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Car reviews - Volkswagen - Passat - sedan/wagon range

Launch Story

Volkswagen logo4 Apr 2006

By MARTON PETTENDY

A LARGER, more powerful, higher-tech and even better value Passat is the latest instalment in Volkswagen Group Australia’s rapid-fire rollout of new models.

The redesigned Passat sedan and wagon go on sale this month, more than a year after the all-new sedan was released in Europe, offering a range of technologies from sister brand Audi to spice up the often overlooked upper medium German family car.

Once a staple model within the rejuvenated German giant’s range Down Under, the sixth generation of the second most popular VW (behind Beetle) hopes to arrest the sales slide of its aged and underpowered predecessor.

Opening the new range at a vastly reduced entry price of $42,990 is the first Passat turbo-diesel, the 2.0 TDI sedan.

Mated exclusively to the acclaimed six-speed double-clutch DSG automatic transmission first offered by Audi, its long-stroke 2.0-litre oil-burning four delivers 103kW at 4000rpm and a substantial 320Nm of torque from just 1750rpm.

The same engine that powers Audi’s A4 TDI and VW’s own Golf hatch and last month’s new Jetta sedan, the transversely mounted inline four-pot diesel drives the least expensive Passat’s front wheels to provide claimed 0-100km/h acceleration in 9.8 seconds and a top speed of 206km/h.

Claimed average fuel consumption for the reasonably light 1526kg sedan is a frugal 6.6L/100km and CO2 emissions are a clean 178g/km thanks to 30,000psi of direct fuel injection pressure, four valves per cylinder and 18:1 compression.

Priced $2000 higher at $44,990 is the 2.0 TDI wagon, which also drives its front wheels but with an extra 80kg to haul returns 6.7L/100km average fuel consumption, produces 181g of CO2 emissions per kilometre, achieves a 203km/h top speed and accelerates to 100km/h in a claimed 10.1 seconds.

Priced $2000 higher than the diesel four-door at $44,990 (but still well below the 125kW V5 variant it effectively replaces), the midrange 2.0T FSI Passat sedan variant is powered by yet another under-square 2.0-litre four, this time the same turbocharged direct-injection petrol engine seen in A4, Golf and Jetta.

Delivering 147kW at 5100rpm and 280Nm from a similarly low-strung 1800rpm and driving through a conventional six-speed auto with manual shift mode, the turbo four propels both the sedan and $46,990 TFSI wagon to 100km/h in 7.8 seconds, and on to a top speed of 230km/h (wagon: 227km/h).

Claimed combined fuel consumption (on 98 RON PULP) is 8.7L/100km (wagon: 8.9L/100km), while emissions rise to 216g/km (wagon: 221g/km).

Topping the range is the $54,990 3.2 V6 FSI 4Motion sedan. Powered by the same 184kW/330Nm 3.2-litre direct-injection long-stroke V6 as its $56,990 wagon sibling (as well as a number of Audi models), the top-shelf Passat sedan is claimed to sprint to 100km/h in an athletic 6.9 seconds (wagon: 7.2 sec) and a top speed of 246km/h (wagon: 243km/h).

The V6 is also mounted transversely but drives all four wheels via VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system, which now comprises an upgraded Haldex coupling ahead of the rear differential. As such, it’s the heaviest Passat at 1606kg (wagon: 1667kg) but still manages 10.0L/100km average fuel consumption (wagon: 10.1L/100km) and 240g/km emissions (wagon: 242g/km).

The new V6 brings considerable gains in performance over the outgoing Passat’s 2.8-litre V6, including direct-injection, an even narrower 10.6-degree cylinder angle, trapezoidal conrods, plasma-coated cylinder walls, an 8kg-light crankcase and variable valve timing.

Vastly more powerful than the 140kW VR6 engine, its peak 184kW power output approaches that of the discontinued 202kW 4.0-litre W8-powered Passat flagship, which was priced close to $100,000.

Indeed, despite an all-new Audi A4-based platform that bristles with new technology including the DSG transmission, the most expensive new Passat variant is priced below both its front-drive predecessor and the luxury tax threshold.

The car named after an African wind has come a long way since the 1973 original – the first VW model to feature a front-mounted liquid-cooled inline overhead camshaft engine that drove its front wheels - won Wheels magazine’s 1974 Car of the Year award.

