The 2011 Volkswagen Passat is the latest incarnation of VW’s luxury sedan, which has seen its original design morph from a two-door hatchback in the 70’s, to the four-door sedan we see today in the 21st century. Yes, the Passat has been around for decades and, while not quite as popular on South African roads as its Golf and Jetta stablemates, the Passat has managed to rack up a sizeable sales figure of 15 million units around the world. Locally, Volkswagen South Africa (VWSA) are determined to move their new Passat up the sales charts with the latest rendition, which offers a number of clever features and innovations.
The Volkswagen Passat holds a market position just below the premium luxury saloon segment and as such, goes head-to-head against rivals like the Mazda6 and Hyundai Sonata, with VW confident of gaining a few would-be Lexus IS250, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class owners too.
At 4 769 mm, the new Passat is marginally longer, by 4 mm, than the generation it supercedes. The saloon’s width and height remain unchanged. Inside, passengers have ample room in both the front and rear, with a 60:40 split rear seat able to increase luggage capacity from the already cavernous 565-litres.
The new exterior styling brings the Passat in-line with the rest of the VW family, most notably in the front, with a new radiator grille that features four horizontal crossmembers. In addition, the front air intake is framed by chrome-plated fins, as are the front splitter and the window surrounds. Optional bi-xenon headlights with daytime LED running lights add to the Passat’s character, while the tail-end is less wedge-shaped than before and features wrap-around tail-lights, underlined by a chrome highlight strip.
Volkswagen has paid close attention to detail in their latest Passat, beginning with the car’s insulation. The windscreen features a thin plastic film, sandwiched between two layers of the glass to help reduce noise transmission. Engine noise has also been reduced through the use of new sound deadening material mounted on the front bulkhead, wheelarches and in the dashboard. Together with a newly designed engine mounting system to ensure that the engine is better isolated from the body, the Passat offers an impressive lack of wind and road noise.
The new interior look and feel is reassuring in its build and perceived quality. A revised soft-touch dashboard boasts new dials, trim finishes and an analogue clock joined by subtle chrome highlights. The area surrounding the gear lever has also been redesigned and now hosts the switch for the electronic parking brake and buttons for the auto hold function, ESP and – in versions with Keyless Access – the start button for the engine.
New front seats feature climate control as standard and have one of the most effective cooling systems I’ve sampled, including those of BMW and Aston Martin. Well bolstered, the seats offer enough support through corners and proved comfortable over the 250-plus kilometre launch route. In addition, the front head restraints are adjustable for height and reach to further counter the chances of whiplash in an accident.
What’s more, an automatic fatigue detection system monitors the driver’s inputs and emits an audible and visual warning when fatigue is detected. The system monitors driver behaviour for the first 15 minutes of every journey to establish a benchmark driving style in terms of acceleration, braking and steering action. If the driver begins to deviate from the calculated benchmark, the car will alert the driver with audible and visual warnings.
Technology extends to the engine bay too, with a choice of 1.8-litre TSI and 2.0-litre TDI engines. The 1.8 TSI was a popular choice in the previous generation Passat and has therefore been carried over to the new model. The engine offers 250 N.m of torque from 1 500 r/min and maximum power of 118 kW at 5 000 r/min. At the same time, Volkswagen engineers have managed to reduce fuel consumption from 7.6 L/100km to 6.9 L/100km with corresponding CO2 emissions of 160 g/km. The turbocharged petrol engine is available with either a slick-shifting 6-speed manual, or 7-speed DSG gearbox.
The 2.0-litre TDI common rail diesel engine produces 103 kW and 320 N.m of torque between 1 750 and to 2 500 r/min. It is available with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed DSG gearbox and VW claims it’ll sip 5.6 L/100km (6.4 L/100km when equipped with DSG) and CO2 emissions of 147 g/km (168g/km for DSG).
In terms of ride and handling, the 2011 Volkswagen Passat relies on a revised setup of that of the previous generation. This means a lightweight strut-type suspension, with low-mounted wishbones and control arms at the front, together with four-link suspension at the rear. The ride is comfortable, composed and capable of dealing with speeds far quicker than most Passat’s will be driven.
Safety is taken care of with an alphabet soup of electronic aids, including BAS (Brake Assist System) and EDL (Electronic Differential Lock). Another innovation is that of the emergency brake function, which uses the ABS and ESP systems to brake all four wheels when the parking brake lever is held continuously. Emergency braking stops as soon as the button is released. It therefore comes as no surprise to hear that the new Passat retains the 5-star Euro NCAP rating of its predecessor.
Optional equipment includes an electrically operated swiveling tow bar; electric rear sunblind; sunroof; electronic 12-way driver seat with memory function; as well as Park Assist, which provides automatic steering assistance to aid reverse parking.
With a well equipped interior, comprehensive list of standard equipment, adequate and smooth power delivery with composed handling, all wrapped up in fresh contemporary styling, the 2011 VW Passat stands out as a sensible choice in the upper D-segment.
|Prices (incl. VAT and CO2 tax)|
|VW Passat 1.8 TSI Comfortline||R294 000|
|VW Passat 1.8 TSI Comfortline DSG||R309 000|
|VW Passat 2.0 TDI Comfortline||R309 500|
|VW Passat 2.0 TDI Comfortline DSG||R324 500|
Pricing includes a 3-year/120 000 km warranty and 5-year/100 000 km Volkswagen Automotion Plan.