Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
If you're after a diesel, the entry-level, 118bhp 1.6 TDI 120 is adequate; it has enough power to get you up to speed on the motorway in good time, but without setting your hair alight. The 148bhp 2.0 TDI EVO 150's greater willingness to pull from low revs will make life more relaxing – especially if you plan on regularly filling all five seats – and gives the Passat more oomph for twisting country roads and motorway jaunts alike. The other diesel options are the 187bhp 2.0 TDI 190 and the 237bhp twin-turbo 2.0 BiTDI 240. Both are available with four-wheel drive (4Motion in Volkswagen-speak) for extra traction and are excellent if you require the poke to tow a big caravan.
Those who don’t want a diesel engine can choose between a 1.5 TSI EVO 150 petrol with 148bhp, or a more powerful 2.0 TSI 190 with 187bhp. The former is our pick of the range. It combines sensible running costs with a decent slug of mid-range guts, and provides plenty of vim when revved out. The 2.0 TSI 190 does have still more urgency about it, but not enough to justify its higher price.
To read about the plug-in hybrid GTE model – with its official electric-only range of up to 36 miles – click the link for our separate review.
Suspension and ride comfort
The standard suspension strikes a reasonable balance between firmness and comfort, compared with sportier rivals such as the BMW 3 Series, it offers a more supple ride on most surfaces and is a comfortable motorway cruiser, While things get a bit lumpier on uneven urban roads, it’s never jarring or irritating. The best ride comes with the smallest 17in wheels; the larger wheels might look great but don’t do the Passat’s ride any favours, making potholes and larger bumps more pronounced.
The optional adaptive suspension – dubbed Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) – has three modes: Comfort, Normal and Sport. Comfort mode does a good job of ironing out all but the sharpest and nastiest ridges; it keeps things smooth and wafty over bigger bumps and is particularly impressive on patchy motorway surfaces. In Normal mode, the ride is still agreeable, but Sport mode is rather firm. It's nice to have this choice of settings, but the standard suspension is good enough that you don't need to splash out the extra cash.
With the standard suspension, grip levels are high and the Passat feels a bit tidier to hustle along than the Skoda Superb, but never feels agile or involving. The optional adaptive suspension allows a fair bit of body lean in its Comfort mode, but Normal mode makes things taut enough. The Sport setting makes the car more uncomfortable, without making it particularly entertaining.
You can have 4Motion four-wheel drive with the 2.0 TDI 190 and 2.0 BiTDI 240 engines (it's standard on the latter). This does little to make the Passat feel sporty, but it does make it more secure and planted when the surface is greasy. The Passat Alltrack Estate, meanwhile, adds greater ground clearance but doesn't challenge the rufty-tufty off-road abilities of a Land Rover Discovery Sport.
Noise and vibration
Compared with the Mazda 6's, BMW 3 Series' or Audi A4’s diesel engines, the Passat’s 1.6 TDI 120 diesel engine is a bit gruff. Although the bigger 2.0 TDI 150 and 190 are better, they still sound comparatively boomy and clattery at low revs – the powerful twin-turbo BiTDI even more so. By comparison, the petrol engines make much less fuss and only begin to sound strained when worked hard. There’s very little wind or road noise at higher speeds, but bear in mind that you will hear more rumble from the road if you go for bigger alloy wheels.
Whichever engine you opt for, if it's hooked up to the dual-clutch automatic gearbox it'll be frustratingly jerky in stop-start traffic or when you're nudging back and forth into a parking space. The manual gearbox has a light shift action and a well-defined clutch biting point. The brakes work smoothly, too.
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