Overall rating: 4.5/5
The new Volkswagen Passat is the latest in a line of very successful generations for the German manufacturer and now with its latest engine and chassis technology, combined with a tangibly higher level of quality, it's starting to rival premium cars.
In the metal 5/5
It is very difficult to find a bad line in the design of this all-new eighth generation Volkswagen Passat. There are clear influences, especially around the front of the car, from the sleek CC and these design flourishes have been executed very well.
The front has a lower and more athletic stance than before, helped in part by the reduced bonnet height made possible by new chassis mounts that enabled the engineers to fit the engines at a shallower angle. A three-louvre grille stretches across the front and flows neatly into the headlight units, while the car's flanks are highlighted by a bold character line that runs along the car's length, through the door handles and right the way into the rear lights.
Equally as impressive from a design perspective is the interior, where the dashboard is dominated by a striking louvered design that apes the front grille and neatly incorporates the car's interior ventilation, while also featuring a traditionally-styled clock located in the centre of the dashboard. Our test car came equipped with the larger eight-inch 'Discover Pro' colour touchscreen media system, though all cars will come with the five-inch 'Composition Colour' touchscreen radio unit as standard as a minimum, which still looks very smart.
One of the most noticeable features of the interior, both from the driver's and passenger seats, is the overall feeling of space. Behind the sophisticated look there are some very clever packaging solutions at work, helped in part by the longer wheelbase (even though the car is in fact 2mm shorter than its predecessor) and also by detail design of the doors. From a front passenger's perspective there's generous legroom.
Driving it 4/5
The versatility of the Volkswagen Group's MQB platform is well represented by the new Passat, which delivers a driving experience that is involving yet equally refined. One of the standout features in this new model is the clear sense of structural rigidity when driving. Even with a now longer wheelbase the car feels nimble and handles very well on tighter roads. The ride is on the firmer side but is still supple enough to cope with poorer surfaces without losing composure.
Power from the 150hp diesel engine did at times feel slightly lacking on our test drive and when that engine is pushed harder it can produce a bit of a din, though on the whole noise suppression in the Passat is excellent. How the car will perform with the less powerful 120hp 1.6-litre diesel, which is likely to be a popular choice for Irish buyers, remains to be seen.
Volkswagen's latest power steering system delivers near-perfectly weighted feedback while the car's front-wheel drive architecture never feels challenged even when driven more enthusiastically. The new Passat sets a higher standard than ever and now straddles the gap between mainstream saloons and models from the more premium brands. Those opting for a Passat in the Highline trim specification will have a car that can not only rival the premium brands dynamically, but also in terms of luxury.
What you get for your money 4/5
The Volkswagen Passat will cost from â¬27,295 when it arrives in Ireland in January. That price will get buyers behind the wheel of a 125hp 1.4-litre TSI petrol powered car, though they will have to pay â¬28,940 for the entry-level, 120hp 1.6-litre diesel. Estate versions will be available from â¬29,225 for petrol power and â¬31,200 for the TDI diesel. Also available is a 150hp version of the petrol TSI engine, complete with cylinder-on-demand technology to reduce fuel consumption; a 150hp 2.0-litre TDI unit with emissions of 108g/km; and a 190hp version of the latter that emits just 106g/km.
Familiar trim lines Trendline, Comfortline and Highline return with the entry-level Passat featuring air conditioning, a five-inch touchscreen infotainment system, Bluetooth, an electric parking brake, Front Assist including City Emergency Brake, leather steering wheel and a keyless engine start system called 'Keyless Go'.
Comfortline, expected to be the most popular in Ireland, adds 16-inch alloy wheels and boosts the touchscreen up to 6.5 inches in size and also includes Park Distance Control front and rear, cruise control, a leather multi-function steering wheel, three-zone climate control, front fog lights, an interior ambient lighting package and rain sensing wipers. Range topping Highline adds 17-inch alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control, 'Comfort' seats in Alcantara/leather, heated front seats, electrically folding exterior mirrors, tinted rear windows, LED taillights and interior chrome trim.
From launch in early January buyers will be able to choose from either the saloon or estate body style, with the latter commanding a â¬2,265 price premium over the saloon in 1.6-litre TDI Comfortline spec. The estate's cargo volume is 650 litres and that can be expanded to a substantial IKEA-trip-swallowing 1,780 litres.
It's worth checking out what Volkswagen has in store for the Passat and other models in this tech overview story.
The new Volkswagen Passat is undoubtedly a very impressive car and one that serves to highlight the intent at which the German brand continues to raise its standards. With this latest model not only is it now a car that surpasses many of its peers, it has a new set of targets in its cross hairs.