Reps rejoice, your chariot has received an upgrade…and never mind them, all of us should celebrate, because the new Volkswagen Passat is a huge step forward.
Gone is the both outwardly and inwardly bland mark seven, a long in the tooth vehicle that all but disappeared from our roads after its slightly more exciting CC sister arrived on the scene.
Here to replace it is the eighth generation of VW’s saloon and estate combo setting you back between £22,000 and north of £40k if you spec it up enough.
Outside, the new Passat shies away from inspiration the Golf with the front end encompassing a striking full-width grill, blended into the trapezoidal headlights.
Those headlights can contain multiple LED finishes, and while the Passat keeps the standard mid-range saloon profile it’s accentuated by strong shoulders and angular flourishes on the bonnet.
It’s all finished off with plenty of chrome flashes on the higher end Passats, but, as with the latest Polo they are understated rather than obnoxious.
But it is inside where the biggest, and most important change comes.
The outgoing MK7 had a perfectly reasonable interior, borrowed from the Golf. The latest model goes its own way.
Everywhere you notice a step up in quality, not only is the design much cleaner and nicer on the eyes, but the materials cannot be faulted. From tactile plastics to brushed metal the new Passat is a lovely place to be.
Which is important for a car like this, VW admit that around 80 per cent of buyers will be fleets. The majority of Passat owners will spend a huge amount of the time they have with their car cruising up and down the motorway point-to-point.
That means comfort and ease of use are paramount. To help with this the dash gains a revamped touchscreen to control the infotainment, a system that is intuitive and, more importantly, doesn’t end up with you stabbing an angry finger in its face just to get recognition.
It is positioned just below what at first looks like the world’s biggest air vent. Actually it contains a vent at either end. Designed to replicated the new Passat grille it draws the cabin together nicely, making it feel like a single, fluid, unit.
Inside the new Passat is huge. Making full use of VW’s innovative new MQB platform it is 2mm shorter than the old car, but the wheelbase has been stretched by 79mm, creating the chasmic interior.
There is more than enough room for adults to sit in comfort in the back, even those of us over six-foot have no problem.
Boot space also grows, the saloon gains 21 litres to pile in 586 litres of your finest stuff, while the estate grows by 47 to a whopping 650 litres (or 1,780 if you brim it to the roof).
But what about the rest of the car, if you’re going to spend days of your life in it nice materials and big space may not be enough.
We were given the opportunity to sample the whole range, which consists at launch entirely of diesels.
Later this year a plug-in hybrid will arrive with a 1.4 litre petrol, and a new Active Info Display, parachuted in from the new TT.
In the range of diesels, we have a base 1.6 litre unit producing 118 bhp, and three 2.0 litre engines, with 148, 187 or 237 bhp, all four with a quartet of cylinders.
The biggest seller here will be the 148 bhp unit, and thankfully we also believe it is the best choice.
Jump behind the wheel, push the small metal starter button and the 2.0 litre motor is a triumph of refinement.
You have to struggle hard to find the rattles of an old diesel here, and power delivery is very smooth.
We would choose it over the 187. While the more powerful engine is definitely quicker, pushing the Passat to 62mph in 7.7 seconds rather than 8.7 (when both are fitted with the DSG ‘box) , the extra 40 horses aren’t enough to warrant the £1,300 price difference.
It just doesn’t feel faster in the way you would expect of more power, certainly not in the way that the 1.6 litre unit feels slower and less refined than the big-selling 148.
VW tell us that all the engine line up is appreciably lighter than the outgoing model, which contributes to the new Passat’s well-balanced drive.
Stick it in comfort mode and the big VW will soak up all but the most jarring of bumps without problem. In the 2.0 litre models there is very little tyre roar even at motorway speeds.
That lack of weight over the front axle, and the bump soaking suspension do mean the Passat is not the most engaging drive in the world. The wheel has weight to it, but not in a progressive way and body roll is still evident if you show it a corner, even in sport mode.
But the Passat was never designed to be a B-road monster, and taking that into account VW have done a good job of making it at least interesting to drive, rather than a downright plod.
We would probably avoid the top-level 237 bhp model. Unless you are absolutely set on getting from A to B much faster than the others it isn’t a ride worthy of such an engine.
We were only able to try the biturbo in estate guise, and it took some muscling to get it to behave properly in the twisting Warwickshire roads. The model we drove also nudges £40,000 and could be specced up with even more kit if you so wished, for that you’d like to look at the four rings, rather than VW.
It’s a shame the double-clutch unit can’t be standard on the new Passat, because it’s a cracker, and saves you from the manual version’s questionable clutch. Whether in sport or comfort, or even semi-auto, the gear changes are rifle quick but smoother than silk.
As for the base 1.6, that depends on your badge snobbery issues. The model we drove could be bought for £23,815 including optional paint, heated seats, reversing sensors, convenience pack and apparently an electric differential.
However the 1.6 lacks the refinement of the brilliant 2.0 litre unit above it, the 30bhp reduction in power is also very noticeable, and the Skoda Octavia is looking over your shoulder.
So what do we think then?
Well the new Passat is VW finally paying attention to an often maligned model.
Rather than being a Golf knock off that’s a bit bigger, there is a huge amount of attention to detail, and build quality that would rival the more luxury members of the VAG group.
Plumb for the 148, get that DSG box, swathe it in leather, and it’s a pleasure, and an absolute cruising machine.
2015 VW Passat – Superb interior, great detailing, muscular new looks, get the 2.0 litre!