SUVs have put the conventional station wagon on the endangered-species list, so it’s pleasing to see a market return for the Volkswagen Passat wagon.
The Passat range had been on an enforced sabbatical of about six months – owing to production delays as the German brand adjusted to life under new European emissions regulations.
There’s just a single specification for now, though higher-grade 162TSI and 206TSI models are expected in early 2021. The higher-riding Passat Alltrack wagon (in 162TSI guise) is also due about the same time.
The Volkswagen Passat 140TSI Business Wagon is priced from $48,590 – or $53,238 with (NSW) on-road costs added. That’s an increase over the $45,790 132TSI Comfortline wagon it replaces, though there are some additional features.
It’s also a $2000 premium over the identically badged Passat sedan, though that doesn’t prevent the wagon from becoming the far more popular body style – accounting for about 70 per cent of Passat sales in Australia.
|Volkswagen Passat 140TSI Business Wagon|
|Engine||2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power and torque||140kW @ 4200-6000rpm, 320Nm @ 1450-4390rpm|
|Transmission||seven-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Drive type||front-wheel drive|
|Fuel claim combined (ADR)||6.6L/100km|
|fuel use on test||6.9L/100km|
|Boot volume (rear seats up / down)||650L / 1780L|
|Turning circle||11.7 metres|
|ANCAP safety rating||5 (tested 2015)|
|Warranty||5 years / unlimited km|
|Main competitors||Mazda 6 wagon, Skoda Superb wagon|
|Price as tested (ex on-road costs)||$48,590|
That keeps Volkswagen’s biggest, poshest wagon well clear of luxury wagons from the likes of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz that start from $68,800, or the Volvo V60 that starts from $56,990.
Peugeot’s latest pricing strategy takes the 508 wagon out of the picture here costing from $59,490.
Unusually, there are no individual or package options for the Passat – only $800 special paint. (Our test car featured no-cost Pure White, which we think suits the wagon’s soberly styled exterior design.)
That points to a comprehensive list of standard kit, which the Passat delivers – to a degree.
Equipment highlights include 18-inch alloy wheels (up from the 17s of the former $43,990 132TSI wagon), LED headlights and daytime running lights, Vienna leather upholstery with electrically adjustable and heated front seats, tri-zone climate, keyless entry and start, and Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay.
Driver-assistance technology comprises adaptive cruise control, active lane-keeping, speed-limit reading, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, fatigue warning, emergency assistance, and Proactive Occupant Protection that can tighten seatbelts and close windows if the system detects an imminent accident.
A $47,290 Mazda 6 GT wagon has only dual-zone climate and non-wireless CarPlay, though otherwise matches the majority of the Passat’s features while adding extras such as 19-inch alloy wheels, head-up display, high-beam assist, paddle-shift levers and a Bose audio system.
And the Skoda Superb 162TSI – also set to return after a (WLTP) emissions break – can be expected to once again be priced a bit lower while featuring a more powerful engine.
As we’ve come to expect from the eighth-generation Passat released in 2015 (and other VWs), there’s a classy presentation to the cabin. The cross-hatched trim inserts even look like they’re inspired by a classic grey business suit.
Squidgy materials are used for the upper dash and top half of the doors.
Plentiful storage includes generously sized door compartments (which will take large drink bottles), centre console cupholders with sliding cover, a little nook for the key fob, and an angled tray for a smartphone – though this disappointingly lacks wireless charging.
The instrument panel also misses out on VW’s digital driver display, though it could be argued the traditional dials are very much in keeping with the Passat’s classic, business-like vibe.
The VW’s ‘ErgoComfort’ front seats provide plentiful electric adjustment and accommodate broader frames while also feeling supportive. The cushion extender is welcome, too (and looks like a natural extension of the seat rather than the more common separate, moveable section).
