November 10, 2016 @ 05:37 PM

Review: Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TSI Highline - Ahead of the game

The sophisticated ride of the Passat has ensured it’s never out of sight in the rear view mirrors of BMW and Mercedes-Benz, this time its crept up to their wing mirror

Volkswagen’s new principal here has its work cut out for it to reinstill consumer confidence in its products and address the abysmal aftersales wing that left some quarter of owners livid.

Refreshing its fundamental models will go a long way in achieving that and here, it’s their sedans that account for a major portions of sales. The Vento saw the introduction of a remarkable engine and the facelifted Jetta got a new engine as well along with some extra equipment.

However, the all-new Passat would is undoubtedly the biggest and most pivotal leap forward as it was a full-model change and sits on the new MQB architecture that will carry the brand forward for years to come.

Variety is the spice of life seems to be the perspective for the new proprietors here and following in the footsteps of the Vento and Jetta, the Passat B8 will be available in three trim levels. The Highline is essentially a Golf GTI executive sedan with the same engine, transmission and handling package while the mid and entry Comfortline and Trendline will get an all-new 1.8-litre engine that is based on the EA888 engine family and features variable valve lift and dual injection.

The drivetrain of the Golf GTI is taken; lock, stock and barrel, and slotted into the Passat B8. Power comes from the EA888 turbocharged inline-four and is directed to the front wheels via the same six-speed wet DSG. That’s not the last stop for the “GTI sedan” train either as adaptive dampers coupled with the Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) and the brilliant XDS+ electronic differential torque vectoring system signal the end of the ride.

Unlike the B7, the new Passat takes an aggressive but calculated leap forward in terms of styling. Yes, it’s immediately identifiable as a Passat but the edges have been whetted and the sides polished for a sharper, more muscular stance. Shades of its Ingolstadt cousin are cast under certain lighting and that is never to be frowned upon.

Length-wise, it’s been chopped by 2mm and the height dropped by 14mm. That however is offset by the wider girth and crucially, the extended wheelbase that is massaged out by the new foundation. Blessedly so as well, all that extra length appears to have been bestowed to rear legroom and despite being lower, has more headroom for the rear.

A shorter but wider foorprint also paints an assertive stance, further emphasised by the razor-edged character line cutting across the side silhouette that draws attention to the wider body but terminates rather pointlessly at the taillights.

First seen and wowed in the Audi TT, the 12.3-inch Active Info Display replaces the traditional analogue instrument cluster and brings up any and all information the driver could need behind the steering wheel. Navigation can be mirrored there with different display modes to reflect the driving conditions. It’s all customisable and is the perforation to the brogues that is the tasteful new interior.

Underlined by what is arguably the world’s longest air-conditioning vent; split ever so delicately by the analogue clock, the subtly suave dash is inked in Volkswagen’s signature interior design restraint with the familiar fare of controls and knobs.

The Highline is garnished with deep Carolina wood inserts below the vents and piano black framing for the touchscreen infotainment system. Material selection is top notch as well and bodes seamlessly with the layout for a cabin that can easily be positioned well above its asking price, which we frowningly understand would be around the RM200,000 intersection.

While it may be closer to the plush interiors of a BMW or Mercedes-Benz rather than its traditional D-segment peers, the steep price could be a buzzkill for potential buyers.

However, let’s not stray from what it is... an opulent interior that is befit of the premium saloon segment is hovers perilously close to. Triple-zone climate control and an ace driving position, together with the rear space, make it one of the better cabins in its class.

The proper seating position paved the way for complete exploitation of the MQB platform; renowned for its well-damped ride as well as driver-friendly operations and lenient penalising when overcooked.

A lack of highways egged us towards more windy routes to benchmark its impersonation of the Golf GTI. The XDS+ system and DCC tighten the front end in accordance with the rear, drastically curtailing understeer and guiding the nose to conform with the steering wheel.

Parts of the story gets lost in the electric power steering, even when weighted in Sport mode, but ultimately, the core message gets through and is resolutely translated into changes in direction with barely anything lost in translation.

Sport’s mode is where the soul of the Golf GTI shines through the brightest with an almost neutral balance and blistering acceleration to leave the chasing Japanese D-segment pack in its wake. Perhaps only the equally overpriced Ford Mondeo and the brilliant but understated Mazda 6 could nudge ahead of it.

It won’t be nose-to-nose with the likes of the 3 Series or C-Class but the duo would break into a sweat trying to outrun the Passat.

Even with a firmer ride, the adaptive dampers in Comfort loosen up for a plush ride befitting of the opulent interior.

The Passat exudes the typical Volkswagen air of subtle flair that doesn’t allow any one facet of the car to outshine another but combine effortlessly for a sublime executive sedan well ahead of its peers but oh so short of the class above it, leaving it in the twilight zone between and likely to be overlooked in favour of the mid-range Comfortline.

Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TSI Highline
Engine: 1984cc, DOHC 16V, inline four, turbocharged, direct injection, variable valve timing, 217bhp @ 5600rpm, 350Nm @ 1700-5600rpm
Transmission: Six-speed wet dual clutch automatic, front-wheel drive
Performance: 6.7sec 0-100kmh, 246kmh, 6.2-litres/100km
Dimensions (l/w/h): 4767mm, 1832mm, 1456mm
Weight: 1505kg
Price: RM199,000 (estimated)

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