Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Diesels are still a popular choice for large family estate cars, and there’s a choice of four for the Passat Estate. The 1.6 TDI diesel produces 119bhp and is an adequate performer, but only if you work it hard. There’s also an all-new 2.0 TDI EVO 150 with 148bhp. We haven’t tested this engine yet but it should offer a good combination of power and fuel economy. The more powerful 187bhp 2.0 TDI SCR 190 variant is worth opting for if you want more assertive acceleration, while top of the range R-Line (and the limited-edition R-Line Edition) models get the option of a 237bhp 2.0 BiTDI 240 engine teamed with four-wheel drive, and put simply, they go like stink.
Moving on to petrol engines, the range starts with the 148bhp 1.5 TSI EVO, which, again, we’re yet to test. The 178bhp 2.0 TSI 190 should be plenty muscular for most; it pulls strongly from low engine speeds and has enough clout to haul five people and their luggage around with ease. Finally, there’s the top-spec 268bhp 2.0 TSI 272 petrol; if you’re looking for something quick but also effortless, this engine, with its strong, linear power delivery, will satisfy you. It’s only available on the limited-edition R-Line Edition trim level, though.
Only the EVO engines are available with a manual gearbox – all the rest get a seven-speed DSG automatic ‘box. It can hesitate a little from a standing start but, once you're rolling, snaps eagerly up and down its gears and kicks down promptly when you demand a lower gear. Don’t forget there are also the plug-in hybrid Passat GTE models, which offer genuine electric-car immediacy. And there's also a rough-road focused Passat Alltrack.
Suspension and ride comfort
First, it’s best to avoid the larger wheel options to get the best ride quality. The standard passive dampers give a decent ride, but around town tend to thud over potholes.
The optional Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) offers three modes: Comfort, Normal and Sport. Even Comfort mode doesn’t quite iron out crumbly town roads, but it does keep things smooth and wafty over bigger bumps and at higher speeds. The ride is still mostly comfortable in Normal, although Sport is the firmest and is best reserved for the smoothest roads.
The four-wheel-drive Alltrack and BiTDI-engined models are heavier, and this causes you to feel suspension thumps through the car's structure more clearly – particularly in the BiTDI, which has bigger wheels fitted as standard. The Passat is still a settled cruiser, though, whatever model you choose.
Whichever model you choose, the Passat Estate feels composed along B-roads and light and easy when tootling around town. However, for something rather more entertaining to drive, we’d suggest looking at the BMW 3 Series Touring.
The optional adaptive suspension allows a fair bit of pitch and dive from the body when in Comfort mode, but Normal keeps things taut enough. The Sport setting makes the car more uncomfortable rather than more entertaining, though.
The four-wheel drive 4MOTION models are much more tractable, stable and relaxing to drive in tricky conditions. However, the system is best described as helping the car to feel secure and planted than genuinely sporty or fun.
Noise and vibration
The 1.6 TDI and 2.0 BiTDI are noisier than the other diesel engines; the others are pretty muted, and the petrols even more so.
Once you get up to motorway speeds, the engines fade into the background and wind noise isn’t a nuisance. True, models on 18in wheels generate some road noise over rough surfaces, but it’s not bad enough to become really intrusive.
The manual gearshift and clutch pedal are light and precise, and there’s not too much mechanical vibration, despite the engines being a touch gruff at low revs. The automatic gearboxes are smooth on the move, but can be a bit jerky in stop-start traffic and parking situations. Overall, the Audi A4 Avant and BMW 3 Series Touring offer quieter interiors, and smoother gearboxes.
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