Up to 265hp from all-new, much larger VW Passat

Volkswagen has seen the light: the Passat goes wagon only and Superb-sized

By PH Staff / Thursday, 31 August 2023 / Loading comments

The modern age has produced many wilfully dull cars. You can blame homogenised, ultra-conservative car companies for that, not to mention buyers too easily satisfied with the designed-by-committee products that emerge from them. Harsh, perhaps to include the Volkswagen Passat among the multitude after half a century of production and 30m units shifted, but its maker has always done a remarkably good job of making its middle-of-the-road saloon as bland as possible. Only very briefly, with the W8-powered B5 and the R36-badged B6, has the model been permitted to let its hair down. And even then VW played it remarkably safe. 

Of course, the advantage of all this moderation was a lasting reputation for solidity. Over eight generations the Passat hardly seemed to change, which meant that people felt like they knew what they were getting. Nothing too flashy; just a reliable, practical, well-made car that could be relied upon to get the job done. And for a long time, that was enough. But the outgoing generation of Passat, on sale since 2015, was squeezed like no other. Increasingly, the general public wanted family-sized SUVs – and those that didn’t preferred to buy their saloons from BMW or Audi. Familiarity, so often the lynchpin of its success, suddenly started working against the Passat. People forgot about it. 

Plainly then, change was needed. Nothing too radical (this is still Volkswagen, after all) but now its maker has plundered the Skoda playbook in an effort to realign the model with what buyers are apparently after. The result, which shares its updated MQB evo platform (and a production line) with the new Superb, is a much larger car than the one it replaces, and will be sold exclusively as a wagon from launch. The change in blueprint is unmistakable: a 50mm increase in wheelbase length has resulted in those elongated back doors (a quintessential Superb trait) and that chunky rear overhang (ditto) that sees the ninth-generation Passat knocking on five metres. 

Is it good-looking? Lord, no. But it’s going to be hugely big inside – expect oodles of rear legroom, and a cavernous 690 litres of boot space (1,920 litres with the seats down) – and there’s said to be a new focus on comfort. Not just from a chassis that boasts a new generation of adaptive chassis control and, for the first time, a tie-it-all-together Vehicle Dynamics Manager – but also from optional features like ergoActive Plus massage seats and two-valve dampers with DCC Pro. Inside, a completely new interior has been designed around what is claimed to be a much more intuitive infotainment system with a screen that can be specced as large as 15 inches. 

Incredibly, the new Passat appears to stick with the widely panned haptic slider controls for cabin temperature (the Superb, it should be noted, does not share these) and the gear selector has migrated to a switch on the steering column (redolent of the firm’s ID-generation of electric cars) but otherwise it’s much as you’d expect from a Passat in 2023. The same goes for a very broad powertrain lineup, which offers buyers everything from two flavours of plug-in hybrid (VW anticipates a 62-mile electric range from a new 19.7kWh battery) and a mild-hybrid 1.5-litre eTSI petrol, through to a brace of 2.0-litre TSI units and (wonders never cease) a triumvirate of 2.0-litre oil burners that we assume won’t all be sold in the UK. 

The potential ace in the hole – at least from a PHer’s perspective – is the flagship TSI motor, which not only boasts 265hp and 295lb ft of torque, but also the standard 4Motion all-wheel-drive system that ought to deliver a sub 6 second 0-62mph time. The outgoing Passat was briefly available with the 280hp lump that made the Superb 280 Sportline such a well-liked constituent of the PH fleet a few years ago – but we never saw one. Assuming Volkswagen has successfully harnessed what made the Superb such amenable company, it may yet prove to have a likeable fast estate on its hands. Nothing too exciting, naturally. But being large and swift and comfy (and reasonably priced, let’s hope) might be just enough to return the Passat to something like prominence. If not, there’s rumours of an R-badged model next year…

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