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Volkswagen Passat SE Business 2.0 TDI

Click to view picture gallery“The all-new Passat, now in its
  eighth generation, is a sharp
  dresser; one that easily passes
  the
premium club kerb-appeal
  test set by other
executives from
  Audi, BMW, and Mercedes...”


BUT IT'S NOT JUST LOOKS alone that will help this previously sober-suited saloon and estate range on its way to best-sellerdom because it's better in every way with more space, more power, more miles-per-gallon, less emissions and much more standard-fit equipment including an advanced new infotainment system plus a raft of safety kit, driver aids and comfort features.

All versions (S, SE, SE Business, GT, R-Line) come with Post-Collision Braking System and mis-fuelling prevention. SE and above have Front Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Crash system, Driver Profile Selection Driver Profile Selection (five driving modes from Eco to Sport), Ergo Comfort seats, and front and rear parking sensors. SE Business versions additionally get the superior 'Discover' SatNav. GT-badged Passats come with heated Alcantara seats, three-zone climate control and 18-inch wheels, while the range-topping R-Line adds a host of bespoke design features.

“As usual with any
Volkswagen, customers
get a broad range of
power choices — all the
way from 118bhp up to a
twin-turboed 236bhp
version with all-wheel
drive...
The newly-introduced SE Business model comes laden with all essentials such as 2Zone automatic AirCon, Adaptive Cruise Control, powerfold heated door mirrors (on demand and automatically on locking), one-shot windows, auto-dim driver's mirror, etc.

They also have a flat-bottomed leather-wrapped multifunction wheel, powered bootlid, front and rear parking sensors, touchscreen infotainment system with upgraded 3D SatNav, Internet connectivity, Bluetooth phone and audio connection, DAB digital radio, a decent HiFi, and alloy wheels.

And the list stretches on, with Trailer Assist (a 'world first' system that makes manoeuvring with a trailer attached something even your mother can do), front fog lights with static cornering function, heat-insulating green tinted glass, daytime running lights, tyre pressure monitoring, a full set of airbags (including one for the driver's knee), and Hill Hold.

Optional 'hi-tech' items include the Active Info Display, which replaces the instrument cluster directly ahead of the driver with a fully-configurable, interactive 12.3-inch TFT display incorporating the navigation mapping (we've already sampled this in the new Audi TT and it's brilliant); a 360-degree multi-view camera; and the latest generation of Park Assist which now also lets the car park itself nose first into perpendicular spaces very handy at superstores where getting a trolley up to your boot is nigh on impossible.

Other major safety systems include Side Assist with Rear Traffic Alert, and Traffic Jam Assist (sure to be popular with everybody using the M25, it brakes, accelerates and steers automatically, easing the strain during stop-and-go traffic).

Emergency Assist is another life-saver as it helps keep the car in the lane and brakes automatically to a full stop if the driver is incapacitated. And there's also the latest Front Assist system with City Emergency Braking as well as predictive pedestrian protection (a radar behind the rearview mirror scans the area ahead of the Passat and can detect pedestrians stepping out in front of the car; if they do and the driver fails to brake it carries out a full emergency stop).

“Emergency Assist is
another lifesaver as it
helps keep the car in the
lane and brakes
automatically to a full
stop if the driver is
incapacitated.
Predictive pedestrian
protection can detect
pedestrians stepping out
in front of the car;
if they do and the driver
fails to brake it carries
out a full emergency
stop...
Undeniably handsome, what's most satisfying is the thorough attention to detail; for instance, check out the perfect matching-in of the Passat's fuel filler flap where it bridges the sharply-creased sculpting on the flared rear shoulder very tricky to do, and some carmakers wouldn't have bothered but instead just made do with a plain flat flap lower down on an unsculpted panel section.

And you get more of the same internally: a seamless chrome-finned air vent extends across the entire width of the dash like a decorative band but it's totally functional, enhancing climate control performance and ventilation acoustics.

It is touches like these that make this new Passat stand out from the crowd. The new look has even exorcised the old Passat's 'on the conservative side' visual handicap; sportier and sleeker in a BMW 3 Series kind of way, and with a forceful nose defined by a full-width slatted grille, this latest model radiates confidence.

