Volkswagen Passat

Agile chassis argues the case for more power

NATHAN PONCHARD

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

LIKE a classic, beautifully made suit, Volkswagen’s new-gen Passat is on a mission to out-class the rest of the room. Thing is, that doesn’t just include obvious rivals like the Mazda 6, but premium Euro fodder like 3 Series and C-Class too. The B8 Passat is begging for blood, much like a grown-up Golf on a fox hunt.

Given the Golf’s overwhelming popularity in Australia, it’s easy to forget the Passat’s importance to Volkswagen globally. More than a million are sold each year, making Passat Wolfsburg’s number-one seller, as well as its oldest living nameplate (42 years).

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. To bolster its sex appeal, the B8’s leggy new wheelbase has been squeezed 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 Luxury and R-Line packages – available on both the mid-spec Comfortline and top-shelf Highline – that incorporate a shedload of glam gear (see sidebar), the new Passat transcends its 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 virtually a no-brainer. All the B8 Passat had to do was drive like a Golf, only bigger, and that’s exactly how it feels. It’s surprisingly 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 standard, which delivers a welldamped 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’s no match for the chassis’ depth of ability.

Likewise the 140TDI turbo-diesel (Highline only), which is torquey down low but breathless up top, tempered by an exceptional fuel number (4.8L/100km). What our Passat really needs is either the 162kW or 206kW 2.0-litre turbopetrol four offered in Europe.

Apparently VW Oz is working on it.

Still, there’s much to like about the new-gen Passat. Even at entry level, it exudes understated class, bolstered by an equipment list as vast as its benchmark luggage space. Unless you’re chasing serious grunt, the Passat proves that spending more on a premium European sedan (or wagon) is mostly an exercise in vanity.

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Volkswagen Passat 132TSI Comfortline 1798cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v, turbo 132kW @ 5100-6200rpm 250Nm @ 1250-5000rpm 7-speed dual-clutch 1450kg 7.9sec (claimed) 6.0L/100km $39,990 Now

PLUS & MINUS

R-Line’s lack of a suitable engine to support its handling and styling Sporty chassis; slick cabin; seat comfort; equipment; sweet 1.8 petrol

Added flavour

VW is pushing super-hard with Passat’s kit. Even the base car gets alloy 17s, satnav, three-zone climate and nine airbags, while at the upper end, Luxury ($3500) and R-Line ($3000) packs turn the Comfortline into a sports-luxe stunner for $46K.

R-Line adds a 15mm-lower sports chassis, progressive steering with just 2.1 turns, a Golf GTI wheel, 19s, sports seats, Nappa leather and a styling makeover, while the Luxury pack ticks full-LED lights at both ends, ambient cabin lighting, and a sunroof.

wheelstv Watch it at WheelsMag.com.au/Passat