February 07, 2005

Meet the new face of VW

The Passat was always the sort of car that sent out subtle messages, and in the process spoke volumes. Not flash like a 3-Series, not dull like a Mondeo. So what's all this about? Judging by the surprise appearance of the new model, Volkswagen is hoping to inject a spot of luxury into the midrange saloon sector. Gone is the blink-and-you'll-miss-it styling, replaced by looks a lot more in keeping with the Phaeton ├╝bersaloon than the solid family workhorse it replaces.

A shallow-angled windscreen and heavily-sculpted body panels have hauled the Passat into the 21st century design league. And that distinctly shaped chrome grille is destined to feature on all forthcoming VWs.

But it's not just a case of laser-whitened teeth and a stint on the sunbed for the Passat. This is a serious redesign inside and out. Following the general motoring trend, the car is bigger in every direction. Unoriginal that may seem, but it means more cabin room and 90 litres more loadspace. The look of the interior has been given a full rethink too, with cleaner lines and a more driver-focused layout. VW's reliable blend of quality and simplicity remains, but with a greater hint of sportiness. 115bhp 1.6-litre and 150bhp two-litre FSI petrol engines will be available from launch, with a 246bhp 3.2-litre V6 in the pipeline. 105bhp 1.9-litre and 140bhp two-litre TDI diesels will also feature, both being offered with a DSG dual-clutch semi-automatic gearbox.

There's plenty of new hightech jiggery-pokery too. An electronic parking brake is a first-in-class, as is automatic distance control, first seen in the Phaeton. Working in conjunction with the cruise control, this system applies the brakes if the car in front looms too close, then accelerates back to the original speed when the road is clear. VW's own version of keyless ignition also debuts, alongside those increasingly ubiquitous round-the-corner headlights.There's still no hatchback option on the Passat, but first UK models of the saloon and estate will be on sale by the summer.

06:06 AM in Passat | Permalink