VW has borrowed a trick from Audi with the new Passat Alltrack.

With its raised ride height and chunky looks, the Alltrack swaps the anonymity of the old Passat 4Motion for the smart but rugged style of an Audi Allroad. But the extra 30mm of ride height isn’t just for show – it makes the Alltrack more capable off-tarmac than if VW had simply fitted a 4Motion drivetrain to a regular Passat Estate. There’s also an off-road mode, as well as hill-descent assist and underbody protection panels.

VW hasn’t compromised the Passat on tarmac for the sake of a can-do approach to forest tracks, though. From the driver’s seat it feels much like any other Passat Estate. Our test cars were fitted with Adaptive Chassis Control (an £800 option on the Passat Estate), and rode smoothly, especially in Comfort mode. Sport is firmer, and Normal is a good compromise on most roads, for the majority of the time.

The cabin is just as quiet as the standard Passat’s, with little engine or road noise at speed. That’s true of the 140hp six-speed manual and the 170hp DSG version, the only two models coming to the UK.

Load space is also unchanged by the Passat’s transformation into a pseudo-SUV, with 603 litres with the rear seats upright and 1641 litres with them folded.

So far, so good. However, the business case for running an Alltrack is less solid. Emissions of 150g/km place the 140hp model in the 24% BIK bracket for 2012/13. The regular Estate with the same engine emits 120-123g/km, so sits six bands lower.

The 170hp version puts out 155g/km so falls in the 25% band.

The high specification of the Alltrack also pushes up tax bills. Drivers will enjoy the long list of standard equipment (similar but not identical to Sport trim’s), but with an expected starting price of £28,500, a 40% taxpayer pays around £226.

The numbers don’t lie – the majority of fleets and drivers will be better off looking at the standard model. However, for rural business users who need a practical all-weather car, the Passat Alltrack is a roomy and civilised alternative to an SUV.

VW Passat Alltrack 2.0 TDI
140PS BlueMotion 4Motion
P11D price £28,315 (est)
Model price range £28,500-£31,500 (est)
Fuel consumption 49.6mpg
CO2 (tax) 150g/km (24%)
BIK 20/40%
per month
Service interval Variable
Insurance (1-50) TBC
Warranty 3yrs/60,000mls
Boot space min/max 603/1641 litres
Engine size/power 1968cc/140hp
Top speed/0-62mph 123mph/10.9secs
On sale April (with first
deliveries in July)
Score 8/10
Verdict A capable four-season
estate car, but a niche
vehicle for business users