Forty-one years after the original Volkswagen Passat broke cover, the German automaker unveiled the all-new Passat at the Volkswagen Design Centre in Potsdam, Germany, ahead of the car making its public debut at the Paris Motor Show in October 2014. The eighth-generation Passat, which has racked up over 22 million sales worldwide over four decades, was recently unleashed in South Africa, and DRIVEN took the four models that make up the local range for a drive in the eastern Cape.
We all know someone, who knows someone, who has owned at least one Passat in South Africa. In fact, the semi-sizeable sedan enjoyed more than a decent following in this country between the 1980s and 1990s.
For some reason, however – and my motoring journo colleagues differ on the possible explanations for it – Passat sales plateaued after that and eventually declined to a mere trickle compared to the runaway successes of Volkswagen’s other local offerings.
My own simplistic view on the matter is that the Jetta literally outgrew the Passat’s local usefulness, eventually all but matching it in size, power, and prestige. Why would buyers get a Passat when they could hop in a Jetta that did very much the same thing, for less money. The Passat simply failed to distinguish itself, sales numbers dwindled, and other German C-segment sedans thrived.
So, what is different about the eighth-generation Passat, that has Volkswagen’s local suits all beaming with glee?
For a start, before the new Passat even arrived here it had already won the 2015 European Car of the Year title in its class. That detail alone might not have you run out with your wallet agape, ready to throw upwards of R379,000 at the nearest VW dealer, but it sets a benchmark of quality that is hard to ignore.
Simple yet determined in its design, the new Passat is also stunningly good looking and sets the benchmark for the kind of sexy boxy design that only Volkswagen’s Head of Design, Klaus Bischoff, can pull off right now. On top of all that (or, rather, underneath its skin), new Passat’s technology systems and engines are also new. The petrol engine line-up comprises a 1.4 TSI with 110 kW, a 1.8 TSI with 132 kW, and a 2.0 TSI with 162 kW.
The 1.4 TSI is the entry-level engine in the new Passat range and was specifically developed for Volkswagen’s standardised Modular Transverse Matrix or Modularer Querbaukasten (MQB) platforms. Forming the base of VW’s future platform strategy, MQB platforms will only have transverse-mounted engines going forward, allowing VW to standardise across its brands and vehicle classes. All this in an effort to unlock value and cut down on developing multiple drivetrain and other systems for different cars.
The 1,395 cc engine has claimed combined fuel consumption of 5.3 l/100 km with the standard 6-speed manual gearbox (5.2 l/100 km for the optional 7-speed DSG) while maximum torque of 250 Nm is available at 1,500-3,000 r/min.
Also new, and the engine that gets my vote as the range’s top all-rounder, is the 132 kW 1,798 cc 4-cylinder mill. It delivers in spades on the power front, and manages a stellar torque number of 250 Nm across a wide engine rev range. Available from as low as 1,200 r/min, maximum torque seldom faded during our launch drive around Port Elizabeth. Impressive performance figures despite, the 1.8 TSI engine boasts claimed combined fuel consumption of 5.8 l/100 km and 130 g/km of CO2. The classic sprint to 100 km/h is attained in 7.9 seconds, going on to reach a top speed of 232 km/h.
The range-topping 2.0 TSI turbocharged direct injection petrol engine with 162 kW of power has maximum torque of 350 Nm that is available from between 1,500 and 4,400 r/min. This mill manages 6.2 l/100 km (143 g/km of CO2) and comes standard with a 6-speed DSG transmission that will help propel the bossy Passat to 100 km/h in only 6.7 seconds.
Unfortunately, however, Volkswagen’s popular 2.0 TDI 130 kW diesel engine will only make it to South African shores during the second half of 2016.
Performance statistics aside, the new Passat also takes the overall driver and passenger experience to a new level for Volkswagen.
Considered more of a lower level premium car in years past, new Passat’s interior design, use of high-quality materials, fit and finish, and decent level of standard spec has raised this car out of its previous image doldrums.
Two interior trim levels are offered at launch: Comfortline and Highline. Both packages offer a high level of standard features with highlights including Multi-Collision Braking System, Fatigue Detection (Driver Alert), Park Distance Control (front and rear), LED taillights, Alcantara/Vienna leather seats (Highline and R-Line), multifunction leather steering wheel with gearshift paddles for DSG versions, and three-zone Climatronic air-conditioner (optional in Comfortline).
The new Passat comes standard with a 3-year/120,000 km manufacturer warranty and 5-year/100,000 km Automotion Maintenance Plan. All models have a 12-year anti-corrosion warranty and 15,000 km service intervals.
Considering what factors contributed to sluggish sales of previous generation Passats, the new Passat is destined to rewrite the range’s fortunes in South Africa. Beautiful, driveable, comfortable, and above all, affordable, it will change your perception of Volkswagen’s premium sedan.
Report by BERNIE HELLBERG | Images © QUICKPIC