Excellent comfort is extended into the rear cabin, where passengers can savour semi-limousine knee space and generous head room. The scalloped cushions and seatbacks of the outboard seats add to the relaxing rear bench, while rear ventilation includes separate climate control. Side window blinds will also be appreciated on warm, sunny days.
Wagon buyers are usually most interested in the rear space at the very rear of the car. And in the Passat’s case, there’s a very useful 650L of boot capacity.
That’s notably more than the 506L of the Mazda 6 wagon and just 10L shy of the Superb wagon’s luggage capacity – even if the Skoda extends its advantage by 1950L to 1780L when rear seats are folded down.
The Passat’s boot also trumps the 615L of VW’s Tiguan mid-sized SUV (which has recently displaced the Passat as the German brand’s best-selling global vehicle) and just 50L shy of the maximum capacity of the seven-seater Tiguan Allspace – 700L with the rear seats folded.
The boot is not only long but wide with no wheel-arch intrusions. It made the Passat wagon particularly handy for dropping off and then collecting my road bike from a service – the bike sliding in easily without the need to remove the front wheel.
There are also good-size side storage areas (with removable plastic barriers), two pulldown hooks, integrated bag hooks, tie-down points, and a 12-volt socket.
And good news for owners taking trips well away from towns and cities: there’s a full-size spare wheel under the boot floor.
Release levers automatically lower the rear seatbacks – in a 60/40 arrangement – with the central part of the seatbacks able to be lowered separately to accommodate longer items while allowing for passengers in the rear outer seats.
All-round vision is excellent for the driver, courtesy of relatively thin windscreen pillars and an elongated glasshouse and large rear window.
One of the Passat’s long-held traits is excellent ride comfort, and nothing has changed. The 140TSI wagon rides with a generally soothing smoothness – something notably missing from the Audi A4 Allroad wagon we drove the following week, yet also an advantage carried over to the Tiguan.
While there are no adaptive dampers on the Passat 140TSI, the single-setting suspension works well across varying speeds and surfaces. At higher speeds on bumpy country roads, the damping does a fine job of retaining the wagon’s suppleness while avoiding bounciness.
The nicely weighted, linear steering is easy to appreciate, even if the Passat is not particularly involving to drive. (The related Arteon Shooting Brake – under consideration for Australia – could be an alternative option for keen steerers.)
The Passat is a car designed more for laid-back driving, and it does this brilliantly – capable of limiting driver fatigue even when racking up hundreds of kilometres in a single trip. There’s some rumble from the Pirelli Cinturato tyres, but it’s not overly intrusive, and on the freeway the engine remains in the background.
The smooth and flexible 140kW/320Nm 140TSI turbocharged four-cylinder provides a good level of performance – more than sufficient even if you have the wagon loaded up with passengers and luggage.
The seven-speed dual-clutch auto is mostly well behaved. There can be a minor delay on kickdown, after which there’s strong acceleration. The engine also responds well to small nudges of the throttle pedal to ensure the Passat wagon keeps pace with traffic effortlessly.
We also liked the stop-start system that cuts out the engine seamlessly before the car comes to a complete standstill, and restarts it quickly.
The Passat 140TSI wagon comes with an official fuel consumption figure of 6.6 litres per 100km. Our testing suggested owners might get near that if they regularly frequent freeways; a ‘commuter’ loop saw the trip computer register a 7.8L/100km average. Premium 95RON fuel is recommended.
The Passat is backed by a five-year warranty. Volkswagen servicing costs remain relatively high, with 140TSI wagon owners facing a $1380 cost over three years or $2692 over five years. Service plans can save some money for buyers happy to pay maintenance costs upfront or incorporate them into finance packages.
While more powerful versions of the Passat wagon are set to be available next year, the 140TSI’s performance will be more than satisfactory for many buyers while keeping fuel efficiency in check. (No diesel versions are planned for Australia.)
And although there are more exciting wagons to drive and look at out there, the Passat Business very much lives up to its badge with its roomy and upmarket interior and its executive-friendly ride comfort.