Volkswagen Passat Estate Review

In Car Reviews, Volkswagen by Neil Lyndon

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The new VW Passat Estate is such a dumbfoundingly complex and advanced car…

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That when Volkswagen launched it to the press earlier this year, they had to produce a lengthy supplement to the normal press pack just to cover the extraordinary range of gizmos on offer.

 

Car Reviewed: the Volkswagen Passat Estate SE Business 2.0-litre TDI 150PS 6 speed manual

Here’s a condensed selection:

  • Front Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, Pre-Crash system, Driver Profile Selection, Ergo Comfort seats and front and rear parking sensors.
  • Car-Net “Guide and Inform”: in-car connection to the internet via a smartphone wi-fi hotspot, allowing key information such as online traffic data, news and weather to be accessed via the Passat’s colour touchscreen infotainment system.
  • Predictive Pedestrian Protection: a radar behind the rear-view mirror scans the area in front of the Passat and detects pedestrians, exercising a full emergency stop if there is no braking intervention from the driver.
  • Traffic Jam Assist: brakes, accelerates and steers automatically, easing the strain during stop-and-go traffic.

 

Any one of these contrivances would have been unutterably beyond the comprehension of my father who learned to drive in the early 1930s and died in the late 1980s. The idea that a car might be able to look around itself and slam on the brakes if it senses that you are shunting into a pedestrian would have been so incomprehensible that he would have had to sit down to try to take it in.

Of all the innovations on this car, however, the one that most completely blew me away was the new Trailer Assist option which will automatically reverse a trailer/caravan into a parking slot. This is one of those stunning developments in car technology which make you shake your head in wonder and ask “Is there no limit to the genius of this industry?”

No more cold sweats at the sailing club when you fail to reverse your trailer into the spot which the club know-all is so impatiently pointing out. No more raucous laughter on the caravan site as you nudge helplessly to and fro, frenziedly turning the steering wheel to try to settle the wayward rig on the right angle for the pitch. From now on, anybody driving a Passat with Trailer Assist will be able to complete these manoeuvres, first time, with the infallible accuracy and cool aplomb of a veteran HGV driver. It costs an extra £465, but it would pay for itself the first time you avoided squashing the Commodore’s picnic hamper at the sailing club.

Like the Parking Assist function which has become widely available throughout the industry, Trailer Assist measures the trailer and evaluates the space with sensors and cameras. The driver merely triggers the process through a button on the fascia and then sets the car into reverse and into its turn approach by toggling on the remote control that operates the wing mirrors as if it were joystick. Once you have got the rig moving, you control progress with your feet on the accelerator and brake pedals but the steering wheel is out of your hands. It swings to and fro with alarming vehemence yet pinpoint accuracy. You stop when you are sure you have arrived. If you take control of the steering wheel with your own hands, the automated process immediately ends, and the car stops where it stands.

Unbelievable. My slack-jawed amazement over Trailer Assist when I first encountered it at the Passat launch earlier this year reminded me of the moment my old father first saw the fax machine working in my office in the late 1980s. He could not get his head round the notion that the paper itself did not travel down the telephone line to its recipient. Trailer Assist is comparably beyond comprehension. Think what this invention will mean for the farmyard when it makes its way into agricultural vehicles. Think of the haulage industry.

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Think, also, what effect it will have on Ford’s Mondeo, when Ford develop their own version of Trailer Assist (as they infallibly must). It will make the Mondeo equal with the Passat again. At the moment, the only difference between these marvellous cars is in VW’s slight edge in electronic gadgetry.

The new Passat Estate, being a little shorter overall yet larger inside than its predecessor is chunkier and less feline than the Mondeo, though its load space is slightly smaller. Build quality on both cars is at the top-end of German solidity. For interior comforts and driving dynamics, they are separated by a hair’s breadth. VW has recently sold very few Passats with petrol engines in the UK so this new model only comes with diesel, ranging from 1.6 TDi to 2.0 BiTDI. The Mondeo is priced from £20000-£28560, whereas the Passat is £21590-£34750. The SE Business version I recently borrowed for a week, with 2.0 litre 150 PS TDI would be £30825. It didn’t come with Trailer Assist, which would take the price well over £31000.

For most people, the most important difference between Mondeo and Passat will lie in the gradations of snob appeal between the two badges. For me, however, Trailer Assist makes a whole world of the difference.

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Volkswagen Passat Estate SE Business 2.0-litre TDI 150 PS

On the road price from £26,665 Price as tested £30,825

 

Engine: 2.0-ltre TDI Turbocharged four cylinder 16 valves
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Power: [email protected]
Torque: 340Nm @1750-3000rpm
0-62mph: 8.9 seconds
Top speed: 135 mph
Fuel economy: combined 68.9 mpg
CO2 emissions: 107 g/km
Insurance Group: 19E


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About the Author

Neil Lyndon

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Neil Lyndon has been a journalist, broadcaster and writer on the UK's national stage for 40 years, writing for every "quality" newspaper on Fleet Street. He started writing about cars and motorbikes for The Sunday Times in the 1980s and was Motoring Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph for 20 years, having previously written a column on motorbikes for Esquire. He is also recognised as a leading commentator on gender politics, having published No More Sex War in 1992 - the first ever critique of feminism from a radical, egalitarian point of view.

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