TIMING is everything. Just ask Volkswagen.
As the biggest scandal to rock the company continues to unfold, VW Australia has had to find a way to bring new products to market and not only stump up interest in these offerings but also ensure the latest arrivals do not disappear into the quagmire of scepticism and ridicule.
The Passat, now in its eighth generation, is one of those releases trying to cut a swathe through the bad publicity and generate the kind of interest that will ultimately result in sales.
As Volkswagen's most favoured worldwide pick, the Passat is well placed to do so.
After all, 22 million customers over four decades hints at its prowess, that it was done in such an unharried, nonplussed fashion simply reinforces it.
But even the Passat, Volkswagen's quiet achiever, will have its work cut out.
This latest edition is available here with either a 1.8-litre turbo-petrol or 2.0-litre turbo-diesel in sedan or wagon guise and in three equipment levels - the 132 TSI, 132TSI Comfortline and the 140TDI Highline.
It is difficult to fault the Passat's interior quality and build.
In German fashion everything in the drivercentric console is placed with thought and precision and although function is a high priority, in this instance, form gets a look-in as well.
The cabin finish is excellent with nice texture elements and chrome highlights to complement a sleek upmarket look. The integrated air vents and a bigger 8.0-inch infotainment screen in the top two models hold the eye with the ergonomic steering wheel and gear shifter comfortable in the hand.
Seats, whether in cloth trim or leather, are supportive and cushioning. finding the small of your back with ease and offering enough bolstering to keep you in around sharp corners.
This Passat is wider and more spacious than before, a claim easily borne out by the extra legroom available to rear seat passengers although taller adults might find the head room a tad compromised especially with the optional sunroof.
Luggage capacity is excellent too, up in both sedan and wagon to 586 litres and 650 litres respectively growing to a very worthy 1780 litres with the rear seats dropped.Shopping bag hooks and a 12V socket don't hurt either.
On the road
Much has been done to ensure this Passat delivers a more dynamic and comfortable ride with good balance and impeccable manners.
The stretched wheelbase aids in this endeavour as does the XDL system which reduces understeer and improves handling prowess.
The 1.8-litre turbo-petrol is delightfully smooth, making good use of an updated seven-speed dual-clutch transmission which is seldom short of breath. You have to be a tad forceful out of corners to keep lag to a minimum but that's easy to get used to.
Ride quality is better in the 17-inch tyres too with the larger variety noticeably increasing the road noise that permeates the cabin.
The diesel is certainly not without its merits either. The 2.0-litre unit that powers the 140TDI Highline has not a jot to do with the out-of-favour EA189 and is happy to press the point with a powerful decisive drive, a bit noisy beyond the initial diesel clatter mind you, but overall an accomplished performer.
Driver Mode Select in the top two specs allows you to choose from four options and to also adjust the steering with the R-Line package.
What do you get?
Quite a lot actually. Reverse camera, sat-nav and parking sensors are standard across the range as is tri-zone climate control, keyless start, a new Generation II infotainment system with multiple phone connectivity and App-Connect which works with Apple and Android phones.
There are also rain-sensing wipers, multifunction steering wheel and a cooled glove box. The 132TSI Comfortline adds leather trim, sports seats, an 8.0-inch screen instead of 6.5-inch, front fog lights with static cornering lights and keyless entry while the high end 140TDI Highline also offers a darkened rear LED tail lights, Nappa leather, heated front seats and Driver Profile Selection amongst others.
Safety advancements are always an advantage in a family car or wagon and the Passat does not disappoint with nine airbags, Multi-Collision Braking system and driver Fatigue Detection system across all three offerings.
The 132TSI Comfortline and 140TDI Highline also get blind-spot monitoring, Lane Assist, Rear Traffic Alert and Front Assist with Emergency Assist all of which can be optioned in the entry-level 132TSI.
According to Volkswagen the Passat returns 6.0l/100km in the petrol variants and 4.8l/100km in the lone diesel. Our test drive returned much higher of course but we look forward to putting it to a week-long test later this year.
There is a three year/unlimited kilometre warranty, capped-price servicing and three years roadside assist.
This may not be a big market but competition remains fierce with the Mazda6 (from $32,540), Toyota Camry (from $29,490), Hyundai i40 (from $32,490), Subaru Liberty (from $29,990), Skoda Octavia (from $32,190) and Ford Mondeo (from $32,790) all wanting a slice of the action.
Volkswagen is hoping that the mix of performance and technological advances will attract more business buyers to its family base.
For the latter the Passat makes very real sense especially the wagon which gives you the space of an SUV but is a much better driving experience.
Storage is excellent, the safety suite an undeniable advantage and quality apparent. Optional packs - Driver Assistance, Luxury and R-Line - also gives you the opportunity to personalize your Passat to your preference.
The new Passat combines style and elegance with sporty proportions and a dynamic design that reflects Volkswagen's latest design language.
It is lighter, lower and wider with a full-width grille and prominent front wheel arches. This Passat looks classy and sophisticated with sweeping lines, sharp creases and distinct LEDs making for understated elegance.
The Passat may not be a look-at-me attention seeker but it is happy to go about its business excelling with little effort and rewarding those buyers who recognise its charm with an energetic yet comfortable ride and impressive features and equipment.
There is so much about the Passat that appeals - both in sedan and wagon form - and it would be a real pity if Volkswagen's emissions scandal barged in and stole all the limelight.
Model: Volkswagen Passat
Details: Five-door front-wheel drive medium sedan or wagon.
Engines: 1.8-litre inline four-cylinder turbo-petrol generating maximum power of 132kW @ 5100 - 6200rpm and peak torque of 250Nm @ 1250 - 5000rpm. 2.0-litre inline four-cylinder turbo-diesel generating maximum power of 140kW @ 3500 - 4000rpm and peak torque of 400Nm @ 1750 - 3000rpm
Transmissions: Seven-speed DSG for petrol and six-speed DSG for diesel
Consumption: 6.0 litres/100km combined for petrol, 4.8l/100km for diesel
Bottom line: from $34,990 for 132TSI (wagon from $36,990), from $39,990 for 132TSI Comfortline (wagon from $41,990) and from $45,990 for 140TDI Highline (wagon from $47,990)
What matters most
What we liked: Strong, capable performance, classy looks, trendy infotainment system.
What we'd like to see: A choice of a more powerful petrol, edgier interior design.
Warranty and servicing: Three-year unlimited kilometre warranty with fixed-price servicing.
Driving experience 17/20
Features and equipment 17/20
Functionality and comfort 18/20
Value for money 17/20
Style and design 17/20
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