Volkswagen Passat Alltrack: 2011 Tokyo Motor Show

SUVs and crossovers may be appealing to U.S. buyers, but in other parts of the world the sedan and station wagon (or shooting brake, or estate car) reign supreme.

Volkswagen already has two SUVs in its lineup (the Touareg and the Tiguan), and it makes wagon versions of both the Passat and the Jetta; still, the German automaker felt there was a hole in its product lineup.

Enter the Passat Alltrack, a station wagon infused with just enough SUV DNA to make it capable both on road and off, as long as your expectations are reasonable. More aggressively styled than a conventional Passat wagon, the Alltrack features flared fenders, side sills and revised front and rear bumpers to provide better clearance off road.

Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system comes standard with the most powerful gas or diesel engine, and it’s an available option with other engine choices. Opt for the high-end diesel, and the Alltrack will deliver 168 horsepower; choose the range topping gasoline engine, and you’ll get 207 horsepower. Both engines come with Volkswagen’s DSG dual clutch gearbox, although lesser models can be had with a six-speed manual.

The Alltrak includes the same “off-road driving program” found on the Touareg and Tiguan, and selecting this mode revises the car’s ABS, electronic differential lock, throttle control and shift points to maximize traction. Hill descent is automatically engaged on grades steeper than 10 percent, too.

Since the Passat Alltrack will top the Passat range, it also comes with features such as Fatigue Detection, which continuously monitors a driver’s level of alertness. Should you begin to nod off behind the wheel, the system provides both an audible tone and a visual warning to take a break. It also pesters you to take a break after four hours of driving, which wouldn’t make it popular with those of us accustomed to long road trips.

If there’s a downside to the Passat Alltrack, it’s this: the car is forbidden fruit on this side of the pond, since Volkswagen doesn’t think we Americans will choose a wagon over an SUV. The German automaker also doesn’t want to pirate sales from it’s upscale brand, Audi, and selling the Passat Alltrack here would reduce the number of Audi A4 Allroads,Q5s and Q7s sold on these shores.

Want to see what else automakers are introducing in Tokyo? You’ll find our complete coverage of this year’s Tokyo Motor Show here.
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