Running parallel to the long-standing midsize European market Passat, Volkswagen has recently launched a separate and specific US market large saloon also using the Passat nameplate. Built and designed for an American market the new Volkswagen saloon makes use of the recognition the Passat name has built up since 1973, and as a central component in its aim at outselling General Motors and Toyota in future, the new Passat is set to go head-to-head with the all-important large family saloon segment in the US. And with Middle East automotive preferences being similar to the US in the importance placed on affordable and comfortable large family saloons, the new Passat has also been introduced regionally as a 2013 model.
Designed to offer more space, comfort and value than the European Passat, the new US-designed car used many American sourced components, features less variations and less complexities, and is also built at Volkswagen’s sprawling new factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee, so as to keep it a competitively priced German brand alternative in a segment traditionally dominated by the Japanese, but recently opening to stiff competition from Korean and US makers.
While the new Passat has been pitched with a particular emphasis on is domestic credentials in the US, for the Middle East, it is it’s brand’s German origins and technologies that are being highlighted as now being more affordable to more people, much as was the case with last year’s separate US and Middle East Jetta line.
A handsomely conservative car with lots of straight lines, discrete ridges and a flowing profile, one is at first hard-pressed to distinguish the new Passat from its European cousin, or for that matter from its smaller Jetta sibling.
However, a closer look will reveal more assertive rear lights wider on top and slightly angled, as well as its larger, wider and more accommodating dimensions. At its most elegant in navy blue, the new Passat wears Volkswagen’s new corporate fascia like a uniform, with its wide big grille slats placed level with its headlights.
A ridgeline rises from the inside of the headlights and along the bonnet to the A-pillars, and underlines the new Passat’s softly statuesque appearance, while standard 17-inch alloys fill its wheel arches and length well.
Offered with a wide variety of drive-train options including turbocharged, turbo-diesel and V6 engines mated with manual, automatic and dual clutch gearboxes for the US and China, the new Passat is initially being offered only with Volkswagen’s tried and true 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine mated to a 6-speed automatic for the Middle East.
Smoother than a four-cylinder, the Passat’s 5-cylinder has an edge over its Japanese competitors in this regard, while its output is a healthy and easily accessible 170hp developed at 5700rpm and 177lb/ft peaking by 4250rpm. A smooth and quiet performer, one barely hears the Passat’s 5-pot under the hood, even when wrung hard to eke out its respectable 9.2-second 0-100km/h pace.
With an emphasis on comfort and smoothness one was surprised at how quiet the cabin remained as one pushed the Passat’s engine hard, while in terms of delivery, the 2.5-litre naturally-aspirated 5-cylinder does a decent job of motivating the 1436kg mass at a fair pace along the highway, B-roads or up-hills, but one does need to rev it hard and work the smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic gearbox for quick progress.
Delivery features sufficient low-end torque, but the engine yields its best potential in a progressive fashion at the higher end of the rev counter. Top speed is 190km/h, while the automatic gearbox features sequential up and down manual shifts for extra control. In terms of fuel economy, the Passat 2.5 scores well with about 11.2-litre per 100km in the city and 7.3l/km on the highway.
Smooth and supple
Designed for an American market in mind, the new US-built Passat places a great emphasis on comfort, and as such its ride quality features a smoother and more compliant take on the typically firm and stable German car driving style.
Noticeably more supple than European Volkswagen offerings, the new Passat felt at home on pocked, cracked and bumpy provincial roads when driven during the model’s regional press launch in Jordan.
A combination of superb cabin noise, vibration and harshness isolation forgiving suspension rates and 215/55R17 tyres made the new Passat a comfortable cruiser over long distance driving, during which its smoothed over rougher roads and glided over better finished highways.
Stable at speed and comfortable over imperfections, the new Passat finds a happy medium between a comfortable American-biased ride quality and European-flavoured handling, with its steering feeling crisp and tidy, and its turn-in sharp and eager for its decidedly un-sporty and family-oriented segment.
Through corners the Passat’s body lean was evident but well-controlled, and one noticed that its suspension seemed to be tuned for firmer lateral control, while vertical movements felt more supple and absorbent.
On tight and winding but fast B-roads the Passat felt more confident, controlled and agile than many in its segment, but one needs to beware of overloading its supple vertical movements over sharp undulations, while when its rear end steps out if one-lifts off during a hard corner, the electronic stability systems are quick to put things right.
Long and elegant
Like most rival, the new Passat is designed to offer big car refinement, comfort and convenience with a sense of quality, luxury and elegance within a cut-throat budget for family buyers. And so, one will find its interior a combination of strategically located high quality soft textured materials on the dashboard mixed with more cost-effective hard plastics more discretely used.
However, unlike its rivals flashy, over-enthusiastic and sometimes misguided and messy attempts to appear modern and futuristic in terms of layout and interior design, the new Passat takes a decidedly elegant, un-fussed and logical approach. Straight clean lines dominate the Passat’s interior design, from vents to dashboard moulds, while its functions and buttons are user-friendly, symmetric and logical.
With a classy and airy yet conservative ambiance, the Passat makes use of veneer inserts, a pleasant three-spoke steering wheel and clear, round and very readable instrumentation. Geared for space and comfort, the new Passat comes with less sporty and more comfortable flatter and wider seats than Euro models, while its steering and seats are very versatile and visibility good, and amenity levels similarly impressive.
Built for long distance driving and an American and “world” market clientele, the new Passat is Volkswagen’s first effort in this particular segment of large prestige-value niche and it certainly makes use of its long wheelbase, with both front and rear passengers enjoying great space.
Even with the front seat adjusted for a larger driver, rear passengers have generous leg and headroom, while boot space is a voluminous 529 litres.