New Passat is an all-round performer

Factfile'Model: VW Passat Alltrack.'Engine: 2.0-litre diesel.'Output: 170bhp @ 4200rpm.'Transmission: Six speed DSG automatic.'Top speed: 131mph.'Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 8.9 seconds.'Fuel consumption: 47.9mpg combined.'CO2 emissions: 155g/km.'Price: �31,030.

Factfile'Model: VW Passat Alltrack.'Engine: 2.0-litre diesel.'Output: 170bhp @ 4200rpm.'Transmission: Six speed DSG automatic.'Top speed: 131mph.'Acceleration: 0 to 62mph 8.9 seconds.'Fuel consumption: 47.9mpg combined.'CO2 emissions: 155g/km.'Price: �31,030.

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THE trend among manufacturers to produce four wheel drive cars as well as the big 4x4 off roaders continues apace with Volkswagen being the latest to extend its range with the new Passat Alltrack, writes Bryan Longworth.

This follows a tendency among many motorists to have a car that keeps them going in wintry conditions without having the bulk and added expense associated with the big off road beasts such as VW’s own Touareg.

The Passat Alltrack is a similar vehicle to the Audi A6 Allroad which is from the same VAG Group and is my sort of vehicle because with its raised ride height and four wheel drive plus rugged body enhancements it has many of the all weather driving advantages of the big boys without the bulk.

And with it being based on the Passat estate it also offers plenty of load space with or without the rear seats folded and I liked the higher driving position - particularly appreciated by older owners.

There is just one trim level and there are two diesel engines with the 2.0-litre 170bhp diesel unit being in the Alltrack I drove on the Press launch which was the top model costing £31,030 - the range starts at £28,480.

The Alltrack features an off-road mode operated by a button in the centre console which activates hill descent assist and automatically brakes the vehicle on very steep slippery descents which is a very useful piece of equipment to have on board.

In addition the ABS braking system is altered to provide better braking on loose surfaces and the car has faster reacting electronic differential locks to prevent wheelspin which all help to make it an excellent performer in snow and ice.

The car I tested had the excellent VAG DSG automatic gearbox which is the best in the business and it provided the Alltrack with a perfect transmission system for some varied on road driving around the Cotswolds including a nostalgic visit to my former Royal Army Pay Corps base in Wiltshire, now an industrial estate!

The Alltrack provided an extremely comfortable drive with enjoyable steering and handling and while there was no off road driving, I am sure it will do the business when the white stuff appears.

I was not in the test car long enough to discover anything to complain about but I was very impressed - statistics are a top speed of 131mph, acceleration time of zero to 62mph in 8.9 seconds and a combined fuel consumption of 47.9mpg.

Cars with four wheel drive like the Alltrack are a good compromise for those who do not want a large 4x4 and Subaru for example have proved there is a market for such vehicles and this VW is a useful addition to the range.

VW say the Passat Alltrack is expected to account for around 5% of total Passat sales this year but I think a higher percentage of owners will go for it because of its all year round versatility and driveability.

My Verdict: An impressive all weather car.