2013 Volkswagen Passat R-Line review

* VW's family car gets bodykit and lower suspension * Choice of three engines, from 104bhp to 158bhp * On sale now, priced from 22,115...

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Ed Callow
01 November 2013

2013 Volkswagen Passat R-Line review

The Volkswagen Passat R-Line sits alongside the Highline models as the mid-point in the Passat range.

It’s aimed at buyers who are happy with the kit included on the entry-spec S model, but fancy a bit more presence.

The R-Line kit costs around £1300 more than an equivalent S trim car, and adds 18-inch alloys, a bodykit, tinted rear windows, xenon headlights and lowers the suspension by 1.5cm.

It's available with three engine choices and manual and automatic gearbox.

What’s the 2013 Volkswagen Passat R-Line like to drive?

Go for a Passat R-Line and you can choose from a 158bhp petrol or 104bhp and 138bhp diesels. We tried the petrol, which is the quickest model in this trim.

If you rev it hard and work the slightly notchy six-speed manual ‘box, the 1.4 TSI offers warm hatch levels of acceleration, but it never feels especially urgent or exciting.

The handling doesn’t inspire you, either. The steering is light and precise, but the only feedback you get from the road is the occasional thunk through the chassis.

The lowered suspension is noticeably firmer than the standard car’s, and while it’s never uncomfortable, it loses the supple character that makes the standard model so appealing as a relaxed cruiser.

On the plus side, the petrol engine is hushed around town and refined on the motorway. Wind noise is never intrusive at high speeds, either, but the 18-inch wheels generate plenty of road roar – especially over coarse surfaces.

What’s the 2013 Volkswagen Passat R-Line like inside?

Nothing inside the R-Line tells you that you’re in anything other than the most basic Passat. Considering the expense of the bodykit on the outside, that’s a shame. You do get tinted rear windows, but otherwise it’s the same large, comfortable, but ultimately dull cabin.

It should be easy for most drivers to get comfortable, but R-Line models don’t get adjustable lumbar support, which is standard on Highline and Sport versions.

R-Line models get the same equipment as S-spec cars, which includes air-conditioning, alloy wheels, Bluetooth, a USB socket and four electric windows. That's disappointing when you consider that the Highline costs the same and gets an extra £2530 of kit.

At least there are no compromises to passenger or luggage space. There’s plenty of room for four adults on long journeys, and the big boot will swallow a family’s holiday bags with ease.

Should I buy one?

Not unless you favour style over substance. The Passat R-Line might look sporty, but the performance doesn’t live up to the billing. The engine is strong and flexible, but this is never a car you could describe as fun.

If you’re after a genuinely quick car with a huge boot, then consider a Skoda Octavia vRS. It offers credible pace and handling, and won’t cost any more than the Passat to buy, although its ride may be too firm for some.

Alternatively, spend your money the way we would, and go for the VW Passat Highline. Prices are identical to R-Line trim, but instead of a bodykit and fancy headlights, you get climate control, a touch-screen sat-nav, plus more adjustment and storage in the cabin.

The Highline's kit plays to the Passat’s strengths, but the R-Line's extras diminish them.

What Car? says…

Skoda Octavia vRS
Volkswagen Passat Highline

Specification 1.4 TSI 160 R-Line
Engine size 1.4-litre supercharged and turbocharged petrol
Price from £22,470
Power 158bhp
Torque 177lb ft
0-62mph 8.5 seconds
Top speed 137mph
Fuel economy 45.6mpg
CO2 emissions 144g/km

Specification 1.6 TDI 105 R-Line
Engine size 1.6-litre diesel
Price from £22,115
Power 104bhp
Torque 185lb ft
0-62mph 12.2 seconds
Top speed 121mph
Fuel economy 65.7mpg
CO2 emissions 114g/km

Specification 2.0 TDI 140 R-Line
Engine size 2.0-litre diesel
Price from £23,230
Power 138bhp
Torque 236lb ft
0-62mph 9.8 seconds
Top speed 132mph
Fuel economy 61.4mpg
CO2 emissions 119g/km