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Driven: Volkswagen’s Passat rolls in

Timing is everything: The timing for the launch of the B8 Passat might impact initial sales numbers, but Volkswagen is optimistic about its prospects Down Under.

VW says Passat can shine despite heat from diesel emissions cheating scandal

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Volkswagen logo14 Oct 2015

VOLKSWAGEN Group Australia (VGA) says it is confident its all-new Passat mid-sizer will hit the right note with local buyers despite its launch being overshadowed by the global diesel emissions scandal consuming the German automotive giant.

The eighth-generation Passat arrives in Australian showrooms this week, less than a month after VW announced it had installed diesel emissions cheating devices in 11 million vehicles worldwide.

The German car-maker has taken a more aggressive approach with its new-generation B8 Passat range, cutting prices by $4000 compared with the outgoing version in a bid to steal sales from mainstream rivals such as the Mazda6 and Subaru Liberty, as well as more high-end European offerings.

Speaking at the Passat launch in Queensland this week, outgoing VGA managing director John White acknowledged the challenges the company is facing, but was upbeat about the car’s prospects.

“We are in the middle of a quite difficult period for Volkswagen, but that should not stop us from celebrating what has become the top-selling, most successful vehicle we have worldwide,” he said.

Mr White said the Passat even had a chance at overtaking the Mazda6 as the country’s second best-selling mid-sizer, behind the virtually untouchable Toyota Camry.

“Why not over time? With three derivatives, you have got the sedan the wagon the Alltrack (coming late 2016),” he said.

“Once we get the car on the market, accepted. We are repositioning it, we are talking about it. I think we have got a legitimate shot. Why not?“For us to get that $34,990 starting price obviously we have to commit to selling more than we have got today so yeah, I am really bullish about the car.”

Mr White’s successor, former Porsche Cars North America executive Michael Bartsch, who officially takes the helm at VGA later this week, dismissed the suggestion that it was unfortunate timing launching a new model in the midst of the diesel scandal.

“I think it can work the opposite,” he said. “It’s a good car. If anything you need to reinforce brand positions. It’s an important statement.”

The base Passat 132TSI kicks off the range at $34,990 plus on-road costs for the sedan, representing a $4000 drop over the previous entry level 118TSI.

The same powertrain in mid-spec Comfortline spec brings the price to $39,990, while the range-topping 140TDI Highline is priced from $45,990, which costs $1000 more than the superseded 130TDI, but VW says it adds about $4000 worth of new standard gear.

Each grade is available in a sleek wagon body style, and this adds $2000 to the price. Volkswagen expects to continue the current model’s sales split of 60 per cent in favour of the wagon.

In terms of its mid-size rivals, the Mazda6 starts from a lower entry point at $32,540 for the Sport petrol sedan but tops out at $50,920 for the diesel Atenza wagon, while the Ford Mondeo starts at $33,190 for the Ambiente petrol hatch and rises to $49,340 for the Titanium diesel wagon.

Two new, lightweight powertrains are offered for the eighth-generation Passat, with the entry level 132TSI and Comfortline using the 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged TSI petrol unit 132kW and 250Nm, which is a 14kW increase over the outgoing petrol-powered model.

The petrol engine is matched with a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission sending power to the front wheels, and according to Volkswagen consumes 6.0 litres of fuel per 100 kilometres on the combined cycle and completes the 0-100km/h dash in 7.9 seconds (8.1s in the wagon).

The top-spec Highline is only available with the new 2.0-litre turbocharged TDI diesel engine that pumps out 140kW and 400Nm – a 10kW/20Nm increase – is paired with a six-speed DSG and drinks 4.8L/100km in sedan and wagon guise.

The diesel edges out the petrol for straight-line performance, dashing from 0-100km/h in 7.7 seconds (7.9s for the wagon).

There are four modes to choose from in the Passat’s Driving Profile selector, including Eco which has a coasting function to help reduce fuel use, Sport, Normal and Individual.

VW says to further reduce consumption the TDI engine has been optimised for minimal internal friction. The engine also warms up faster than the old diesel, while in winter the cabin warms up in quicker time than before.

The new-gen Passat is built on VW Group’s MQB platform that underpins the Golf, the Audi A3 and TT, and Skoda’s Octavia and forthcoming Superb, and while it is 4mm shorter compared with the old model, its wheelbase has grown by 81mm thanks to the positioning of the front wheels closer to the nose and the rear wheels further back.

Cargo space has grown by 21 litres in the sedan, to 586L, or 1152L with rear back-rests folded, while the wagon can swallow an additional 47L over the outgoing model, with 650L on offer or 1780L with the back-rests lowered.

A progressive steering system is available as an option via the R-Line package, which VW says reduces the lock-to-lock wheel turns from 2.75 to 2.1 and means drivers do not have to turn the wheel as much to achieve a desired radius.

The lengthy standard features list of the 132TSI includes LED tail-lights, 17-inch Istanbul alloy wheels, an ergoComfort driver’s seat, cooled glovebox, front and rear floor mats, idle-stop, keyless entry, central locking, 6.5-inch infotainment, Discovery Media sat-nav and App-Connect with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink.

It also features a multifunction steering wheel, cloth trim, tri-zone automatic climate control with an enhanced air filtration system, auto-dimming rearview mirror and rain-sensing wipers.

Stepping up to the 132TSI Comfortline adds black Vienna leather upholstered seats with comfort sports front seats, front fog-lights with static cornering lights, keyless entry and start, automatic tailgate on wagon, an upgraded 8.0-inch touchscreen and 17-inch London alloy wheels.

Flagship 140TDI variants gain chrome styling flourishes, ‘premium’ LED tail-lights with a different signature than lower grades, Nappa leather upholstery, piano black trim on instrument cluster, gearshift surround, a premium colour multifunction display, Driver Profile Selection, an alarm and 18-inch Dartford alloys.

In terms of standard safety features, the Passat is fitted with nine airbags, a driver fatigue detection system, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera and a multi-collision braking system that applies the brakes following a collision to avoid further collisions with other cars or objects.

As part of the standard Electronic Stabilisation Program, the Passat is fitted with the XDL Extended Electronic Differential Lock function which applies braking pressure to the inside wheels when cornering to prevent wheel-spin, improve traction and reduce understeer.

Depending on the grade or the option package, safety options include park assist, side assist that has a blind-spot warning and rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, a lane keeping aid and Front Assist with City Emergency Braking which warns of a potential frontal collision and engages autonomous emergency braking up to 65km/h if required.

Options packages include the Driver Assistance Package available on the 132TSI which adds the active safety suite for $1600, a Luxury Pack that includes a panoramic glass roof, ambient interior lighting, electric foldable mirrors, LED headlights and daytime running lights, a Driving Profile Selection and park assist for an additional $3500.

The R-Line adds interior and exterior tweaks such as front sports seats, Nappa leather upholstery with carbon-look side bolsters, leather-wrapped steering wheel with gearshift paddles, progressive steering, R-Line branding throughout the cabin and on the grille and brushed stainless steel scuff plates and pedals.

More R-Line also lowers the suspension by 15mm, ups the wheel size to 19 inches and adds black roof lining, tinted rear windows, a different grille to the regular variants, a spoiler, side sills and a rear diffuser for an extra $2500 for the Highline or $3500 in Comfortline spec.

2015 Volkswagen Passat pricing*
132TSI sedan (a)$34,990
132TSI wagon (a)$36,990
132TSI Comfortline sedan (a)$39,990
132TSI Comfortline wagon (a)$41,990
140TDI Highline sedan (a)$45,990
140TDI Highline wagon (a)$47,990
*Excludes on-road costs

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