CAR OF THE YEAR WILL TEST RIVALS, WRITES COLIN SMITH
The medium car segment continues its 2015 new model momentum this month with the launch of the reigning European Car of the Year.
Extending a pedigree that has seen 22 million units sold in 41 years, the eighth generation Volkswagen Passat offers sedan and estate body styles and turbocharged petrol and diesel engines.
The new Passat arrives in a segment of the market where sales numbers remain largely stagnant. But the growth in the overall market means these cars now represent only about 5 per cent of new vehicle sales.
Initially there will be eight versions of the new Passat with a second launch phase bringing additional engines later this year.
Make way for the eighth generation Passat.
It’s an extensive line-up and gives the entry level Passat a $45,750 price point that allows it to compete with most mainstream medium cars. And the sub-$70,000 pricing for the premium versions makes the Passat competitive with the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4.
At the top end there’s a sports sedan or sport wagon flavour with a high performance twin turbo Bi-TDI diesel engine offering 176kW output, a muscular 500Nm of torque and 4Motion all-wheel-drive.
It will be joined in October by a petrol turbocharged model with 206kW — a variation of the Golf R powerplant and also with all-wheel-drive.
Under the skin of the new Passat is the Volkswagen MQB transverse modular vehicle platform.
Interior features of the Volkswagen Passat TDI 4Motion are fit for the premium market.
The Passat has a bolder face and more chiselled lines than the seventh generation. It’s 5mm shorter than its predecessor but the wheelbase has been extended by 79mm to reduce the overhangs and body width is up by 12mm.
Rear seat headroom and kneeroom and load capacity are increased and the MQB platform has achieved some weight savings.
At the front, the new radiator grille features four chrome bars which bend inward towards the headlights in a trapezoidal shape with the lower chrome bar extended into the headlights.
At the rear, the cabin has a strong inward sweep which at the bottom transitions into the flared shoulder section. The rear lights have been made wider and leaner and a distinctive crease beneath the rear lights extends across the rear.
The range begins with the 1.8 TSI engine in Comfortline equipment level priced at $45,750. A Highline version is $49,990 and the sports themed R-Line is $54,990. In each case a Passat wagon has a $1250 premium.
The sleek lines of the VW Passat wagon.
Passat Comfortline has 17-inch alloy wheels with the Highline running on 18in alloys and another step to 19in rims for the R-Line.
The 1.8 litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine now has 132kW of power — up from 118kW for the previous generation — and an unchanged 250Nm of torque.
The dual-clutch seven-speed DSG transmission is standard and fuel consumption is rated 18 per cent better than the previous Passat 1.8 TSI at 5.8L/100km while 0-100km/h acceleration improves by 0.6secs to 8.1secs.
The high-performance Bi-TDI version is $67,740 for the sedan and $68,990 for the estate with 0-100km/h acceleration in 6.3secs and combined cycle fuel consumption of 5.4L/100km.
Scheduled for October arrival are a 2-litre TDI version with 140kW and 400Nm output and also the 2.0-litre turbo petrol version. The 2.0-litre TDI will be available in Highline and R-Line specification.
Standard content for Comfortline models includes Climatic air conditioning, rear park distance control and a rear view camera, cruise control, auto headlights, rain sensor wipers and auto-dimming mirror. LED tail lights are standard and the wagon has black roof rails.
The Comfortline models have the 6.5in colour touchscreen Composition Media system with eight speakers.
All Passat models have a flat tyre indicator, Rest Assist driver fatigue warning system, alarm and immobiliser security system and an electric park brake with Auto Hold.
The $4250 step up to Highline specification adds 18in alloy wheels, silver roof rails for the wagon, Climatronic three-zone air conditioning and the Discover Media system with satellite navigation. There is Alcantara and Vienna leather trim, heated front seats, a brushed aluminium dash insert and piano black centre console. The R-Line premium is $5000 and brings sports suspension, 19in Verona alloy wheels and an exterior treatment with R-Line rear spoiler, bumpers, side sills and grille logo.
Inside the R-Line cabin features Nappa leather trim, stainless steel pedals, silver decorative panels, a titanium black headliner and a sports steering wheel with gear shift paddles.
A further boost in equipment accompanies the high output models with LED headlights, the Discover Pro navigation system with 8in display, progressive steering, privacy glass and the DDC adaptive chassis control with driving profile selection. Also standard on these models is a safety package comprising Active Cruise Control, lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring and rear traffic alert, which is available as a $2500 option on Highline and R-Line versions.
The 206kW TSI model will have electric memory seats and a power tailgate on the wagon.
First impressions from a short press launch drive were the on-road quietness of a 1.8 TSI Highline version I drove first and the easily accessible torque from the turbocharged 1.8 litre four-cylinder that is well-matched to the seven-speed DSG transmission.
The driver’s seat offered excellent support and the Passat displayed a wide track stance on the road with the ability to soak up uneven surfaces. With the mid-size car segment under sustained attack from SUV and crossover rivals, Volkswagen believes the future for traditional sedans and wagons in this segment will largely be in premium models.
The new Passat has the understated style, quality materials and driving refinement to hit that premium target, while the high grade models like the 4Motion-equipped 176kW Bi-TDI and the 206kW TSI are at price position and level of standard content that moves the benchmark for European brands.
VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT LINE-UP
1.8 TSI ComfortlineSedan $45,750/Wagon $46,990 1.8 TSI HighlineSedan $49,990/Wagon $51,240 1.8 TSI R-LineSedan $54,990/Wagon $56,240 2.0 TDI HighlineSedan $53,490/Wagon $54,740 2.0 TDI R-LineSedan $57,740/Wagon $58,490 2.0 Bi-TDI R-Line PlusSedan $67,740/Wagon $68,990 2.0 TSI R-Line PlusSedan $68,740/Wagon $69,990