GRR Garage: VW Passat Alltrack – testing the “Alltrack” bit
Even if your car is furnished with all-wheel-drive, you won’t often want to find yourself in a situation where it is useful or, worse yet, flat-out necessary.
Snow-shackled highways, dirt roads, rain swept lanes, water-logged fields: none of these are places the civilised modern motorist tends to seek out, but sometimes nature calls. Such is the way with these things, with weather being one of the few things we can’t control, the weekend of the 2017 Revival Meeting was a choice moment for us to be tested.
As our rabble of racing pros wrestled with historic racers around our Motor Circuit, we the adoring public and diligent Goodwood workers alike were faced with an altogether different motoring challenge. That was the rapidly slushifying waterlogged fields over the road that were doubling as car parks. Sure enough no sooner had the deluge fallen our operations team were on the mark laying down woodchip on areas that saw regular foot traffic and tracks for cars to safely, slowly and slip-free file into the fields.
Once the actual parking areas and the rest of the fields had seen their fair share of traffic, however, things got more interesting. Many got out without a hitch but once the field was suitably mashed under the wheels of the then-long gone attendees, we were faced with conditions that a contributor’s early Mondeo with its front-wheel-drive was not up to. Enter, the superbly multi-talented and until-now virgin-to-muddy-expanses Alltrack. It dispatched the churned muddy slush without breaking a sweat, deploying its power to all four wheels and keeping us moving as if we were trundling down the M25.
Now we’re under no delusion that some incomprehensible level of sophistication in the Alltrack’s all-wheel-drive system was our saving grace. It was a simple case of four driven wheels rather than two – that the fronts weren’t left scrabbling like a conventional family hack. That’s no discredit to the Alltrack, of course. Quite the opposite, in fact. The main query this breed of jacked-up mud-plugging estate has to answer is what the point of it is over the normal version, especially given the premiums you may be expected to pay for this seldom-useful but in this case highly fortuitous specification.
The way our Alltrack squirrelled its way across those muddy fields was eye-opening, and yes, the increased ground clearance was useful through the foot-deep ruts that tractors on rescue duty had dug. We genuinely believe that even in an all-wheel-drive version of the lower normal version, you’d be beached if you weren’t especially careful. That puts the Alltrack, jacked up estates like it, proper SUVs and we suspect only the very bulkiest and 4X4-est of crossovers in a class of their own for these circumstances. If it’s only for the one magical step back in time out of your year that it proves itself, you’ll be glad to have it and all of its perceived off-road gimmickry on-side. We certainly were.