The B8-generation Volkswagen Passat combines affordable luxury with handsome sheetmetal, generous space and an excellent chassis.
WHAT IS IT?
Replacing was is essentially a decade-old design, the completely new eighth-generation Volkswagen Passat debuts the Golf Mk7’s MQB platform in full family-car size, riding on a leggy 2791mm wheelbase underpinning a slightly shorter car than its predecessor – a more adventurous one, too, both in terms of its sheetmetal, interior, and dynamics. But the Passat hasn’t forgotten its conservative roots.
WHY WE’RE TESTING IT?
Twelve months after it launched in Europe, the B8 Passat arrives here with a simple, well-priced range comprising two bodystyles, two engines, and three trim levels, plus an optional R-Line package on the upper two that adds some spice to the mix. Medium-size car sales may be stagnant, but the new Passat is good enough to kickstart some sort of revival.
Spiritually it’s the Mazda 6, though Toyota’s Camry remains the sales king thanks to its huge fleet business. Next year, Passat will be challenged from inside VW’s ranks by Skoda’s stunning new-gen Superb, but it also has Kia’s new-gen Optima, Hyundai’s relatively fresh Sonata, Ford’s excellent Mondeo and Subaru’s good-value Liberty to deal with. Honda’s underdone Accord, Holden’s near-invisible Malibu, Nissan’s snoozy Altima and Peugeot’s peripheral 508 are much less of a threat.
THE WHEELS VERDICT
All the new Volkswagen Passat needed to do was mimic the Golf VII’s excellence in a larger size, and for the most part it has succeeded. Handsomely proportioned, impressively equipped, comfortable and practical, the B8 Passat proves the smart money at $35-50K buys a mid-sizer like this, not a compromised SUV. But a genuine replacement for the raspy old 220kW V6 is noticeably absent. Decent as the 132kW 1.8 TSI and 140kW 2.0 TDI engines are, the B8 Passat deserves more. Much more.
PLUS: Surprisingly sporty chassis; slick interior; excellent seat comfort; vast equipment; handsome shape; sweet 1.8 turbo petrol
MINUS: Diesel’s flat response beyond 4000rpm; R-Line’s lack of a suitable engine to support its sportier handling and styling; no replacement for the V6 (yet)
THE WHEELS REVIEW
LIKE a classically styled, beautifully made suit, Volkswagen’s all-new Passat is on a mission to out-class the competition. Thing is, that doesn’t just include obvious rivals such as the Mazda 6, but premium Euro fodder like the BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, too. The B8 Passat is begging for blood, much like a grown-up Golf VII on a fox hunt.
Given the Golf’s overwhelming popularity in Australia, it’s easy to forget the Passat’s importance to Volkswagen globally. These days, more than a million are sold each year, making Passat Wolfsburg’s number-one seller, as well as its oldest living nameplate (42 years, and counting).
Like the previous B6/B7 generation (2005-2014), the all-new B8 Passat is a larger relative of the transverse-engined Golf, meaning this one rides on VW’s latest-gen MQB platform, stretched between the wheels to 2791mm and trimmed by up to 80kg. Yet in order to bolster its sex appeal, Volkswagen has squeezed the B8’s leggy new wheelbase into a body that’s 2mm shorter, 12mm wider and 34mm lower, with less overhang and a more muscular, broad-arched stance.
When buffed with the full smorgasbord of options, including an R-Line package available on both the mid-spec Comfortline (for $3K) and top-shelf Highline (for $2.5K) that incorporates a shedload of glam gear, the new Passat transcends its 40-something price point to offer genuine driveway presence for relatively affordable coin.
But does it offer a premium driving experience? Given its Golf VII genes, that was somewhat of a no-brainer. All the B8 Passat had to do was drive like a Golf, only bigger, and that’s exactly the way it feels. Yet it’s surprising sporty, too, with excellent handling balance and a shrink-wrapped feel at odds with its voluminous cabin acreage.
Even the base $34,990 Passat 132TSI gets adaptive damping as standard, which delivers a well-damped ride and disciplined body control in both Normal and Sport settings. But Passat’s chassis has so much more up its sleeve. Sweet as the 1.8-litre turbo-petrol is, with a subtle snarl as its tacho swings towards 7000rpm, it ultimately doesn’t have a whole lot of snot.
Neither does the 140TDI diesel (Highline spec only), which is torquey down low but flat-footed when asked to really perform, tempered by its exceptional combined fuel use figure (4.8L/100km). What our Passat really needs is either the 162kW (Golf GTI) or 206kW (Golf R) 2.0-litre turbo-petrol fours offered in Europe. Apparently neither were made available to VW Oz from the Emden factory that builds Passat, though they’re working on it.
Still, there’s so much to like about the new-gen Passat. Even at entry level, it exudes an understated class, bolstered by an equipment list as vast as its benchmark luggage space. Unless you’re chasing serious performance, the Passat proves that spending more on a premium European sedan (or wagon) is simply an exercise in vanity.
VW is pushing super-hard with Passat’s standard kit. Even the base model gets alloy 17s, sat-nav, tri-zone climate and nine airbags, while at the top end, optional Luxury ($3500) and R-Line packs can transform the $40K 132TSI Comfortline sedan (wagon $2K extra) into a sports-luxe stunner for $46,490. R-Line adds 15mm-lower sports suspension and 19s, progressive steering with 2.1 turns lock-to-lock and a Golf GTI wheel with paddles, sports seats, Nappa leather and an exterior styling makeover, while the Luxury pack is headlined by trick full-LED lights at both ends, ambient cabin lighting, and a panoramic sunroof.
Model: Volkswagen Passat 132TSI Comfortline
Engine: 1798cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo
Max power: 132kW @ 5100-6200rpm
Max torque: 250Nm @ 1250-5000rpm
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch
0-100km/h: 7.9sec (claimed)
On sale: Now
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