Unfortunately, style and emotion were two elements that fell by the wayside as German efficiency took their place, but with the sixth generation of the saloon, Volkswagen is aiming to “breathe more passion” into the Passat shape.
The first thing you notice is how much larger the new car is compared to the outgoing model. It’s longer, wider and taller, while the styling borrows elements of the Phaeton, such as the LED tail-lights, wide grille and coupé-like profile. The interior has also been given a much-needed injection of style and the cabin now emits a more luxury ambience.
But the real difference will only become apparent to potential buyers once they are behind the wheel. It doesn’t take long to realize that ride and handling have been vastly improved.
The four-link rear suspension system and electro-mechanical power steering have been developed to improve handling, while new suspension damping and a stiffer body structure result in better ride quality. The Sport trim builds on this by adding sports suspension, while ride height is lowered by 15mm. Other extras include tinted rear windows, front fog lights, climate control, front sports seats and 17in alloy wheels.
Although the 3.2 V6 engine would be the obvious choice for outright performance, the 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI has enough torque to keep things interesting. Drivers will find the stiffer suspension enjoyable on twisting roads, but for motorway distances it can become uncomfortable, particularly for passengers in the rear. In-gear performance is, as you’d expect, superb and the Passat transfers its torque onto tarmac without struggling for grip.
It’s no surprise that Volkswagen expects diesels to lead the way in sales and is predicting an 80/20 split, with the 2.0-litre oil burner being the most popular (a higher output 168bhp version of the same engine is due in February). Total sales for the range will be around 32,000, split 19,000 saloons and 13,000 estates.
Strengths: Great handling, refined but punchy engine
Weaknesses: Ride can be uncomfortable for passengers
Opportunity: Makes good use of improved dynamics
Threat: Higher output engine due in February
The USP: Passat shows it can be stylish and sporty
Engines: 2.0-litre turbodiesel; 138bhp @ 4000rpm; 236lb ft @ 2500rpm
Performance: 0-62mph: 9.8sec; top speed: 130mph
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Efficiency: 47.1mpg (combined); 159g/km CO2
CAP RV 3yr/30k: £7,725 (39%)
Rivals: Toyota Avensis, Volvo S60, Honda Accord