Despite the soaring popularity of the sports utility vehicle, the sheer versatility of a large estate like the Volkswagen Passat has always had its fans.

The new enhanced version adds more technology, better connectivity and a fresh engine range to a model that first saw the light of day in 1973.

Now in its eighth generation, the Passat range is being offered in eight versions in the UK, with arguably the most capable the go-anywhere Alltrack.

Off-road suspension and an electronic four-wheel-drive system, including an off-road setting with hill descent assist, means the car is capable of extracting itself from some seriously sticky situations.

It looks the part too. Riding on 18-inch alloy wheels, the Alltrack is instantly recognisable thanks to its styling. Special front and rear bumpers, side sill and wheel arch protectors, chrome-trimmed radiator grille and front air intake, matt-chrome effect door mirrors and raised ground clearance make this the Passat for the bolder, more adventurous buyer.

The car driven here was powered by a 190 horsepower, 2.0-litre turbodiesel engine, mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission, capable of delivering about 40mpg and a touring range of well over 600 miles.

But intrepid travellers receive just as much pampering, if not more, than other Passat passengers, with heated height-adjustable front seats, twin-zone climate control, electrically-operated tailgate and a customisable digital instrument display.

The emphasis on the latest Passat models is on improving technology and a standard feature across the range is ‘travel assist’, combining adaptive cruise control and lane assist, to allow the car to drive in a partly automated mode.

The lane assist system can recognise kerbs and grass verges, in addition to road markings, and the latest adaptive cruise control function is fed by both GPS and road sign recognition so it can automatically adjust speed for permanent and temporary speed limits, as well as slowing for junctions and corners.

The cruise control even works in a traffic jam, stopping the car and moving off again automatically.

Volkswagen has introduced its first capacitive steering wheel on the new Passat, which means that lane assist no longer requires slight movement of the wheel in order to recognise that a driver’s hands are on it, instead just a touch of the surface.

And you no longer need to connect a smartphone to the car with a USB cable, instead compatible devices connect and charge wirelessly.

Equally clever are the computer-operated LED headlights, fitted as a £1,500 option, which use signals from the front camera, the digital map data of the navigation system, GPS signals, the steering angle and the car’s speed, to activate individual LEDs.

All you have to do is push the left-hand steering column switch forwards and the rest – dimming, main beam activation, city lighting and motorway light – is done by the Passat.

And if that wasn’t enough, the car has an emergency steering assist system which is automatically activated as soon as you have to avoid an obstacle.

Practical, spacious and comfortable, the estate car was never going to go without a fight and the Passat looks set to continue as a top-seller, with the estate outselling the saloon by two to one.

Auto facts

Model: Volkswagen Passat Estate Alltrack 2.0 TDI SCR 4MOTION

Price: £47,710 as tested

Insurance group: 25E

Fuel consumption (combined): 43.6mpg

Top speed: 139mph

Length: 478cm/187.7in

Width: 208.3cm/81.8in

Luggage capacity: 639 litres/22.5 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 14.5 gallons/66 litres

CO2 emissions: 133g/km

Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles