Those familiar with the Super Bowl commercial will remember the new 2011 Volkswagen Passat as the ‘Baby Darth Vader car’.
2011 Volkswagen Passat 118TSI sedan, 1.8-litre petrol, seven-speed DSG – $38,990
2011 Volkswagen Passat 125TDI wagon, 2.0-litre diesel, six-speed DSG – $45,990
But the refreshed premium mid-sizer from Germany is more about science than science fiction, with a number of new features making it safer, better equipped and more efficient than ever.
The Honda Accord Euro, Hyundai i45, Mazda6 and Toyota Camry all start at around $30,000 and top out below $45,000, while at the other end of the spectrum, the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series, Lexus IS and Mercedes-Benz C-Class all get started around $55,000.
If those prices sound familiar, there’s a good reason: Volkswagen Australia has maintained the prices of the old model. The diesel engine still demands a $5000 premium over the base petrol, while the step up from the four-cylinder petrol to the V6 is a considerable $17,000. Wagon variants cost $2000 more than their equivalent sedans.
Despite this, every model is greener than before, with the standard fitment of brake energy recuperation the major factor behind the improvements.
At 9.7 litres/100km (9.5 wagon), the V6 FSI Highline model is more efficient than both the old V6 Highline and the R36, which ranged between 10.0 and 10.7 litres/100km combined.
The diesel Passat is now equipped with stop-start technology, which shuts down the engine when stopped in traffic and restarts it when you take your foot off the brake.
The diesel model itself is a brilliant all-rounder. It has more power than the TSI, the same torque as the V6 FSI and smashes them both for efficiency. The torque doesn’t come on in a massive surge but rather in a more comfortable, progressive fashion. There is some slight turbo lag when you stamp on the throttle, but drivers familiar with diesel cars won’t be disappointed, and it’s unlikely to be the deal-breaker for first-time diesel shoppers either.
Volkswagen has also fitted a selectable Auto Hold function to stop the manual-style rolling that some automatic drivers find off-putting in dual-clutch vehicles.
The all-wheel drive V6 model has loads of family sports car potential. The sedan accelerates from 0-100km/h in just 5.5 seconds, making it just four-tenths slower than the dual-clutch Audi S4, which is more than double the price.
The ride is comfortable on average surfaces and you only start to get tossed around on coarse and bumpy sections of road. The steering has a light feel and keeps you busy in low-speed manoeuvres, but is extremely obedient and will go where you point it. Road noise is insignificant on freeways and only started to nag on C-grade roads around Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula. There was next to no wind noise from the side mirrors or A-pillars.
The Passat looks somewhat skinny on the road and this impacts on the cabin width. That said, you certainly don’t feel cramped with four occupants, and taller adults won’t be troubled riding in the back.
Comfort levels are great. The base model now gets leather upholstery, while the Highline models get a classier Nappa finish. Standard cabin features include tinted windows, dual-zone climate control, 6.5-inch colour touchscreen with six-stack in-dash CD changer, SD card slot, auxiliary jack, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, iPod/USB/mini USB connectivity and eight speakers.
Safety is another strong point for the Passat, with eight airbags standard (dual front, side, curtain and rear side). Fatigue Detection is another new feature that analyses your driving style and gives warnings when your driving patterns show signs of tiredness.
Over the 118TSI, the 125TDI Highline adds front fog lights, brushed aluminium interior inserts, chrome highlights and stainless steel scuff plates.
Adaptive Cruise Control with Front Assist and City Electric Brake is both a mouthful and a $2000 option. The adaptive cruise setting allows you to maintain your favoured distance from the vehicle in front, while Front Assist and City EB decrease your chance of a nose-to-tail crash.
They’re expensive options. If you purchase a 118TSI sedan and add sat-nav and metallic paint ($700), it will be $42,690 before on-roads, which will push it beyond $45,000. Throw in Adaptive Cruise Control and Park Assist, and your well-optioned base model will be closer to $50,000 on the road.
2011 Volkswagen Passat manufacturer’s list prices:
- 118TSI sedan – $38,990
- 118TSI wagon – $40,990
- 125TDI Highline sedan – $43,990
- 125TDI Highline wagon – $45,990
- V6 FSI Highline sedan – $55,990
- V6 FSI Highline wagon – $57,990
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