First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen Passat (Euro-spec) [Review]
Join us as we take VW\'s new Euro-spec Passat for a spin through the Sardinian countryside.
It likely comes as no surprise that Volkswagen's best-selling model around the globe is the Golf. The second best-seller might raise a few eyebrows, though. It's not the Jetta and it's not the Polo sub-compact: It's the mid-size Passat.
The Wolfsburg-based automaker has built over 22 million examples of the Passat since the Audi-derived first-generation model was introduced in Europe in 1973. Over the past four decades the Passat has become a truly global car that is currently distributed in over 150 countries.
Volkswagen builds market-specific variants of the Passat for Europe and for the United States, a strategy that is similar to the one implemented by several Japanese automakers in the 1980s. It recognizes that different cultures have a different definition of what a car should and shouldn't be.
Introduced in Paris earlier this month, the eighth-gen Passat tested here was designed exclusively for the European market. Volkswagen stresses that it will not be sold in the United States and it does not preview the next-gen Passat in any way, shape or form.
The Passat measures 187 inches long, 72 inches wide and 57 inches tall, making it about the same size as its Chattanooga-built counterpart. It weighs 3,086 pounds in its lightest configuration.
On sale now across Europe, the mk8 Passat is offered with two gasoline-burning TSI engines rated at 125 and 150 horsepower, respectively, and four turbodiesel units whose outputs range from 120 to 240 horsepower. A GTE-badged gasoline-electric plug-in hybrid model is scheduled to join the lineup next year.
The average Passat buyer in Europe is someone who spends a considerable amount of time behind the wheel so the seats were designed to be comfortable hour after hour. Legroom and headroom are adequate both up front and out back, and taller passengers can comfortably sit in the second row for a prolonged period of time without having to make an appointment with a chiropractor.
Lower trim levels come with a familiar instrument cluster that consists of four easy-to-read analog gauges and a configurable thin-film-transistor (TFT) screen positioned in the middle. Higher trim levels can be ordered with a fully-digital 12.3-inch instrument cluster called Active Info Display that is similar in concept to the unit found in the third-gen TT. The system works well for the most part, being able to configure the instrument cluster comes in handy in a number of situations, but we noticed the tach needle occasionally lags during rapid gear changes.
Select trim levels come with the latest generation of Volkswagen's Discover Media infotainment system. Controlled via a color touch screen on the center stack, Discover Media groups all of the expected functions like connectivity and climate control and it can work with Car-Net to offer additional features like Google Send-to-Car and Maps with Street View. Highly intuitive to use, Discover Media also provides accurate real-time information such as the price of gas at the nearest stations and whether there are any spots left in a given parking lot, a real boon in big cities.
The Passat sedan boasts 20.6 cubic feet of trunk space with five occupants on board and 40.6 cubic feet with the rear seats folded flat. In the station wagon, these figures increase to 22.9 and 62.8, respectively.
This setup all but eliminates turbo lag and it helps provide a near-instantaneous throttle response as well as a smooth acceleration. The seven-speed DSG shifts quickly but it sometimes briefly hesitates to find the right gear after the car has been coasting for a few hundred yards.
The 4Motion all-wheel drive system helps the twin-turbocharged Passat reach 62 mph from a stop in 6.1 seconds, nearly on par with a GTI. In mixed driving we averaged about 40 mpg in Mario Kart-esque Sardinian traffic.
The Passat is available with Volkswagen's Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC), a function that provides five different driving profiles. DCC is one of the better systems on the market because the effect that each mode has on the car's main components is immediately perceptible.
Part of the Passat's upmarket push revolves around high-tech driving aids. Consequently, it can be ordered with a wide number of extra-cost features including traffic jam assist, trailer assist, a blind spot detection system, a heads-up display and a 360-degree camera that provides a bird's eye view of the car.
It's still not the most exciting or engaging family car on the market but it doesn't need to be, that's not what its target audience is looking for. The refinement comes at a price, however, and the more upscale trim levels can quickly venture far into C-Class territory if buyers start piling on options.
Photos by Ronan Glon.