Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TSI R-Line DSG (2015) Review

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We got to grips with the flagship 2.0 TSI R-Line model to see if this Passat can succeed where its predecessors struggled.

The Volkswagen Passat hasn’t had much sales success in South Africa. Pricewise it sits just below the compact executive sedan segment, but given the popularity of the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and BMW 3 Series (to name just two examples), meagre sales figures suggest the VW sedan cannot match the brand cachet of those premium offerings. Globally however, the Passat is a top seller for the Wolfsburg-based firm, which has sold more than 22 million units of the sedan (now in its eighth generation). We got to grips with the flagship 2.0 TSI R-Line model to see if this Passat can succeed (in South Africa) where its predecessors struggled.

Subtle Changes

Volkswagen excels at making its products look all-new even though aesthetic changes are very subtle. The New Passat is a bit wider (12mm) and lower (14mm), but ever so slightly shorter (-2mm) than before. The wheelbase, based on VW’s adaptable MQB platform is longer (79mm) and that results in a more spacious cabin. Furthermore, VW has reduced the Passat’s weight by 85 kg, which is not a lot, but in the never-ending quest for better fuel efficiency, every kg counts. The front end has a lower-profile and is styled with VW’s sharp-looking three-tier grille that looks like it could have been designed by Gillette! Most of the major changes are beneath the sheet metal, however…

Smooth Engine

Volkswagen’s initial model line-up consist of petrol models only, but a 2.0-litre turbodiesel model will join the ranks halfway through 2016. Our unit here is equipped with the top of the range 2.0-litre turbopetrol engine. It produces peak outputs of 162 kW and 250 Nm of torque and is mated with a refined 6-speed DSG transmission. The petrol engine pulls smoothly from idle right to the top of the rev range although given the (early-shifting) characteristics the DSG box, it seems programmed with fuel economy in mind. Of course, in Sport mode the shifts are far snappier. If you don’t push on, the engine will barely crest over 2 500rpm before executing the next upshift. VW claims it’s possible to achieve 6.2L/100km, but during the test period we were still impressed with the 8L/100km it consumed in mixed conditions.

Upper-class Interior

If you are considering the purchase of a new Passat, its well-finished and -appointed interior will be a major drawcard. There’s a premium feel throughout the cabin: the ventilation apertures span the length of the facia, the metallic trim is tasteful and the switchgear feels substantial. Our model was specified with some options such as Nappa leather trim, front seats that offer 12-way electrical adjustment, ventilation and massage functions, a DynAudio Confidence Sound System and Active Info Display. The latter transforms the instrument binnacle into an adjustable digital display that looks suitably slick and expensive: you can customise what info is displayed and the resolution of the screen is particularly crisp. It functions much like the Audi TT’s Virtual Cockpit with the ability to display navigation (and, if specified, Adaptive Cruise Control settings) into the binnacle.

Space is in plentiful supply, whether you’re in the front, back or being loaded into (I mean loading) the boot. The Passat has always placed a premium on boot space and the new model offers 489 litres, which is capacious. The rear seats can be folded flat, providing more loading space if required. Rear legroom, thanks to the increased wheelbase is more than adequate, even for taller occupants.

Ride and Drive

The Passat delivers a very comfortable, almost unflappable, ride quality, which is not something that can be said of many of its sportier rivals. It soaks up road undulations and imperfections with ease and the harshest bumps are announced with no more than a soft, rubbery thud in the cabin. The cabin is quiet with engine noise reduced to nothing more than a background whirr. If you happen to push on in the Passat and show it some corners, it feels well-planted and grips rather well.

Safety Spec

As the Passat scored five-stars in the EuroNCAP crash tests it won’t come as surprise to learn that it the test unit was equipped with six airbags and had traction control as standard. There are a few nice additions that you may want to add from the options list, however, such as LED headlights with cornering functions, Parallel and Bay Park Assist with rear view camera and Adaptive Cruise Control.

Verdict

Volkswagen’s newcomer has several strengths as a spacious, yet luxurious family sedan: it delivers a composed, comfortable ride quality and has a refined and fuel-efficient powertrain. However, while the new interior layout is comparable with the best in the class, the evolutionary exterior design is still a bit bland. Also, be mindful of the options you choose as you can spend in excess of R100 000 — even without ticking all that many boxes. With a base price of R476 800, this 2.0TSI R-Line DSG  undercuts the more premium German offerings by around R50k. Will that be enough to tempt buyers away from the premium marques? Perhaps not many, but certainly more than before.

Volkswagen Passat Pricing

Currently there are four petrol models in the Passat range: 1.4 TSI Comfortline manual and automatic – R378 800, 1.8 TSI Highline – R444 200 and this 2.0 DSG Highline – R476 800. All models come with a 3-year/120 000km warranty and 5-year 100 000km maintenance plan

Test Team Opinion:

"There's really not much to dislike about this car. I particularly appreciate the spaciousness and the interior design and fit and finish. If you're not a brand snob, the Passat should not be ignored." Hannes Oosthuizen

"It's difficult to not like the Passat and this latest version boasts an all-new digital instrument cluster. Refinement and quality are very high, but beware the pricey options." David Taylor

We Like: Plush ride, spacious interior and new digital instrument cluster

We Don’t Like: Pricey options

Also consider: Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, BMW 3 Series

Compare the Passat to the Ford Fusion and Honda Accord here

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