Saturday, October 23, 2010

Volkswagen Passat Europe First Drive Reviews

The Volkswagen Passat is not a glamorous car. A business commuter. A family workhorse. Volkswagen, the undisputed master of middle-class market domination, has shifted 15 million Passats on the basis of this sturdy reputation since the car was launched in 1973

Fortunately the seventh generation of the "Volkswagen Passat" pulls no punches. The freshening up continues inside though, where the car gets a revised dashboard, new trim finishes and a gently updated centre console. To say the Volkswagen Passat wafts is an overstatement, but the car does exhibit a whisper quiet sense of transit. With fleet sales likely to dominate the Passat's end-of-year figures expect the SE version to be the volume seller. The standard spec list adds iPod connectivity, a DAB radio, Bluetooth connectivity and even a fatigue detection system.

The mainstream opposition from Ford and Vauxhall is certainly to be respected, but VW will be counting on the Volkswagen Passat superior interior quality and better refinement to snare the punters. That and the sterling reputation the model has for reliable, unflustered and inconspicuous service.

Beneath the new tinsel, the seventh-generation car remains a worthy testament to that mentality.
Visual ties between everyone else’s new Passat and the previous car are obvious. The daylight opening, with its BMW-like kink, carries over, and the wheelbase remains virtually identical. The new Passat's somewhat bulky front grille and lighting units evoke the Phaeton, as do the taillights. In Europe, the new car also is available as a station wagon called the Volkswagen Passat Variant.

Perhaps the most surprising is the extremely efficient BlueMotion, powered by a 103-hp, 1.6-liter turbo-diesel. Top speed is 139 mph, and the engine rips the car forward in any gear.
We also drove the 1.8-liter TSI, with a 158-hp gasoline engine coupled to a seven-speed dry dual-clutch gearbox, and it excelled, too. While it doesn't pull as strongly as the 2.0-liter diesel, we have no reason to doubt VW's modest claim of a 0-to-62-mph sprint in 8.5 seconds and its 137-mph top speed. Fuel economy is 33.6 mpg in the European cycle.

Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to drive the uplevel gasoline engines. VW offers the 2.0 TSI, with the 208-hp EA888 engine that's also used in the European GTI. The top-of-the-line model is the V-6 4Motion, with a 300-hp, 3.6-liter VR6, which transmits its power to all four wheels through the six-speed DQ250 wet dual-clutch transmission. This engine was heretofore confined to the Passat R36, a sporty derivative, which is now being killed off. "An R model has no priority" now, says VW engineering chief Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg.

Although the Passat’s PQ46 platform is essentially a variation of the Golf underpinnings, it doesn’t drive that small, instead feeling every bit the bigger car. The power steering is light but nicely weighted, there’s lots of grip, and the stability-control system executes its corrections so quickly that it usually preserves corner-exit speeds.

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