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VW Debuts New Alltrack Wagon Concept

Issuing an obvious challenge to Subaru's dominance of the off-road wagon market, Volkswagen is showing a new wagon concept at the 2012 New York Auto Show. Debuting here, but not selling here?

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Those familiar with Volkwagen will recognize the Alltrack name, being sold in Europe as the Passat Alltrack. The debut in New York is roughly the same wagon, with a few design changes, but it has dropped the Passat name tag and the Americanized features of the Passat Wagon sold here.

VW has made it clear that the Alltrack being shown in New York is only a concept and will not go to production. Instead, the company is looking for potential consumer reaction to the idea of a higher-clearance, off-road capable wagon - in diesel.

Yep, one of the things they're wondering is how we will react to a TDI in this platform. The European version of the Alltrack is using a 140 horsepower, four cylinder, 2.0-liter TDI with a 6-speed dual clutch DSG automatic transmission and all wheel drive with an "offroad" setting. Further setting it apart from Subaru would be the hill-descent control.

If they get the reaction they're looking for, then VW would have several options with this platform. They could try to sell it as-is (not likely, given the American reaction to the small Passat when it introduced), they could put the drive train and technology into the Americanized Passat Wagon sold here (which would mean, perhaps, restoring that nameplate), or they could put it into another vehicle altogether such as the popular Jetta SportWagon or bring the European CrossGolf to North America. The Passat or Jetta seem most realistic.

So What's So Special Here?
What's special is that it's an offroad wagon that isn't a crossover and that is using diesel. Clean diesel is Europe's greatest threat to other imports in the U.S., as it sports higher mileage numbers than equivalent gasoline and (often) even hybrids.

To make its off-road cred known, VW has added chunkier bumpers, a higher stance, a front and rear underbody guard made of steel plate, and the aforementioned offroad programming additions.

Other changes when "offroad" is selected include higher control intervals for the anti-lock braking system (ABS), faster-reacting electronic differential locks and parallel torque control from the engine to match. Gearshift points are raised so that higher engine revs can be used before auto-shifting and manual override on the DSG lever no longer upshifts when revs are high. Cruise control and other highway-only options are deactivated in off-road. Offroad mode switches off automatically if the speed exceeds 18mph.

If the market reacts well, it's uncertain how soon Volkswagen could bring the Alltrack TDI Wagon (or whatever it becomes) to market here. 2014 would likely be the earliest.

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