Not only is the bigger and more stylish new body 20kg lighter than its predecessor thanks to the lighter components that make up more than a third of the car, it’s also 57 per cent more rigid than its forebear.

The new body is 62mm longer (at 4765mm), 70mm wider (1820mm) and 10mm higher (1472mm), and continues the mid-sized luxury theme via a heavily chromed grille, window surrounds and rub strips, but this time adds wing mirror-integrated indicators, heat-insulated glass, a rear foglight and "double-round" tail-lights (with LED technology) that are echoed by circular-themed headlights.

Somehow appearing even more cohesively proportioned, the wagon is 92mm longer than before at 4774mm and adds chromed roofrails. It extends the sedan’s sizeable 565-litre boot to a 603-litre load area with the rear seats up (588 in the V6 wagon) and to 1974 litres with the rear seats folded flat.

A longer 2709mm wheelbase also delivers more space inside the well-appointed cabin, which now features eight airbags (including twin front airbags, four side airbags and twin full-length side curtain airbags), an electronic parking brake, electro-mechanical speed-sensitive power steering (with an 11.4-metre turning circle), an auto hold function (for hill-starts and to prevent creep), an umbrella holder in the driver’s door, auto headlights, a chillable glovebox and a new integrated key/fob.

Helping Passat to achieve a maximum five-star safety rating in Europe is anti-lock brakes (ABS), electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), brake assist (BA), traction control (ASR), stability control (ESP), five three-point seatbelts, height-adjustable and force-limited front seatbelts, four outboard seatbelt pretensioners, five height-adjustable head restraints, active front head restraints, a low tyre pressure indicator and an emergency-braking hazard warning system.

Other standard features across the range include dual-zone climate-control with rear outlets, cruise control, front and rear parking sensors, rain-sensing wipers, trip computer, an auto-dimming rear-vision mirror, six-way power driver’s seat recline/lumbar adjustment, manual driver’s seat lifter, five 17x7.0-inch "Le Mans" alloy wheels, 235/45 R17 tyres, front/rear armrests, front/rear cupholders, a 60/40-split rear seat, ski-port, four soft-fold grab-handles and an eight-speaker six-CD sound system with steering wheel controls.

Apart from all-wheel drive, the V6 adds front foglights, an alarm system with interior monitor, a tyre pressure monitoring system, a unique "Solitude" alloy wheel design, ventilated rear brake rotors, heated front seats and full leather trim.

Options include an integrated rear outboard child seat ($450), metallic/pearl-effect paint ($990), walnut woodgrain highlights ($990), 12-way power front seats with driver’s memory ($1490), a powered glass sunroof ($1990), bi-Xenon headlights with cornering lights ($2290), 18x8.0-inch "Chicago" alloy wheels with 15mm-lower sports suspension ($2490), satellite-navigation ($2990) and, on 2.0 TFSI and TDi variants, an alarm ($590) and leather trim ($2990).

Volkswagen Group Australia claims the new Passat is the new medium prestige sedan benchmark in terms of innovative luxury and value. It claims the $44,990 2.0T FSI sedan consumes less fuel, offers better 0-100km/h acceleration and has more airbags than Honda’s Accord 3.0 V6 L ($43,740), Nissan’s Maxima 3.5 Ti ($44,990) and Subaru’s Liberty 2.5i Premium ($42,990).

It also offers more power and torque and better acceleration than Peugeot’s 4.7 2.2 ST Comfort ($44,990), BMW’s 320i ($53,200) and Audi’s A4 2.0 ($49,950).

Similarly, at $42,990, the 2.0 TDI Passat sedan is significantly less expensive than Peugeot’s 407 HDI ST Comfort ($48,190), BMW’s 320d ($56,700) and Audi’s A4 2.0 TDI ($56,990).

Meantime, the Passat 3.2 FSI sedan ($54,990) is both more economical and quicker to 100km/h than Liberty 3.0R ($50,990) and the Chrysler 300C V6 ($53,990), as well as being cheaper, more powerful and quicker than 407 V6 SV ($55,990), 323i ($67,400) and A4 1.8T ($55,600).

VGA expects the TFSI variant to comprise half of all Passat sales, with the remainder split evenly between TDI and V6, and the sedan comprising up to 80 per cent of sales.

The company is coy about actual sales forecasts, but says it hopes to at least double last year’s modest total of around 400 sales. The previous Passat’s best sales year was 2001, when VW sold around 1200 examples.

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