Car Enthusiast - click here to access the home page


 



First Drive: Volkswagen Passat. Image by United Pictures.

First Drive: Volkswagen Passat
The seventh generation Volkswagen Passat is actually just a mammoth facelift. Is that good enough?

   



<< earlier review     later review >>

Reviews homepage -> Volkswagen reviews

| First Drive | Barcelona, Spain | 2011 Volkswagen Passat |

Brows were furrowed when Volkswagen admitted that the sixth-generation Golf wasn't really new, but a re-dux of Golf Mk V. However, its general brilliance had a moisturising affect on those wrinkly foreheads - nobody's complaining about the Golf's gestation any more, are they? The same will apply to the seventh version of the Passat if it's much better than the sixth on which it's based...

In the Metal

Remember when Facebook re-launched a couple of years ago and there was an outcry because nobody knew how to use it anymore? Well, that's not what's happened here. There's no chance that unfamiliarity will breed contempt at the next Passat fan club meeting. Both the exterior and interior are sharpened up, and both hard to criticise, but revelatory they're not. The cabin architecture is as was - easy to navigate, nice to look at, delightful to touch - while the outside is apparently 'Phaeton inspired'. All the body panels but the roof are new, apparently.

What you get for your Money

There's a choice of S, SE and Sport trims across all six engines at launch. Those engines are the usual VW Group suspects, split down the middle between TDI diesel and TSI petrol. The former offers a 104- to 168bhp spread and the latter 120- to 208bhp. All three diesels are badged BlueMotion Technology and get start-stop and regenerative braking.

S models get alloys, air conditioning and iPod connectivity as standard; SE gets a DAB digital radio and VW's new fatigue detection system; Sport comes with touch-screen satnav as standard. Optional technology includes self-park (this system can parallel and reverse park these days), collision detection with automatic braking and a boot that opens if you swipe a leg towards the car (preferably your own).

Driving it

If you were expecting the new Passat to be a little more comfortable and more refined... wrong. It's actually a lot more comfortable and refined. The two Passats we sampled were furnished with DCC adaptive damping, but in any of its three modes (Comfort, Normal and Sport) the Passat is nothing short of executive-like in its ability to cosset the occupants.

Most of our time was spent in the base level 1.6 TDI diesel model with 104bhp and 184lb.ft. Not huge outputs, agreed, but enough to overcome the weight of the car and grant it a comfort zone well within the boundaries of the UK speed limit.

That's useful too, because this is a car most at home on the motorway. It's decent to steer, with a well-controlled body, precise gear shift and a nice weight to the steering rack in Sport mode - but it's built for comfort. Actually, that fact makes the DCC chassis system a little superfluous, really, because firming up the steering and damping doesn't provide a tangible enough layer of extra driving enjoyment.

Nope, the Passat's strengths are its suppleness, its quietness and its ability to glide along. Push the little diesel unit and it starts to growl slightly obtrusively, but generally, this doesn't feel like a sub-executive eco-car, which is impressive considering it returns 65.7mpg and 114g/km, making it tax free during year one and just 30 quid thereafter.

Worth Noting

Volkswagen has shifted 15 million Passats since the first generation car in 1973, making it VW's third best selling model. You can guess one and two.

A VW chassis buff told us that the company opted to use the previous car's chassis because changing it wouldn't bring any tangible benefit. The progenitor of the Passat's chassis is the Golf V's, which introduced independent rear suspension. The setup is so malleable in terms of tuning ride and handling characteristics, said our expert, that developing a new chassis - with the associated cost - would be pointless. So there.

Summary

It may be a slight disappointment in terms of how gentle the transformation is, especially in the cabin, but the new Volkswagen Passat becomes a benchmark for comfort and refinement. It's a comfy and classy car to spend time in, more so than the outgoing one. Surely that's enough?

Mark Nichol - 26 Oct 2010



  www.volkswagen.co.uk    - Volkswagen road tests
- Volkswagen news
- Passat images

2011 VW Passat. Image by Max Earey.2011 VW Passat. Image by Max Earey.2011 VW Passat. Image by Max Earey.2011 VW Passat. Image by Max Earey.2011 VW Passat. Image by Max Earey.

2011 VW Passat. Image by Max Earey.2011 VW Passat. Image by Max Earey.2011 VW Passat. Image by Max Earey.2011 VW Passat. Image by Max Earey.2011 VW Passat. Image by Max Earey.



2011 VW Passat. Image by United Pictures.
 

2011 VW Passat. Image by United Pictures.
 

2011 VW Passat. Image by United Pictures.
 

2011 VW Passat. Image by United Pictures.
 

2011 VW Passat. Image by United Pictures.
 

2011 VW Passat. Image by United Pictures.
 

2011 VW Passat. Image by United Pictures.
 

2011 VW Passat. Image by United Pictures.
 






 

Internal links:   | Home | Privacy | Contact us | Archives | Old motor show reports | Follow Car Enthusiast on Twitter | Copyright 1999-2023 ©