DON’T PASS ON PASSAT
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.