VW Passat – 2011

I’m sure quite a few of you have seen the latest VW ad for the Passat with the Darth Vader kid in it. It’s such a great ad, and co-incidentally quite a good car too.

I recently got behind the wheel of the 2011 VW Passat, in both guises – 2.0TDI DSG and 1.8TSI Manual. It was at a ride and drive event for VW’s sedan launches on their 60th year anniversary. There’s quite a few new variations of the models coming, from the Vivo, new Polo sedan and of course, the South African favourite, the Jetta. My focus, however was on that Passat.

The Passat has always been positioned as a mid level executive sedan, since its first iteration in way back when in the 80’s. There was an update late 2000’s but the unit has always struggled to bring in the numbers they’d hoped. It sells in incredible numbers in the UK, mainly as a popular rep-mobile and something different from the BMW 3Series and Audi A4’s that sell in droves as fleet cars for the corporates.

The new styling is in line with the new VW look, which keeps things sleek and conservative yet still looks fresh in design. To be frank, it’s about as exciting as listening to an Afrikaans sermon, but the Passat models have never tried to be daring. As a side note, the optional Bi-Xenon headlamps with LED’s really give it an up-market look from the front. Still doesn’t save things though.

Engines, at this point, are a petrol 1.8TSI (Turbo, 118kW @ 5000-6000RPM & 250Nm @ 1500-4200RPM) and a 2litre turbo diesel unit. (103kW @ 4200RPM & 320Nm 1750-2500RPM) The 2.0TDI unit is an effortless power plant. It delivers the torque seamlessly through the rev range, especially because it’s mated to an excellent 6speed DSG gearbox. The combination makes for effortless driving, in and around town, and on the highway. The gear changes are so seamless you just watch the rev counter jump up and down the revs. It’s the best bet for the driver that does a good hunk of kilo’s and wants to use it as a family cruiser over the weekends.

The 1.8TSI is just a different beast all together. The 135kW motor is incredibly keen to be revved up and the turbo keeps the power fed right through the rev range. There’s a good bit of thrust in 3rd at any point in the rev range making overtaking and gutsy city driving a real pleasure. The car’s not small, but it the 1.8TSI engine makes it easy work of the Passat’s weight. It does such good work you’ll find yourself racing around like you would in a hatchback. Strange … for a Passat. It’s genuinely so much fun to get revved and driving I seriously would suggest you take it for a spin if you’re looking in this category.

The suspension is familiar Independent McPherson struts with Anti-Roll bar and Multi-link rear suspension. Basically, it does relaxed driving incredibly well, and also gives a great sporty drive when you’re making darting around in traffic. The car makes use of an electronic parking brake, with auto-hill hold, which holds the car on an incline or decline until you get the revs right to go. Nice.

The interior is once again another jump in quality on the VW side. They are getting closer and closer to the sibling Audi interior quality, which is an interesting strategy, not only in terms of pricing, but also positioning of the brand. Anywho, the interior is a familiar happy VW place, with soft touch materials, quality switchgear, and a host of space inside for the family, much more so than its German rivals. Dual zone climate control and everything you’d expect from a mid segment saloon is standard in here, including a fatigue detection system, that tells you to take a break when it notices you’re nodding off. One thing none of the rivals can compete on, is the carnivorous boot. You could easily fit 3 dead hookers and a shovel and some lemons in there, with space to spare. (

There’s a host of optional equipment on the VW that bring it up to technological spec level of its German rivals – rear view camera, parking assist, dynamic headlights, keyless entry, climate controlled seats and high-beam assist. All optional of course, and bring a kid to trade in on those options.

Overall, it’s a worth competitor in my books, and the best part is it has the newest look of them all. Let’s hope the Passat nameplate doesn’t deter buyers, as it really does everything so well. Interior space and that massive boot make it a serious contender for those with families, and I’d suggest giving it a drive if you need the space, more so than the Jetta.

Pricing? We’re talking R325 000 starting for the 2.0TDI DSG and R294 000 for the 1.8TSI. Genuinely good value (careful with the options list) considering the size of the interior, and great engines on offer.

* As a side note, I’d like to thank VW for another great Ride & Drive event, extremely well organized with exceptional presentation – check out a short clip on the presentation here –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zy-D9T2gbKU

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