2015 Volkswagen Passat first drive – Telegraph.co.uk
That’s not a complete damnation because the new heavily stamped, beaky look
suits the Passat’s utilitarian character, while long LED lamps emphasise the
width, and in the case of the brake lights, become a vertical line of
illumination at the touch of the pedal.
The new body is slightly shorter, lower and wider than its predecessor’s, and
is based on MQB, (Modular Transvere Matrix), Volkswagen’s intergalactic
chassis and component sharing system which saves weight, time and money. MQB
underpins everything from the latest Golf
hatchback to Audi’s
TT sports car.
When the new Passat goes on sale in the UK in January, it will be offered only
with diesel engines: a 118bhp 1.6-litre, a 2.0-litre with 148bhp or 187bhp,
and a biturbo 237bhp version of the 2.0-litre with four-wheel drive and a
seven-speed twin-clutch automatic gearbox. The rest of the models are
front-wheel drive, with six-speed manual or six-speed twin-clutch auto
Later in the year, the range will expand to include a GTE
plug-in petrol-electric hybrid and a super-efficient Bluemotion diesel which
delivers 78mpg and CO² emissions of 95g/km. The more popular estate model
typically costs £1,500 more than the equivalent saloon.
Step inside and the new Passat feels a lot bigger than its predecessor – how
have they done that? Gone is the lovely trompe d’oeil curving dashboard,
though, and in comes a ruler-straight design with a central screen. The
graphics are pin sharp and behind the twin (digital) instruments in the
driver’s binnacle floats a satnav map, but I’m not convinced the dash is as
classy as the old model’s and the material quality falls off in the lower
parts of the interior.
Like the new Audi TT, the latest VW Passat has virtual instruments
The standard seats are comfortable if hard and there’s some useful storage
space around those in the front. Three adults will be perfectly comfortable
in the back, too, because space is more generous than it is in the Audi
A4 or BMW 3-series, and the boot is large and nicely square.
As you might expect, the Passat is available with a lot of high-tech
equipment, with the one up from entry-level SE spec getting a radar
monitoring system which warns and eventually brakes if it sees slowing or
static traffic ahead, and a pedestrian detection system which applies the
brakes if someone steps out in front of you at town speeds. Also standard
for the SE is adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors and,
on SE Business models, satnav.
Optional but worth it if you are fitting a tow hitch is Trailer Assist, which
takes over the steering to reverse a trailer into difficult slots. Also
worth considering is Traffic-Jam Assist, which steers, drives and brakes the
car in stop-and-go traffic. You can also opt for dynamic chassis control
(DCC), which alters the weight of the steering effort, the throttle response
and the firmness of the suspension
Volkswagen’s 2.0-litre diesel engine isn’t the quietest unit out there, but
this must be the quietest and most refined installation across the VW Group.
The outgoing Passat was pretty good in that respect, but this one is
uncanny. At low speeds and when idling, there’s barely any indication of
what fuel it’s gurgling; it’s only when you push hard that it becomes a
little noisy. Fortunately, it does most of its best work between 2,000 and
3,500rpm, so there’s no need to rev it, although performance is no better
The manual gearbox has well matched ratios and an easy change quality, which
makes the extra £1,600 that the automatic will cost you seem like an
unnecessary expense in spite of its relaxed shifting.
The VW Passat has a classy interior even though quality isn’t so good
Refinement has always been a Passat strength, and the latest version continues
that tradition. Only the optional 18-inch 45 per cent profile tyres on the
test cars intruded on the silence and also on the brilliant ride comfort,
allowing an occasional vibration over bumps. For the most part, however, the
suspension coped with pretty much everything.
The two-wheel drive cars float over longer bumps in a bounding motion, whereas
the more settled 4×4 cars don’t. Karsten Schebsdat, head of chassis tuning
admitted that most of the tuning was done with 17-inch wheels, but says “the
car handles better on 18-inch wheels.”
We never got a chance to compare, but on 18s the car turns into corners
beautifully and has a huge amount of grip. It’s not a sports saloon and even
with the optional dynamic chassis control the steering is too inert, but the
new Passat is a pleasure to drive briskly and can cover huge distances
tirelessly. I liked the brakes, too, which have a good grab and a linear and
progressive pedal response.
The Passat isn’t a car you lust after, but its smoothness and just-do-it style
are infectious. It’s workaday premium, and what’s that old saying? You’ll
remember the quality long after you’ve forgotten the price?
Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI 150
Tested: 1,968cc four-cylinder diesel engine, six-speed manual gearbox,
Price/on sale: From £29,495-£42,995/January
Power/torque: 148bhp @ 3,500rpm/250lb ft @ 1,750rpm
Top speed: 137mph
Acceleration: 0-62mph in 8.7sec
Fuel economy: 68.9mpg EU Combined (on test 46.3mpg)
CO2 emissions: 108g/km
VED band: B (£0 for first year, £20 thereafter)
Verdict: Really well made and fastidiously finessed car which sets the
benchmark for comfort, but some rivals are more fun and the Passat still
lacks the desirability of other German saloons
Telegraph rating: Four stars out of five
Audi A4, from
Feeling distinctly long in the tooth these days. It’s quite cramped inside
compared with the Passat, and is both noisier and less comfortable.
Insignia, from £12,999
Offers smart looks and low running costs, but it’s no better than average to
drive and Vauxhall’s addiction to discounted fleet sales murders resale
One of the best premium saloons around, combining strong performance with low
running costs and fun handling with impressive luxury.
Come back on Thursday to see what we think of the new Ford Mondeo