When our colleague Nadji reviewed the seventh-generation Passat back in 2014, his piece was titled “Business as usual“. It proved to be a well rounded D-segment sedan that fulfils your daily business needs without drama. In other words, dull.
Having owned one in the family, I am well acquainted to all the quirks of the B7 Passat. I’ll admit, considering the other more exciting and dynamic offerings in the D-segment, the B7 has plenty of catching up to do. Therefore, I expect the B8 to be either exceptionally good or just another dull D-segment sedan. When Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia (VPCM) invited us for a test drive in Langkawi, I can’t help but get a little excited.
|Name||Volkswagen Passat 1.8 TSI Comfortline||Volkswagen Passat B8 2.0 TSI Highline|
|Engine||1,798cc; inline-4 turbo with BlueMotion technology||1,984cc; inline-4 turbo with BlueMotion technology|
|Transmission||7-speed DSG (Dry Clutch)||6-speed DSG (Wet Clutch)|
|Max Power||178 hp @ 5,100 – 6,200 rpm||217 hp @ 4,500 – 6,200 rpm|
|Max Torque||250 Nm @ 1,250 – 5,000 rpm||350 Nm @ 1,500 – 4,400 rpm|
Built on the group’s MQB platform, the new generation Passat’s dimensions are measured at 4.76 meters in length, 1.83 meters in width and 1.45 meters in height. Overall wheelbase has grown a whopping 79mm to 2,791mm. However, the biggest merit of the MQB platform is weight savings as the Passat B8 is 90kg lighter than before. For the purpose of the drive, VPCM has prepared two variants – the Comfortline and Highline. There will be an entry-level Trendline when the car is officially launched.
When I first laid eyes on the B8 in the metal, I have to say VW designed a stunning looking car. Yes, some may argue it resembles a Passat CC (B7), the side profile is exactly the same as the previous generation and the rear is basically taken from the Jetta. But if you take a closer look, the new Passat is actually much sleeker than before.
The curvy edges on the front gives off a sporty impression and is flanked with stunning LED headlamps. The door mounted side mirrors (previously mounted on the A-pillar) is a subtle yet impactful detail that makes the Passat seem like it’s lowered. Compared to the B7, this Passat reeks elegance. I just wished that it came with the more attention grabbing tail lamps design like the dotted LED design on the B7.
At a glance, it is hard to tell the two variants apart. The only exterior differences are the 280 TSI badge on the Comfortline while the Highline gets a 380 TSI designation. As with the facelifted Jetta, VPCM explained that the numbers classify which torque category the vehicles belong to. On the 1.8-litre Comfortline, the engine produces 250 Nm of torque, below the 280 mark hence “280 TSI”. The 2.0-litre Highline produces 350 Nm of torque falling in the “380 TSI” category.
Besides that, the Comfortline gets a twin exhaust pipe outlet while the Highline gets a trapezoidal outlet integrated to the rear bumper. Lastly, the Comfortline rides on 17-inch “Istanbul” design alloys with 215/55 profile Continental ContiPremiumContact 5 tyres while the Highline rides on larger 18-inch “Dartford” design alloys with lower profile 235/45 ContinentalSportContact 5 tyres.
Inside, the two variants are largely similar. Both get a tri-zone climate control, rear air-cond blowers, cooled glovebox, leather wrapped multifunctional steering wheel with paddle shifters, leather seats, 12-way powered driver’s seat with memory and massage function, six-way powered front seat for the passenger, keyless entry and start, electronic parking brake with auto hold, cruise control, powered boot with keyless operation, park assist, Park Pilot (helps park the car itself) and reverse camera. Yep, quite a mouthful.
Jumping into the Comfortline, you’ll be greeted with a silver chrome trim across the dashboard and around the infotainment system. Truth to be told, the silver trims do reflect sunlight pretty harshly and can be pretty irritable, but at least they are well put together. The 6.5-inch touchscreen head unit runs on a simpler operating system that does not come with navigation and smartphone MirrorLink (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto). The driver instrument cluster on the other hand is a simpler set of analogue gauges with a coloured display for essential driver’s information.
Inside the Highline, the atmosphere is instantly more luxurious and elegant. With the wood trim and piano black finish in place of the silver chrome trim, the interior looks at least 10 times more expensive. The same sized touchscreen infotainment system in the Highline comes with navigation and smartphone MirrorLink. Although on both variants, the audio quality from the speakers lack low end bass and high end clarity, even after fiddling with the equaliser. But the setup is more than enough to catch the BFM Breakfast Grille clearly.
The Highline also comes with an Active Info Display that is similar to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit. The instrument cluster is replaced with an LCD screen to project all your essential driving needs. Like on the Audi TTS and Q7, the navigation can also be displayed onto the Active Info Display right in front of you. The display is well-lit and extremely crisp, truly a pleasure to lay eyes on.
Lastly, if you’re the type to be chauffeured in, the Highline comes with a powered rear sunshade for the rear windscreen. The rear doors unfortunately, do not come with sunshades.
The B8 Passat comes with two engine choices: a 1.8-litre TSI for the Comfortline and a 2.0-litre TSI for the Highline. The 1.8-litre TSI is mated to a seven-speed dual clutch DSG transmission (dry clutch) to produce 178 hp and 250 Nm of torque. That is 20 hp more than the outgoing B7 while maintaining the same torque figures.
