating a Hill Descent Control system that eases you down slippery slopes.

Ultimately though, this model's off piste prowess is limited by its relatively modest ride height of 174mm - though that is 9mm higher than the previous generation model and 27.5mm higher than a normal 2WD Passat Estate would sit from the ground. That won't bother most likely owners, many of whom will be more interested in this car's prodigious towing ability. Most Passat Alltracks fitted with a tow bar also got the clever 'Trailer Assist' feature that can automatically steer you backwards if you're trying to park up when hitched up to something. Both the variants on offer can haul a braked trailer of up to 2,200kgs in weight, thanks to the lusty torque of the 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine that all Passat Alltrack models for our market had to have. There was a 150PS manual gearbox variant, a model that manages 57.6mpg on the combined cycle and 130g/km of CO2 (both NEDC figures). Alternatively, Volkswagen offered a 190PS version available only with 6-speed DSG auto transmission.

Overall

We've actually had 4WD Passats in the UK since 2001 but those early ones were a rare sight. This Alltrack variant though, got wider acceptance. The original 2012 version established itself as a credible package and this improved MK2 model further perfected that proposition. It was the car that so many buyers of compact soft roaders probably should have been looking at - but rarely were. What you got was a product that was certainly less extrovert than comparably-priced compact SUVs like the Tiguans and CR-Vs of this period, but one that in truth, was probably better suited to the needs of most likely owners - providing those requirements didn't include anything too extreme on the rough stuff.

This indeed, is a model carefully created for those who don't believe in going to extremes: in buying a car suitable for the Amazon when all that's really needed is something that'll guarantee to get the kids to school in a snowy snap. An Alltrack will also be ideal for towing too. It's certainly a very complete expression of pragmatic Passat motoring. Just as you'd expect from a Volkswagen.

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