The Passat excels as a long-distance, high-speed taxi. Its latest job involved taking my girlfriend the few miles from our flat in Middlesex to the nearest tube station, then whisking me 100-odd miles to Somerset to my sister’s house in time for brunch.
As usual, the Passat felt perfectly at home on the motorway; its refinement and comfort allowing me to do the journey without stopping.
When I arrived, its boot easily swallowed my mum’s holiday luggage, while my niece and nephew were impressed by the cabin space – ‘wow’ was uttered more than once.
After a visit to the local farm shop and cafe, I hit the road for Surrey. A brisk 125 miles later, aided by the standard cruise control and impressive motorway stability, the boot was rapidly unloaded before I headed across town to the tube station.
Here, the car’ light controls and good visibility made ducking and diving through the traffic easier than it usually is in such a big car, while the comfortable seats helped keep most long-drive aches at bay.
When you’ve got a lot to do in a day, the Passat’s effortlessness, practicality and refinement make it the ideal companion.
Week ending March 23 Current mileage 14,385 Driven this week: 348 miles
This week, it was my turn to have a go in our Passat, in place of my usual Peugeot 508 SW.
It’s a fascinating comparison, because the Volkswagen is the logical choice in most respects. Refinement levels are sky high, with a sweet-shifting manual transmission (smoother than the 508’s auto), quiet cabin and calm ride quality. The Passat also steers with precision, and has an effortless quality about taking you from one place to the next.
I have always been impressed with a 600-mile range in my 508, but the Passat will easily top 700 on a similar fill-up. Judged by a ‘fitness-for-purpose’ test, the Volkswagen is difficult to fault (obviously it’s got a great boot, too).
However, although the interior is logical, well planned, and has a better range of storage for odds and ends, it is also dreary. It doesn’t feel as polished as the 508’s high quality cabin, or have you feeling like you’ve stepped into something a bit beyond what you probably deserve.
So, in the end I felt a little cold towards the Passat, despite obvious admiration for its qualities and an acceptance that point-for-point it outscores the 508.
Volkswagen Passat Estate 2.0 TDI 140 Bluemotion Technology SE
Week ending March 16 Current mileage 14,037 Driven this week: 425 miles
I borrowed the Passat for a late-night leisurely cruise home this week, and yet again I thought it was a decent long-distance machine. It dealt with the M25 and M40 admirably, and was a wholly unobtrusive companion on the slower roads near my home. However, the car gave me cause to utter the odd expletive nonetheless.
The cause of this out-of-character behaviour was the car’ iPod connection. I plugged in my phone and set off with the radio playing, but when I switched to the media output there was no sound whatsoever.
The track information was displayed on the screen, but the associated noise was unhappily absent. I had to pull over, retrieve the phone from the connection box, which is out of sight in the glovebox, unplug it and reconnect it. It took three attempts for the car to recognise the phone.
I’ll leave you to imagine what was said when the same thing happened on the M40 the following morning. Anyone around me would have seen a Passat with the driver doing an impression of Animal from The Muppets. Just as well that the rest of the car is so relaxing to drive.
Week ending March 9 Current mileage 13,612 Driven this week: 425 miles
The Passat’s driving position is almost faultless. There’s plenty of adjustment to the steering wheel and seat, allowing drivers of all shapes and sizes to get comfortable. On my SE model, the seatback has electric adjustment, so you can set it precisely the way you want it (many other cars have a lever that adjusts the seatback in large chunks).
That seat is firm yet comfortable, and although a little more support would be welcome, most people get out of it after a long drive with no aches and pains.
Then there are the details you rarely think about. The pedals are equally spaced and are pretty much in line with the steering wheel and seat. Even the headrest can be moved in and out to suit your needs.
All of which makes the driver’s seat pleasant place to spend time. No wonder the Passat has done more than 13,000 miles in just six months.
Week ending March 2 Mileage 13,187 Driven this week: 2321 miles
The Passat’s optional heated seats are still getting plenty of use – even though we’re (hopefully) out of the worst winter weather.
With the mornings and evenings still a little chilly, having the heated seat on the lowest of its three settings keeps you gently warmed. Of course, you can turn up the heat during cold snaps, but the subtle warmth of the bottom setting is particularly comforting.
Other cars – such as our long-term Jaguar XF – have heated seats that are too effective. Even the lowest settings are powerful enough to get you hot almost straight away, so you have to turn them off shortly after switching them on.