The 2.0-litre mill is taken straight from a Golf GTI, hence it is mated to a six-speed dual clutch DSG transmission with a wet clutch type to produce 217 hp and 350 Nm of torque. The difference between the Passat and Golf GTI are only the engine and transmission tuning.
As with the Golf GTI, the Highline comes with an electronic differential lock – XDS that applies individual brakes on the inner wheel to reduce understeer around bends. The Highline Passat also comes with Dynamic Chasis Control (DCC) that adapts the gearbox and suspension damping settings to five different modes – Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Individual.
As some of you may be aware of, the B8 has been teased and spied all over Malaysia for years. VPCM explained that the delay of the launch of the B8 was to facilitate vigorous testing on Malaysian roads to put the minds of DSG nonbelievers at ease.
After more than 200,000km on the clock, from rush hour traffic congestion to unforgiving undulations of our roads, the Passat B8 has seen them all. Both seven-speed DSG (Dry clutch) and six-speed DSG (Wet clutch) Passat passed the test with flying colours without any breakdowns. Of course, these results were achieved by adhering to the recommended service procedure. Now that we’ve cleared our doubts on potential breakdowns, it’s time to see how is it like to drive.
Starting from the 1.8-litre TSI Comfortline, the power delivery is superb and properly managed thanks to the lightning quick DSG and clever traction control. As opposed to the B7 where torque steer is apparent, the B8 kept its composure in a straight line. Off the line, there is no jerking whatsoever despite being a dry clutch type thanks to new gearbox components and tuning. This makes driving around town extremely comfortable.
When pushed around a corner, the Comfortline Passat is well planted to the tarmac. Body roll is kept at a minimum and the turn-in manoeuvre is incredibly agile. Although the chassis is stiffer overall, the pleasant ride comfort on B7 is surprisingly maintained on the B8, possibly due to the higher profile tyres on the B8 (215/55) compared to the B7 (235/45). Regardless if you’re in the driver seat or passenger seat, you will definitely come to appreciate the well balanced driving dynamics and comfort on the Passat.
The cabin is well insulated even at ungodly speeds. Driving through a poorly lit road, the LED headlamps do a fantastic job in lighting up the road ahead. Although I have to mention the high beams are a little slow in engaging and disengaging; I had to disengage the high beam a little earlier than any other cars to avoid blinding oncoming traffic. Overall, the Passat is off to a great start in my books.
Jumping into the 2.0-litre Highline, the extra 100 Nm is not to be taken lightly. On full throttle, the Highline wheel spins in second gear. It sounds silly to be wheel spinning in an executive sedan but it sure did put a smile on my face. Drive it as any decent human being would, the Highline absorbs the road’s undulations much better than the Comfortline despite having larger wheels. Credit is due to the DCC as the chassis softens up in comfort, perfect for being chauffeured in while you’re enjoying the spacious rear seats. That is until you flick it into Sports Mode.
With the DCC in Sport, suddenly the Golf GTI recipe makes so much sense. During upshifts, the six-speed DSG was not as quick as the seven-speed DSG but what you get in return is a raspy exhaust note and the infamous DSG fart. Boy, was it addictive. The Passat, despite its size, is eager to change direction with high precision. The stiffer damping settings and lower profile sports tyres come together harmoniously to keep the Passat planted around the scenic B-roads of Langkawi. Who says you can’t have fun in a D-segment sedan?
IS THIS CAR FOR YOU?
With an indicative price of below RM200k, the Passat is a great package for those in the market for a D-segment. It rides comfortably well, boasts exceptional driving dynamics and a well-laid out interior. Checks all the right boxes for a decent executive sedan.
VPCM will be offering the Passat B8 in three variants, so there is a Passat for everyone. A capable family sedan? Trendline for you. Need a little more tech? Comfortline should do the trick. Been eyeing for that Golf GTI but need to fit the family? The Passat Highline or how other industry colleagues put it – Golf GTI Sedan.
For D-segment sedans under RM200k, the closest rivals in terms of ride quality and performance would be the Ford Mondeo and the Mazda6 2.5. The Mondeo’s interior is no where as polished nor pleasant as the Passat, although it’s 345 Nm pulling force comes very close to the figures of the 2.0-litre TSI.
As for the Mazda6 2.5-litre, it definitely handles better than the 1.8-litre TSI Comfortline but the 2.0-litre TSI Highline with DCC equipped offers much more flexibility in the damping settings. Although the 2.5-litre SkyActiv mill is a smooth and capable operator, the power delivery from a forced induction engine is simply incomparable. There is the Mazda6 SkyActiv-D that comes with 420 Nm which you could consider. But be reminded that you don’t have the luxury to stretch your legs in the Mazda.
WOULD I BUY IT?
In a heartbeat. Of course, it must come with 350 Nm at my disposal. If the indicative price tag of below RM200k holds true, the Passat B8 is arguably the most all-rounder executive sedan in the market within that price bracket. Regardless of variant, the Passat offers excellent ride comfort and superior performance, it’s the best of both worlds. Now, I wonder if VPCM accepts trade-in for the Passat B7.
The Passat B8 is set to be launched on 16 November 2016, and will be locally assembled at the Pekan Production Plant.
COMFORTLINE 1.8 TSI
HIGHLINE 2.0 TSI