2011 VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Medium sedan
Price: $43,790 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 5.7 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 6.4 l/100km
Volkswagen’s Passat mid-sizer has come in for an extensive makeover, inside and out.
The brand’s now-familiar new styling has been pulled over last season’s body, but there’s enough new technology and mechanical upgrades to consider this an all-new model.
Importantly for Volkswagen Australia, the new Passat enters at the same price as its predecessor.
In middle-of-the-range 125TDI diesel form, the Passat sedan is well-packaged buying. It offers loads of torque, good on-road dynamics, improved safety and, to top it off, is a more comfortable drive than its predecessor.
- Quality: At first glance, the 2011 Passat’s interior appears markedly similar to the one it replaces - changes are minor, but it has a more upmarket feel than before.
There are now more chrome highlights, a nicer brushed-aluminium finish to the dash inserts and a chrome-ringed analogue clock in the centre of the dash.
Fit and finish is excellent, and tactile surfaces throughout have a premium feel.
- Comfort: The Nappa leather seats, standard fit front and rear, are inviting, well-shaped and comfortable. Although a medium sedan, the Passat offers good legroom front and rear and easy access for rear-seat passengers (or if you’re leaning in to strap kids in). Headroom too is good all-round.
Three adults across the rear will find shoulder room a little tight, but a pair of adults or a trio of kids will find little for complaint on the family road-trip.
- Equipment: The 125TDI Highline is the mid-spec model in the range, and gets a high level of standard equipment.
Dual-zone climate control and heated front seats are standard, along with cruise control, foglamps, parking sensors, dusk-sensing headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.
A six-disc CD changer with auxiliary audio input incorporating Bluetooth phone integration with audio streaming is also standard fare for the 125TDI.
A sunroof and satellite navigation are optional, while bi-xenon headlamps, LED daytime running lamps, LED tail lamps and a lane departure warning system are available with the Driver Assistance and Visibility package.
- Storage: Rear storage in the sedan is unchanged at 565 litres, giving the Passat sedan one of the most capacious boots in the segment - particularly with a full-size spare tucked beneath the floor.
In the cabin, there are door and seatback pockets, a good-sized glovebox and centre console space, and a cubby beneath the climate controls.
ON THE ROAD
- Driveability: The 125TDI’s turbodiesel engine, which produces 125kW and 250Nm of torque, carries over from the previous-gen Passat.
But it’s not without improvements: its claimed 5.7 l/100km combined fuel consumption is more than 10 percent improved on the previous model. The savings are achieved largely thanks to a new Brake Energy Recuperation system and Volkswagen's start/stop technology.
The small but capable 125TDI diesel mated to the six-speed DSG transmission provides responsive performance. Though not as nimble as the Golf, it accelerates strongly for brisk overtaking and is not noticeably blunted by hills.
Importantly, the Passat 125TDI copes easily hauling a family-sized load.
The diesel Passat's start/stop system works by deactivating the engine when the car is idle and the brake pedal is depressed, activating again with a tap on the accelerator.
The system's operation is simple and we found it easy to live with - although the sudden silence interrupting the familiar diesel note can be disconcerting. The system can however be switched off from inside the cabin.
- Refinement: The Passat offers class-leading quiet in the cabin, and even the slight ‘diesel clatter’ of the engine is nicely muted from within the car.
Wind noise is largely absent, and road noise from its 17-inch wheels is muted on all but the roughest roads.
- Suspension: The Passat gets independent MacPherson struts up front and a four-link arrangement at the rear.
Volkswagen’s Adaptive Chassis Control is also available as an option (not fitted in our tester). Even without it, the 125TDI is a brilliant ride and a very good handler.
While it has enough ‘give’ to soak up surface inconsistencies, it is also very well composed when cornering - perfect for the average family, with a little fun for the spirited driver.
- Braking: Performance of the 125TDI’s ventilated front and solid rear discs is progressive and strong, with good pedal feel and little fade, even after heavy use.
- ANCAP rating: Not tested (its predecessor carries a 5 Star rating and that will likely extend to the new model when testing is complete).
- Safety features: Eight airbags, Electronic Stability Program, ABS and Brake Assist, Electronic Differential Lock and Anti-Slip Regulation, Low pressure tyre indicator, Safety optimised head restraints.
New for the Passat - and for Volkswagen - is Fatigue Detection. Standard across the range, Fatigue Detection uses sensors that detect the on-road signs of a tired driver. If a drowsy driver is detected, the program will beep and display an in-dash warning.
Although innovative, it’s a complex system and one that we found touchy on the long freeway drive from Melbourne to Arthur’s Seat.
Another first is the new Volvo-like City Emergency Braking, which comes as part of the $2000 optional Adaptive Cruise Control system. Active at speeds below 30km/h, City EB works by braking the vehicle in the event of an impending front-end collision with a moving vehicle or stationary object.
A new second-generation version of Volkswagen's Park Assist technology is also available as an option, assisting drivers not only in parallel parking, but also in perpendicular (90 degree) parking.
With the driver responsible only for prompted use of the accelerator and braking, the Park Assist system will handle the steering duties, slotting the Passat into - and out of - its space.
With 12 sensors and a massive range of detection and manouvering abilities, Park Assist is an intelligent system - although Volkswagen stresses that the final judgement call belongs to the driver.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
- Warranty: 3 year/unlimited kilometres.
- Service costs: TBC
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
- Honda Accord Euro Luxury (Nav) ($44,290) - The leader of the Japanese mid-sizers in terms of quality and refinement, the Accord Euro is also an enjoyable drive. No diesel is available, but spec-for-spec the Euro does very well against the Passat. (see Accord Euro reviews)
- Ford Mondeo Titanium TDCi ($46,990) - The Mondeo has a torquey diesel and a new six speed twin-clutch transmission, but its interior trim could use a comprehensive update.
It’s a few grand more than the VW, but the Mondeo is more generously equipped. LED DRLs and adaptive cruise control are standard, with only integrated sat-nav conspicuously absent from the options list. (see Mondeo reviews)
- Toyota Hybrid Camry Luxury ($39,990) - Want to save fuel but don’t want a diesel? The Hybrid Camry could be up your alley. The interior is now looking a little dated, but the powertrain is both thrifty and refined.
Boot space is tight thanks to the Hybrid’s sizable battery pack though. (see Hybrid Camry reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It might not be an all-new car, but the 2011 Passat is a solid improvement over the old model.
It has always been good buying, but refinements to its interior and exterior, along with a swag of new technology and improved fuel consumption, have produced a car with renewed appeal.
Although more expensive than most of its Asian competitors, Volkswagen’s Passat 125TDI is a compelling offering in the ultra-competitive mid-size market.
Mike attended the launch of the 2011 Passat at Melbourne's unique Lyon Housemuseum as a guest of Volkswagen Australia.