What you see here is not one of those ‘bottom-of-the-line’ models you’d get from the big three German luxury car manufacturers. In fact, it’s got the same hot-four 206kW engine as the Golf R and is a true semi-prestige, value-for-money hero. This is the Volkswagen Passat 206TSI R-line.
But to truly appreciate why the Passat isn’t one of the German made ‘bottom feeder models’, we need to first look at its rather pale competition.
The Audi A4 2.0-litre TFSI, for example, will set you back almost $61,000 – and you’ll need to tick plenty of those option boxes to consider it a proper luxury car befitting its four-ringed badge. The same goes for BMW’s 320i, which has a starting price of $61,990 and only develops 135kW and 290Nm, while the Mercedes-Benz C200 costs from $61,400 and only gains another 5Nm of torque.
That’s against 206kW and 350Nm for the Passat, which carries a price tag of just $57,990 for its range-topping iteration.
On price alone it represents excellent value, but for Volkswagen’s newest flagship sedan, the German maker has also thrown in every feature in the book – and a few surprises more.
The R-line package adds 19-inch rims, more aggressive front and rear bumpers, unique sill plates and exhaust trim, proper aluminium accelerator and brake pedals, and a raft of features unique to the R-line package.
Our favourite surprises are the big-ticket items, like adaptive sports suspension that lowers the car by 15mm (clearly adding more visible presence). That, and the front buckets in supple Nappa leather that not only hold you firm when you’re having fun, but offer armchair comfort and lower-back support during longer stints behind the wheel.
In fact, there isn’t a lot this car doesn’t offer. Even high-end kit such as the Active Info Display – essentially Volkswagen’s take on Audi’s must-have Virtual Cockpit – is a 12.3-inch digital instrument display that is simply brilliant thanks to its easy-to-use customisation.
The Passat also gets the new Volkswagen Discover Pro audio and navigation systems, accessed via a high-res 8.0-inch touchscreen where you can find apps for Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirror-link. The stereo unit itself also produces a thoroughly decent note despite the absence of any premium branding on the speaker grilles.
Cockpit ambience has an almost premium flavour, with just enough metallic highlights to set off the leather upholstery and soft-touch materials that make this space sort of appealing, but still not quite there. Though we do like the centrally mounted analogue clock and the leather-bound, flat-bottom steering wheel, which feels good to the touch.
Passat has always offered loads of passenger space – front, back and boot – and the new version is no different. There’s plenty of width between driver and front passenger, while rear legroom is better than many in the large car segment.
There’s a stack of room in the boot, too. Expect 586 litres with the rear seats upright, expanding to 1152 litres when folded.
Honestly, these things deserve executive status in prestige hire car fleets.
There’s also a full suite of the latest electronic safety systems too, like driver fatigue warning, rear cross-traffic alert, lane assist – lane departure warning and side Assist. And let’s not forget emergency braking.
Working in concert with the traction control module is an electronic diff lock, as well as Volkswagen’s Extended Electronic Differential Lock (XDL) which activates during cornering to improve traction and reduce the tendency to understeer.
For your $57,990 you also get adaptive cruise control, front and rear parking sensors with rear-view camera with multi angle views and parking guidelines, as well as pretty much every other advanced safety feature available today.
I mentioned earlier this vehicle has bona fide sleeper status. It’s quick, like 0-100km/h in just 5.5 seconds quick. At least, that’s the claim, which means it's faster than a Nissan 370Z two-seat sports car – not bad for a family-sized hauler.
Behind the wheel, it feels rapid once you’re out of the blocks, but there’s an annoying slushy retardation in first gear, as you bury the throttle from standstill. We tried switching to manual mode in Sport and still couldn’t shake it.
Mid-range acceleration, though, is a lot more satisfying, with the Passat gathering real pace as the revs build.
We’re not entirely sold on the engine note, though. It’s just not as throaty as you might expect of a car with these performance credentials. Thankfully, tapping the Sport button ups the ante some, and mildly improves the exhaust note in this regard, but it still lacks that main ingredient – soul.
The Passat’s value proposition doesn’t end there. Not only do you get the engine and quick-shifting six-speed dual-clutch transmission from the Golf R, you also get premium kit like adaptive suspension with multiple driving modes, adaptive LED headlamps with dynamic cornering lights – so they move in relation to the steering wheel – and of course this Passat is all-wheel drive, so it offers brilliant traction and grip in the wet.
The quick-shifting dual-clutch transmission also offers plenty of driver engagement, particularly if you opt to use the manual shift paddles – makes driving a lot fun, when conditions permit.
For city and suburban duty, though, you’ll most likely want to leave it in Normal, for the good balance between performance and comfort. But get some clear road ahead, and switching to Sport is the go for faster throttle and steering response.
We also like the way the Passat handles. It feels well balanced and it's nicely poised on the road. There’s very little body roll, even when you’re stringing a few corners together at a reasonable clip. And despite its sizeable dimensions, it’s a car that inspires a good degree of confidence when pushing on.
Ride comfort is very good, especially in the Normal damper setting. Even the largest potholes are effectively ironed-out and isolated from the cabin. Switching to Sport definitely firms things up, but it's still largely comfortable, even in the rear seats. My only gripe, the front seats need a tad more bolster to match the car's performance in the twisties.
For long-distance family excursions, though, you might want to try the Eco mode, especially given this car’s regulation premium 98 RON fuel requirements.
While the latest Passat may not have quite the cachet to lure every prestige buyer looking to park a German badge in their garage, it is however one of those wonderfully versatile cars that allows you to have your cake and eat it too.
This Passat’s credentials are indeed impressive. It looks the business with that lowered stance, has oodles of space and comfort, boasts every known electronic gadget available today, has got loads of safety kit and has more than enough performance to shame some luxury Euro cars costing nearly twice the sum.
Ownership costs are reasonable too, with the total scheduled servicing charges amounting to $3471 over five years. It's no bargain in that regard, but it's also not expensive, either (first year $433; second year $625; third year $706; fourth year $1274; and fifth year $433)
It’s no surprise, then, that this VW is guaranteed to put a smile on the face of most drivers, and at $57,990 plus on-roads, it’s a bargain to boot.