Text and photos by The Lenspeed Team
The benefits of Volkswagen’s MQB are now well covered in the press, but it is hard not to see why. When one gets into a vehicle blessed to be based on this platform, the incredible torsional rigidity and refinement of the chassis can be felt even without an expert behind the wheel. Then after a few days you realise even more gains when you see how slow the fuel needle drops.
The new B8 Passat is a true benefactor of MQB and has done very, very well to make sure it left no stone unturned to maximise this opportunity to make the Passat better in every possible way.
For instance, the car is now much bigger in every way, but for once it also looks incredibly athletic and dare I say it, even beautiful. It’s all in the details – the sharp creases that could only have been possible with some delicate manufacturing techniques; the LED tail lamps; the way the roofline rakes in an elongated, coupe-like way. It has been a while since we have seen a Passat that looks this good, and for that reason alone would have drawn some people to the showrooms.
But the good news continues in the interior. It seems to have been designed to be incredibly airy, with lots of interior space optimised by making the door and dashboard panels as thin and unobtrusive as possible. This can only come with decades of experience in building these saloons, day in and day out. The buttons, instruments and controls are all fantastically classy, and can easily pass off being in an Audi. You’d then start to wonder, perhaps unfairly, how amateur the attempts of other manufacturers are in trying to compete.
Drivers will enjoy a massage function that’s been orthopedically approved, although this may stoke the anger of passengers who do not get the same privilege! It is a seriously good massage, more shiok than what I can remember in any car I’ve driven in recent memory. Well, at least the rear seat space is now generous rather than adequate, so that should appease the driver’s companions somewhat.
The Passat we tried came with a 1.8 TSI and 7-speed DSG combination. The way the steering feels, the handling, the power delivery and the ride all feels very similar to a Mk7 Golf, which is no bad thing of course, as in our eyes that is the class leader among hatchbacks. It feels light on its feet, super efficient, yet super intelligent, being able to be supremely frugal whenever it can yet also responsive when it needs to be. An example of how brilliantly sorted it feels is its engine start-stop system, which is the smoothest I have tried in any car. The gearbox and engine tuning seriously takes some beating, the onboard ECU almost feels like an extension of one’s mind!
The fact that you get an efficiency of a Golf in something the size of an Audi A6 is also a revelation – the Passat is seriously frugal! Without batting an eyelid, you can see a range readout comfortably above 700km and the fuel gauge refuses to budge from full even after traveling 100 or so kilometres (although this could just be down to how it is tuned).
So is it perfect? No. One area which we feel it could be even better in was the ride comfort. In general, the ride of the Passat is firm and never cushy. This means over some roads it can feel a tad harsh, which is surprising in a luxury sedan. It is not bad, but for our local road conditions a softer suspension would be appreciated. The other is insulation from tyre noise, which is more noticeable given the excellent all-round refinement of the car.
We’ve never expected to say this, but a Passat has won our hearts in a way that no other recent VW product we’ve tried, had. What a car!