Western Suburbs Weekly - - Driveway - Robert Buys

WHICH is Volk­swa­gen's top-sell­ing model? The Golf?

Sur­pris­ingly, it's the Pas­sat, and while vir­tu­ally a niche model here, it is the Ger­man gi­ant's big­gest global seller.

The eighth gen­er­a­tion has just ar­rived in Aus­tralia with the goods and price to lift its im­age and sales.

It now has cleaner, crisper lines, a choice of two new en­gines, more room, greater safety and more drive­abil­ity.

Styling changes in­clude a new nose and tail, more bright­work and the first LED head and tail­lights on a VW sedan.

The cabin has been up­graded with a new dash and a classy steer­ing wheel and stan­dard items in­clude satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion, triple-zone cli­mate con­trol, a com­pre­hen­sive multi-func­tion com­puter and re­verse cam­era on an 8-inch dis­play with 10GB stor­age.

The eight-speaker au­dio and elec­tron­ics sys­tem has An­droid Auto and Ap­ple Carplay and Blue­tooth con­nec­tiv­ity plus sev­eral aux and USB sock­ets, in­clud­ing one in the boot.

An­other first is a sporty RLine vari­ant, which has low­ered and stiffer sus­pen­sion and big­ger (19-inch) wheels.

The Pas­sat now has a longer wheel­base and shorter over­hangs to cre­ate the space up­grade which, apart from more head and legroom, has boosted the sedan's deep boot to 586 litres and the wagon's to a mam­moth 650 litres.

Both have flip-down rear seats to roughly dou­ble the cargo space.

There are three mod­els in the range, the 132 TSI, the 132 TSI Com­fort­line and the 140 TDI High­line, with prices start­ing from $34,990. The Com­fort­line is $39,990 and the top-spec diesel-pow­ered High­line IS $45,990. All can be had as a wagon for an­other $2000.

There are two other op­tions other than the R-Line: A $1600 driver as­sist pack on the 132TSI (stan­dard on Com­fort­line and High­line) and a $3500 Lux pack.

The former in­cludes a sub­tle lane as­sist, blind spot no­ti­fi­ca­tion and a radar dis­tance con­trol, which now works at up to 65km/h, and rear-fac­ing radar, which warns of ve­hi­cles up to 50m be­hind.

The Lux pack com­prises premium seats and au­dio.

The diesel – a new one un­re­lated to the emis­sion is­sue – has a six-speed box that is pushed by a healthy 140kW and 400Nm of torque from its 2.0litre turbo and it can sprint to 100km/h in 7.7 sec­onds. Fuel con­sump­tion is claimed to be 4.8litres/ 100km.

The 1.8litre petrol-turbo mod­els put out 132kW/250Nm and drive through a 7-speed DSG box. It is said to drink a fru­gal 6.0litres/100km.

Trav­el­ling in a 1.8 from the Gold Coast to By­ron Bay through the hills on a cross sec­tion of tar­mac sur­faces showed it to be smooth, quiet and ef­fi­cient, with ex­cel­lent poise through bumpy cor­ners.

There are four driv­ing modes: nor­mal, sport, eco and in­di­vid­ual, the lat­ter sens­ing and re­mem­ber­ing your driv­ing style.

I took an R-Line diesel on a short loop drive and was in­stantly im­pressed with the bet­ter driver feel, but the firm ride may not be for ev­ery­one.

The wagon was bril­liant on the trip back, with very low cabin noise and nice flat han­dling run­ning on its 18-inch wheels. It is prob­a­bly the best combo for all con­di­tions.

Pas­sat comes with nine airbags and the full elec­tronic safety suite.

Ver­dict: Typ­i­cal Ger­man ef­fi­ciency and pre­ci­sion at a price that should send sales steeply north.

VW's classy new Pas­sat is quite a sur­prise pack­age.

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