Drive Time: All-wheel drive is the best bet for January weather
January 6, 2017
The snow kept falling and piling Wednesday evening into Thursday, as I needed to get out and do some short runs about town.
Sister-in-law Jeanne, visiting from Seattle, had borrowed my 4-wheel drive pickup a week earlier; Jan, at this moment, was away from the house in her 4Matic sedan.
Parked in the garage for me was a 2017 Volkswagen Passat SE four-door. It had no 4Motion indicator on the back, so, yes, it is of front-wheel drive setup, nothing more. VW, attempting to restore consumer confidence in its products after a scandal-ridden past year, might have scored points had it delivered an all-wheel drive Passat to this area during this wintry January week. The VW FWD could have gone to Phoenix.
I'm expecting delivery of a 4-wheel drive SUV on Friday, which will carry us to Windsor and Sterling on Monday for funeral services for Ruth Davis, Jan's mother, who passed away last Sunday night at 96.
I made my local run in the Passat. Even with its Bridgestone all-season tires, it was important to keep the Passat out of the deep snow, as it would quickly lose traction in the wet accumulation. Otherwise, we got around OK.
The Passat is a comfortable, midsize sedan competing against Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima, Subaru Legacy, Mazda 6 and Ford Fusion. The Passat, which sizes up very closely to the Hyundai Sonata, weighs 3,263 pounds on a wheelbase of 110.4 inches, 191.9 inches in overall length.
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The Passat is a good handler and offers a quiet interior.
It is powered by a small 1.8-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder, direct-injection engine and 6-speed automatic transmission. Performance is steady and EPA estimate goes as high as 34 for highway travel. With slipping and sliding on the snow and ice in the frigid temps, my overall average remained in the low 20s.
In its FWD form, the Passat is priced very reasonably at $28,815. Technology upgrades include app-connect for plug-in of compatible smartphone, and car-net security providing location last-parked and check to make sure doors were locked.
Also included are navigation and AM/FM/HD audio with USB and Bluetooth, rearview camera, heated and foldable side mirrors, rain-sensing front wipers with heated washer nozzles, power tilt and sliding sunroof, adaptive cruise control, park-distance control, blind-spot monitor and leather-trimmed steering wheel.
Newest model in the VW lineup is the Alltrack wagon, which boasts an inch more ground clearance, has wheel arch moldings and sturdier bumpers than the Golf SportWagen, on which it is based. The Alltracks are equipped with 4Motion all-wheel drive.
Volkswagen has aimed it at the Subaru Outback wagon, though the Alltrack measures up more closely with the smaller Subaru Crosstrek.
The Alltrack is 9 inches shorter and 350 pounds lighter than the Outback. Its turbocharged 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder engine (170 horsepower, 199 lb.-ft. of torque) and 6-speed automatic transmission outperforms the Subaru's boxer-4 (175-hp, 174 torque) and continuously variable transmission. Both the VW and Subaru are excellent handlers; the Outback offers a smoother ride. The Outback's EPA estimate is 25/32, the Alltrack's 22/30.
Cargo space behind the second-row seat is 30.4 cubic feet in the Alltrack; the Outback is 35 and the Subaru Crosstrek 22.
Bud Wells, a native of Wray, is a former Page 1 editor of the Denver Post and has reviewed automobiles for the past 40 years. He can be contacted at email@example.com.