The Passat packs a lot of space for both people and luggage into its 4.7-metre length. The cabin is put together with obvious care allied to good quality trim materials and sufficient silver detailing to counter all the black soft-feel trim. The attractively streamlined fascia is unmistakably VW and logic dictates the switchgear and controls layout around the central infotainment touchscreen.

Especially welcome are the 'Ergo' comfort seats upholstered in a fabric that's pleasant to sit on and whose big, long bases provide good under-knee/thigh support. They also benefit from non-pinching bolstering. The driver's seat is enhanced by power adjustment of both the lumbar support and the backrest angle. Even the headrests deserve praise: they're comfy and have easy button releases. Elbows haven't been forgotten, either with long, wide outer rests on the doors and a wide centre height-adjustable armrest.

There truly is masses of headroom even with the driver's seat jacked up high. All of which makes for a spot-on driving position with fine all-round visibility, even rearwards. A thoughtful touch is the provision on rests for both your clutch and accelerator feet for when you're truly 'in the cruise'.

The optional three-stage seat heating is very fast-acting and deliciously hot on their maximum settings. Another clever touch is the heated steering wheel rim: its temperature that can be synched to the driver's seat' heat setting. The multifunction, gloss black, flat-bottomed wheel itself is very smart and as good to use as it looks.

“Carmakers today
understand that their
customers are more into
Connected than CDs —
the Passat is more than
adequately tooled-up
for them with MirrorLink
and Car Net that allows
specific apps on
a smartphone to be
‘mirrored’ onto the
touchscreen...
Other desirable driver-aids that come as standard include a digital speed readout and secondary graphic navigational prompts in the driver's info display between the main dials; road sign recognition (speed limits and no-overtaking zones) displayed on the 6.5-inch touchscreen); SMS functionality (text messages can be read, composed and sent using the touchscreen display); and the automatic dimming function on the driver's door mirror.

The electronic parking brake is sensibly sited, not on the fascia but close to your thigh behind the gearlever, and comes with an easy-to-use auto-hold function that applies the brake for you every time you stop. Very labour-saving but just remember to do it for yourself if you drive another car without it or you could find yourself rolling into trouble!

Carmakers today understand that when it comes to the 'C' stuff their customers are more into Connected than CDs the Passat is more than adequately tooled-up for them with MirrorLink and Car Net that allows specific apps on an Android smartphone to be 'mirrored' onto the infotainment touchscreen. For those who still haven't mastered the tech or migrated from those shiny four-inch plastic discs, Volkswagen has provided a slot for CDs in the chilled glovebox alongside the SD ports.

Round at the tail there's more good news: the powered bootlid opens (and closes) faster than on any other car we've tested especially appreciated on a wet day, it also opens and closes with a press on the key, a light touch of the 'VW' boot badge-cum-handle, or from a button inside the cabin.

Once open it flips far back over the rear screen like an acrobat for easy loading. The exposed boot is wide and long and levers release the 40:20:40-split rear seatbacks which fold down virtually flat to increase the load space from 586 to a very-big-for-a-saloon 1,152 litres.

That yawning bootlid also offers full access to the boot as far back as the rear seatbacks without any 'tunnelling' and makes loading over the low-height rear sill a no-strainer!

Delve under the floor and you'll find not one of those unloved 'tyre repair' kits but a real space-saver spare wheel. For the record, the tyres are self-sealing. Pull down bag holders, a large load-through hatch and a variable-height boot floor all add extra ticks to the versatility checklist. If all that is not enough, then the Passat can tow a braked 2,000kg.

“Officially this engine
returns 70.6mpg in the
Combined Cycle —
a hard-driven week saw
an impressive overall
average of 55.7mpg.
Emissions are a tax-
friendly 106g/km which
means no road tax bill
the first year and only
20 annually from
year two onwards...
Swing open a rear door and you could be looking into a limo, not a four-door saloon there's most definitely more room than can be found in most rivals. It's not just your shanks that benefit because despite the sloping roofline, headroom is several inches good; even sitting up ramrod straight there's still room to brush you hair with your hand without touching the roof lining.

