My booking with the Volkswagen Passat TFSI was re-jigged a couple of times prior to picking up the car, so after that slight scheduling disaster I finally had my bottom planted on the leather-clad driver’s seat. I left without hesitation, just in-case there was another scheduling hiccup that I was yet to be made aware of. After quite literally jumping in through the window and mashing the go pedal, I didn’t get much of a chance to analyse the exterior demeanor of the Passat.
I pulled up to a destitute train station car park and jumped out to have a quick gander. The rear-end uses carry-over styling from the Jetta, the main difference being the two fat exhaust pipes sticking out of the back. The side profile features stylish chrome highlights and body colour door handles and panels; you can also expect to see ‘puddle lights’ that give you that extra bit of vision at night when exiting the vehicle. Step around to the front and you will witness lashings of chrome all over the bumper, along with four sets of dots that are used for the front parking sensor. The coolest exterior feature is the Bond-style flip open VW symbol that is used to open the boot and prep the electro-magnetic shield (just kidding).
The interior is a piece that sets this vehicle apart from the rest. The Passat I was driving was optioned with a sun-roof and leather interior (valued at $1,990 and $2,990 respectively). The beige leather seats matched the beige dashboard and made the car look very elegant and poised. Unfortunately the seats didn’t offer much side support, meaning that trips to the passenger seat were ever so frequent when taking corners with relative pace. The rear seats on the other hand were far better and were very comfortable over long distances. Rear passengers were also treated with a very sizeable centre console that folds out with two very meaty and sturdy cup holders. There is even a lockable trap-door that leads to the boot.
Storage spaces are anywhere and everywhere inside the Passat. The grubby journo that drove this vehicle before me left a sticky Coke – as in the drink – stain in one of the cubby holes. I managed to stick my fingers straight in it and found that it was a total pain to clean the stain once I attacked it with the cloth. I found this was the case on a few occasions, whereby some of the storage areas were hard to clean because of their orientation and depth. An interesting extra was the umbrella holster located in the driver’s door panel, it’s good for those days at the golf or bowls club when there is a sprinkle of rain and you don’t want it to interrupt your game.
Boot capacity is rated at 565L, trumping the Falcon by over 60L. The gear shifter is housed in by a cosy layer of leather; the only downside is that it’s hard to see which gear you are in when using the shifter, as you can’t differentiate between the selected gear colour and the de-selected gear colour. The indicator and windscreen wiper stalks also felt a bit flimsy and cheap compared to the Passat’s baby brother – the Jetta. The cruise control was also quite fiddly at first, it would only go up or down in 10km/h increments, which I found rather odd. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks back that I found out from friend and colleague – Feann Torr from WebWombat – that the stalk needed to be held down to increment in single digits – duh.
One of the Passat’s party pieces is the key and starter system. The key is a rectangular-oval type shape that simply slots into the dashboard to start the car, not a bad idea and works quite well in practice. One other thing most of your friends won’t have is an electromechanical parking brake. According to Volkswagen, “The Passat is the first in its class to have a push button-operated electromechanical parking brake as standard. Its electronic control system and networking with other control units allowed the integration of a dynamic emergency braking function, a starting assistant (e.g. for going uphill) and an auto-hold function (stopping at traffic lights without constant brake pedal operation).” It’s not a bad system; the only issue was the temperature of the controller unit under the bonnet. It seemed to get extremely hot to the touch after subsequent applications.
Priced at $49,970 – with options fitted – I’m sure you’re wondering what lies under the bonnet. The only way you’re going to find out is by either opening the bonnet or asking the owner, because there are no external badges signifying the fact that the Golf GTI engine lives under there. The TFSI Passat features the award-winning 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder engine that produces 147kW between 5100RPM and 6600RPM, it also pounds out 280Nm of torque between 1800RPM and 4700RPM. On paper it really doesn’t sound all that exciting, but when put to practice, it’s totally mind-blowing! Power is sent through a 6-speed automatic gearbox that is very quick and a pleasure to drive with. Unfortunately, the DSG variant (with two clutches) is limited to the V6 4MOTION and TDI models.
One thing that I found with the Passat was that the power was either ON or OFF. If you toddle along without much accelerator application it simply feels like a 2.0-litre engine pulling a 1500KG vehicle. If you plant the right foot you are greeted with a semi-psychotic platter of torque. Sure, there’s a fair amount of torque steer to contend with, but once that’s under control it’s a case of holding on for dear life. The revs just keep travelling to red-line in each gear and the engine simply feels like it will never stop pulling; it’s truly an amazing sensation.
The Passat feels very nice to drive. The steering wheel feels great to man-handle in dire situations and seems to respond respectfully and accurately when you try and push the car around. Unfortunately – due to the Passat’s weight – it’s not all that hard to reach its limits. There is an evident amount of body roll when you throw the Passat through a rather hard bend. ESP retards any loss of traction and negligible sideways motion that you may enter into with a very sharp response. It would have been nice to see a firmer suspension setup that exhibited less body roll; this of course would lead to a more detrimental ride quality. I also found during the week-long test that the suspension was incredibly noisy. With any of the windows down you could hear the suspension heaving away at any variation in the road’s surface.
Jump on the brakes from 100km/h and hold onto anything you can because these things are monsters and really pull up the Passat with little effort. In-fact, I did seven sets of 0-100-0 runs and the brakes were exhibiting no sign of fade. I would have kept going but I felt like my stomach was about to exit my mouth, so I thought I would save the cleanup effort involved after such an event.
Moving the Passat’s metal shell from naught to one-hundred takes just 7.8-seconds, not bad for a luxo-barge of this size. Slot it into ‘S’ mode, dial-up a few revs with the brake on, drop your foot off the brake pedal and mash the accelerator to the floor. At first you take off with minimal force, soon after hitting 2000RPM the tyres begin to lose grip and you start getting moulded into the driver’s seat, the next gear is then grabbed with a massive sense of urgency, soon after that you hit 100-kays and have a grin from ear-to-ear.
Front and rear parking sensors make parking an absolute breeze. Some of the other features on the standard list include: driver and passenger airbags; driver and passenger side airbags; rear seat passenger side airbags; front and rear curtain airbags; ABS brakes with ESP (Electronic Stability Program); dual-zone climate control; 6-disc CD changer with 8-speakers; automatic headlights; automatic windscreen wipers and heated seats.
During the test, I returned an average fuel consumption of 10.2L/100km. This is a very reasonable figure for a vehicle of this size and with this much power.
Volkswagen has really been hitting some home-runs as of late. I’ve been more than happy with each model that I have driven so far and have only quibbled over small things. This is again a winning car from Volkswagen. Sure, interior build quality won’t match some of the more expensive Euros, à la BMW, Mercedes etc. but for the price you are paying, it’s certainly acceptable.
The engine is an absolute gob-smacker and gives you such a thrill each and every time you nail the throttle, not the mention the lovely noise that exits the rear-end at the same time.
In my opinion, the Passat is a winning deal if you’re after a luxury sedan. Forget the Falcon and Commodore luxo-barges if you have any concerns with fuel prices. Yes, the Passat takes 98RON fuel but it uses far less than the Aussie opposition and can be more rewarding when so desired. So, if you’re in the market for a new family car, check out the new Passat, I’m sure it will leave you as happy as I was after driving it.
CarAdvice rating (out of 5):
- by Paul Maric