The level of engineering and build quality has reached formidable heights for the cars bearing the Volkswagen badge. This already amply shows in the marketing language of the VW group: it refers to its main products simply as THE car, or DAS Auto. After having spent a wheel behind the wheel of this stylish Passat Variant, one can only agree...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The new Passat Variant breathes the quintessence of what VW styling is all about: clear, timeless proportions, detailed elegant and refined surface treatment and styling which has a latin elegance but is so unmistakably "German", all this executed with an impeccable finish and attention to detail.
Indeed, this Passat Variant looks elegant from any angle, and will do so for years to come. It pleases most of us, is restrained and not too ostentatious or sporty, and is above all stylish and has clearly a premium quality about it.
The same can be said of the interior. Very well proportioned, no unnecessary curves or bulges, just excellent ergonomics, impeccable finish and excellent materials. Breathing modernity, but not responding to the latest styling fads and not sacrificing functionality for style.
The new Passat scores very high in inboard electronics. The instrument cluster is now totally electronic, and this has the advantage that one can vary the information to a degree which was hitherto impossible. We like very much the navigation info right in front of the driver between the two dials for speed and revs, and personally it does not matter too much for us whether one chooses the display mode with larger or smaller dials.
This allowed us to keep the display on the centre console for other info, like media or radio for example, allowing you to read the name of the artist or performer which is bringing the delicious music to you, whilst you are still kept fully informed about the itinerary you have chosen.
High performance Diesel...
The engine of our test car truly means business. It develops not less than 140 Kw or 190 HP between 3500 and 4000 rpm,, and has of course pulling power to match. Coupled to the well proven six speed DSG automatic gearbox, it provides truly impressive performance, with very powerful accelerations, not only from standstill but also at intermediate speeds.
Understandably, as one knows that maximum torque is 400 Nm between 1750 and 3000 rpm. This eager power flow transforms the Passat Variant into a very agile and sporting car, which delivers tons of driving pleasure when it comes to pure performance. The transmission and engine are silky smooth under acceleration, and indeed the transmission handles the massive torque beautifully. We noticed however that engine and drivetrain are less refined at lower cruising speeds, for instance a distinct vibration is noticeable when cruising at 70 km in sixth gear, with the engine turning at around 1200 rpm.
Putting the lever in "S" mode helps here, as the rpm is lifted to around 1500 rpm. But when you put on the cruise control, even in "S"mode, the box reverts to the previous higher gearing, and the engine is once again heard and felt churning at 1200 rpm.
Sporting and frugal
Generally we found that taking into account the very sporting character of the engine, selecting the "S" mode is more appropriate. And we drove the car in this mode over a large test distance. Only logical, when one sees that the 400 Nm of torque is developed between 1750 and 3000 rpm.
What is even more remarkable is that all this sporting pleasure does not necessarily cost much more at the pump. Consumption in "S" mode increases merely 0,4 litre per 100 km or so, taking into account that one accelerates much more often and heavily. The performance leaves no wishes open: 0 to 100 kmh is absolved in merely 7,7 seconds, and top speed is 228 km/h or 142 mph.
It was therefore rather easy to stay below 6 litres/100 km in this "S" mode, and even when driving rather briskly in heavy ring road and motorway traffic at varying speeds, consumption dropped to a mere 5,3 litres. The manufacturer quotes 5,1 litres/100 km for combined consumption, corresponding with 135 g/Km of C02 emissions, which is quite reasonable for a 4WD car with this power and performance.
State of the art chassis and suspension.
The new Passat enjoys the results of the Volkswagen Group MQB platform strategy: it is the company's strategy for shared modular construction of its transverse, front-engined, front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive cars.
The VW Concern started with this in 2012, and has marketed the strategy under the code name MQB, which stands for Modularer Querbaukasten, translating from German to "Modular Transversal Box Construction” . MQB is one strategy within VW's overall MB (Modularer Baukasten or modular Box Construction) program which also includes the similar MLB strategy for vehicles with longitudinal engine orientation.
While a model may be said to use an MQB platform, it is not so much a platform per se, but rather a system for introducing rationality across disparate platforms that share engine orientation — regardless of model, vehicle size or brand.
Thus MQB uses a core "layout” or “matrix" of components across a wide variety of platforms — for example, sharing a common engine-mounting core for all drivetrains (e.g., gasoline, diesel, natural gas, hybrid and purely electric).
For example, all transverse engines are mounted 17 degrees (or thereabouts) forward. Also the engine’s construction is made more uniform, for instance injection or exhaust system are now all one the same side.
As well as reducing weight, the concept allows diverse models, including those from the company's various brands, to be manufactured at the same plant, further saving cost.
The suspension layout itself is most classic, but honed again to absolute perfection. In the front, one finds Pc. Pherson struts and coil springs, in the rear trailing arms and coil springs. The agility and handling are close to perfection, with the car steering neutral at all times, and with excellent straight line stability to match, up to very high speeds, as could be expected. Comfort is also excellent, considering the car’s size, and the suspension copes with nasty potholes at high or slow speeds, and be it winter ridden roads or rough Autobahn tarmac, the Passat takes it all nicely in its stride.
Cabin roominess and comfort
The same can be said of the seats. Firm, supportive, giving outstanding long distance comfort.
The Passat owner/driver and its passengers enjoy the space. Indeed, also in the back, room is plentiful. The boot contains with the rear seat upright already 650 litres.
Our times will witness in the coming years the remarkable development of active safety and connectivity technologies, which are seen recently converging rapidly. The excellent cruise control/distance control in this Passat is a harbinger of things to come, and is indeed already a fine example of the state of the art safety technology we find today in our cars.
We used the ACC function very, very often, as soon as the speed limits imposed constant speed driving, we kicked the system in. Our test car was equipped with a host of driver assistance systems, combined in the Drive Assist Premium Pack, like amongst others assisted parking and adaptive headlights, which are all so very useful in everyday driving.
A well made car, balanced, timelessly and elegantly styled. Immensely practical, but also delivering much driving pleasure, and having quite extraordinary performance and handling. Add to this the excellent off road qualities thanks to the 4 Motion system, and you have a car which truly does it all, with economy and longevity to match.
On top of all that, it holds very well is own in terms of depreciation, so if you are in the mood of making an excellent car choice, you will be well advised to try out this Passat Variant first..
Hans Knol ten Bensel