It's an amazingly roomy cabin and far larger than you'd guess before climbing aboard which, incidentally, is very easy thanks to the large, real-people-friendly doors. Views out from the back are uninterrupted thanks to the back doors' double-pane windows (that also let in plenty of light) and the twelve inches air separating the front seats.

Semi-reclined backrests combined with a big, well-padded, drop-down central armrest, masses of legroom for six-footers and foot room for three pairs of shoes really does make back seat Passat passengers feel as though they're being chauffeured in a limo. For the record, three side-by-side is both doable and civilised.

As usual with any Volkswagen, customers get a broad range of power choices all the way from 118bhp up to a twin-turboed 236bhp version with all-wheel drive. The alternative is a 1.4-litre petrol plug-in hybrid with on-demand cylinder technology and electric motor.

No all-wheel drive high jinks for us though, because we've been driving the likely best-seller the 2.0-litre turbodiesel that generates 147bhp and 250lb ft between 1,750 and 3,000rpm. Mated to a six-speed manual 'box, it's good for 136mph for Continental driving, naturally and 0-62mph acceleration in 8.7 seconds wherever you may be.

Officially this engine returns 70.6mpg in the Combined Cycle but a hard-driven week with MotorBar saw an impressive overall average of 55.7mpg. CO2 emissions are a tax-friendly 106g/km which means no road tax bill the first year and only 20 annually from year two onwards. All wallet-friendly figures that will give the average driver something to smile about.

This unit makes use of BlueMotion technology so Stop-Start is a fixture but it can be switched off should you prefer; however, in use it's unobtrusively smooth-acting so you'll probably keep it active and save a bit more fuel.

“An accomplished
mile-eater that lets you
out at the end of a long
trip as fresh as when
you set off,
the Passat saloon will
nevertheless press
on with some verve
whenever you feel like
cracking the whip...
So, good on paper and even better in real-life. You might think that given the mpg-maximising BlueMotion there may well be some small shortfall in performance. But there are no compromises: that sub-9-second 0-62mph acceleration feels sharp and focused, and nicely flexible whichever of the six gears you're in all smoothly selected (sequentially or with a quick-flick block change) thanks to the gearlever's light and easy change action. A DSG autobox is optional but if you do opt for it, it won't be because of any dissatisfaction with the manual 'box.

Travelling in the Passat really is a pleasure on the move its quiet and cosseting ambiance highlights the soothingly composed ride that copes with just about every kind of blacktop with comfort mode selected. Seventeen-inch, 10-spoke alloy wheels wearing 215/55 rubber also help keep road noise down while aiding ride comfort.

An accomplished mile-eater that lets you out at the end of a long trip as fresh as when you set off, the Passat saloon will nevertheless press on with some verve whenever you feel like cracking the whip.

Unless you've opted the range-topping four-wheel drive model your Passat will be front-wheel drive. This new Passat is around 85kg lighter than its predecessor and is underpinned by Volkswagen Group's MQB platform (Modularer Querbaukasten, if you really must know) that is also serving with distinction in the latest Golf and Audi TT.

Enhancing the driving satisfaction no end is VW's Driver Profile Selection which offers five different driving modes: Normal, Comfort, Sport, Eco; and Individual. Comfort delivers exactly that, while Sport maximises dynamic ability without going too far in the 'firming up' and makes the Passat feel gratifyingly agile, all. Add to that speed-sensitive steering that turns-in smartly and you have a car that when booted will grip and stick with you. Reassuringly strong brakes temper it all nicely.

This spacious, fine-riding new eighth-gen VW saloon has upped the Passat's game: previously always a badge level above other family saloons, now seriously better all round it's easily good enough to take on Germany's A-Team of Audi, BMW and Mercedes.
MotorBar

Volkswagen Passat SE Business 2.0 TDI | 25,240
Maximum speed: 136mph | 0-62mph: 8.7 seconds | Test Average: 55.7mpg
Power: 147bhp | Torque: 250lb ft | CO2 106g/km