A torquey turbodiesel engine and spacious Volkswagen Passat business class sedan – it sounds just like a marriage made in long-distance cruising heaven...
We like: Effortless cruiser, quiet cabin, stable ride, passenger space.
We don’t like: Understated looks, boring interior.
- For a fully loaded sedan: The Ford Fusion TDI is surprisingly dynamic to drive and similarly spacious, but lacks the overall quality feel of the Volkswagen.
- For more snob appeal: The Audi A4 is the 2016/17 Cars.co.za Consumer Awards's Business Class Car. In 2.0 TDI guise it is R50k more expensive than the Passat and that’s for a bare bones entry TDI model.
- For something left field: Infiniti’s Q50 2.2d offers something visually striking and spacious. It’s getting on a bit in years and the interior of the Passat feels better made.
Facts & Figures
- Price: R509 350 (April 2017 incl. R-Line kit)
- Engine: 2.0-litre turbodiesel
- Transmission: 6-speed DSG
- Power: 130 kW
- Torque: 350 Nm
- Fuel Consumption: 5.0L/100 km (claimed)
- Top speed: 228 kph
- 0-100 kph: 8.2 sec
Having already spent time with the 2.0-litre turbopetrol version of the Passat, we tried out this turbodiesel model. There wasn’t much to dislike before, but this model features fewer of the glitzy cabin accessories that send the price skyrocketing and more of the basic essentials that a budget-wary buyer would be after.
Diesel and DSG
The turbodiesel engine and dual-clutch (DSG) automatic transmission work very well together. Shifts up the gearbox happen near imperceptibly and the return changes are very nearly as smooth. Whereas there is a very small flat spot at pullaway (when the engine is off boost), once on the move the motor pulls zestily with the slightest flex of your right foot.
Not the most interesting sedan shape but there's plenty of room for passengers and things inside.
With 130 kW and 350 Nm of torque available, the engine is right up there with the best of the competition. It’s about 50 Nm shy of the Audi A4 and Ford Fusion's peak outputs, but the defecit's hardly noticeable. Overtaking is a simple exercise at freeway speeds, but there is a significant tapering off in acceleration at the higher end of the rev range.
Fuel consumption is claimed at 5.0 L/100 km and after our week with the Passat, it returned 7.1 L/100 km. As the turbodiesel engine wears in and longer journeys are undertaken, there’s no doubt it will drop into the 6es and even below that. That gives the Passat a projected range of well over 1 000 km per tank of fuel!
Cruising along the freeway, drinking in the miles and watching the scenery fly by is the Passat’s ‘home turf’ so to speak. The suspension soaks up undulations and expansion joints beautifully. The cabin is tightly sealed so very little road noise, wind buffeting or vibrations are passed along to the driver.
R-Line body kit adds some nice touches like the integrated exhaust tips, but will it be enough to tempt buyers?
The ride errs on the side of comfort, which makes sense as the Passat's not a car that’s likely to be fired through a mountain pass by driving enthusiasts. The steering feel is solid, commanding gentle inputs from the driver to coax the sedan in whichever direction they need it to go. Again, it is a car tailor-made for long-distance cruising.
There's an abundance of passenger space in the Passat, both in terms of head- and legroom. The boot will swallow a decent load at 519-litres and the rear seats fold down in a 60:40 split. With the seats down, there is a much larger hole to fit longer objects through than in many other cars in this segment. As a practical sedan, the Passat is among the best in its class.
The standard analogue dials are no match for the optional digital cluster that breathes a bit of life into the cabin.
Without fancy gizmos to spruce up the cabin (as fitted to the 2.0 TSI R-Line we tested before), the Passat looks rather bland on the inside. For example, the glitzy Active Info Display (digital instrument cluster) that was fitted to the petrol Passat is replaced by a standard set of analogue dials, which do the job but look dull. The large touchscreen infotainment system is also replaced with a smaller, more rudimentary version. The latter does have the option of App Connect available, so it will do just about any connectivity job you need taking care of.
Smaller touchscreen system is actually quite functional and with App Connect, has modern features.
Leather trim is an optional extra that our car was specced with; considering the type of vehicle the Passat is and the miles it’s likely to clock up, smarter seats are worth the extra outlay.
Despite our model having the R16 000 R-Line body kit, it doesn’t give the Passat a bold or prominent appearance. There are many sedans to choose from in the business class segment, but if looks were unimportant, we would all be driving a Passat... Unfortunately, the sales charts say otherwise and the Volkswagen's understated and bland looks are still its Achilles heel.
At an entry price of R493 900, the Passat represents excellent value. Spec up this derivative with an R-Line pack and R20k worth of options and it would still offer better value for money than its closest direct rivals. In turbodiesel guise, it’s light on fuel and the torque delivery makes for an easy cruiser on the long road.
The only area in which it is found wanting is in terms of visual appeal, both inside and out, but an aesthetic critique is admittedly subjective and some buyers will indeed prefer to own and drive an understated luxury car. The Passat remains well built inside and out and feels luxurious enough to satisfy most mid-level executives who prefer to take the long way home...