Volkswagen’s Passat wagon has a stirring blend of performance, practicality and cult appeal
SINGAPORE – Elsewhere on this website, we’ve reviewed a host of wagons. The smaller ones, like the Volkswagen Golf Variant, Mini Clubman, Mercedes-Benz CLA Shooting Brake and Hyundai i40 represent a newer sort of wagon aimed at younger buyers, just like their non-estate models are.
In Europe though, big wagons are the mainstream. In Germany and Italy especially, you can’t go by without seeing estates like the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, Opel Insignia, Audi A6, or smaller ones like the BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Volvo V60 or Audi A4.
As it does here, Volkswagen does a great job of straddling the mainstream/luxury Continental divide. But here’s a version of the Passat which won’t be a huge seller here: The Variant.
The Passat Variant sold here only comes with one engine choice and model trim: 220bhp 2.0-litre turbo with the snazzy R-Line trim. It brings to mind one of the more special Passats of yore, the sixth-generation R36 performance model which had a 300bhp 3.6-litre V6.
While this Passat Variant has substantially less power, it’s only a second slower to 100km/h than the old R36 is, and given its capabilities, we think the ethos of a understated, sleeper fast wagon is still going strong here.
The 2.0-litre engine is essentially the Golf GTI’s doughty heart, and a healthy prod of the gas is more than enough to chirp the wagon’s front tyres. As one of the more expensive Passat uh, variants, around, it also has fully adaptable drive modes, so it goes from sporty and rapid to eco-conscious and comfortable at the push of a button.
The ride quality and refinement is excellent, especially given the car rides on handsome 19-inch wheels as standard, which is part of the R-Line body kit that gives the wagon more implied performance.
Having a boot doesn’t detract from the looks, in fact we feel the opposite. As typical for wagons, it allows for longer, flowing lines that aren’t broken up by a three-box shape, and it’s all concluded nicely by the roof spoiler and exhaust pipe surrounds.
The Variant weighs 50kg more than the sedan, but you hardly feel it. On paper the performance differences are minimal, a two tenths of a second here, 0.1L/100km there.
Where you will feel it though, is when carrying lots of stuff: Naturally the loading area is much wider and larger – the sedan can hold 586 to 1,152-litres of cargo, the wagon 650 to 1,780-litres. The flat cargo area has a tonneau cover, remote seat folding handles and cargo hooks, but sadly no uber-useful rail-mount cargo hook system.
At $11,500 more than the non-Variant Passat R-Line, or $184,300 with COE, it’s not exactly cheap, but if you look around, it’s good value. It’s still cheaper than a BMW 320i sedan, which is slower, has less space and well, is rather common. Mercedes-Benz’s CLA 200 Shooting Brake isn’t far off in price too, and is even smaller than the BMW.
The Variant also has the kind of feature set you’d expect from a luxury vehicle, everything from massage seats to smartphone connectivity, a premium sound system (Dynaudio), 3D view camera and the very spiffy active driver’s display that’s only found elsewhere in the Audi TT.
As we noted in our test drive of the sedan, the Passat has gone from being an alternative to East Asian upgraders to something even more, such that it can now face up to the likes of the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. You could say it’s a great variation on an already strong main theme.
Volkswagen Passat Variant 2.0 TSI R-Line
Engine 1,998cc, 16V, inline 4
Power 220bhp at 4500-6200rpm
Torque 350Nm at 1500-4400rpm
Gearbox 6-speed dual-clutch
Top Speed 244km/h
0-100kmh 6.9 seconds
Fuel efficiency 6.5L/100km
Price $184,300 with COE