UK Car review.
VW Passat VR6 4 Motion
3.0 V6 Quad Cam 30V Estate

 Exterior movie click here

Interior movie click here

                         

A Volkswagen Passat Estate?

Does not sound too exciting does it? 

4 motion and V6 sounds a bit better.

Still hardly sets your pants on fire. 

But come on, let's look what this car offers and compare it to some super cars of Yesteryear. Remember the 308 Ferrari as driven by Magnum PI? A car many would give their left testicle for. 240bhp and 150mph and still fast by most people's standards. Not quite practical enough? Well, how about the Audi Quattro coupe, 4 seats 200bhp 130+mph 4-wheel drive, huge grip and a revolutionary car in world rallying?

Now look at what this Passat offers:

Estate boot, 5 seats, 190+ bhp, 144mph, 4-wheel drive pinched straight from Audi. Still sound boring?

Well it looks like a Passat, but then Passats are probably the most improved car in the VW range. VW seem to have deliberately built this as a wolf in sheeps clothing. It is one of the most deceiving cars on the market. Apart from the alloys nicked straight off a Golf GTi, it could well be a diesel model.

Chinese proverb says Wise man walk softly, but carries big stick. Well, the Passat is the proverbial Q car, it attracts no attention but it carries a very big stick indeed. Alloys find their way onto many a cooking motor so barely raise a glance as they fill the wheel arches.

From no angle does this car advertise its intention. From behind there is even less to give it away. Yes the rubber may strike you as a little fat, but with the exhausts hidden behind the rear valance and directed roadwards even the standard boy racer fat chrome tailpipes are hidden from view

From the front it's standard Passat and struggles to raise a second glance from pedestrians.

Overall it looks like a car, any car, and most cars. Modern in its slightly exaggerated wheel arches but plain in the standard modern way without anything remarkable to mark it out from the increasingly large crowd.

Inside it's not what you would expect to find in your average Turbo Diesel rep wagon. It's here where it all gets given away. The tints help shade the interior from prying eyes but one glance at the quality and style enclosed within the doors tells you this is no ordinary family load lugger.

Lots of cars have leather trim but not many from mainstream makers are trimmed to this standard. The attention to detail of the interior trimming is stunning to say the least. We are not talking obscene amounts of folded cream leather sofa hides here, we are talking black leather laid down in a sophisticated and liberal manner whilst retaining a modern clean appearance.

Inlaid in the seats is that suede-effect type stuff (whatever its current name is) in a deeply attractive shade. No, this is not Ford RS trimmed by Halfords Recaro, this is way beyond that for class.

The current VW fashion dash with its purple and red neon glow is fitted, as in the Golf GTi. And, as in the GTi, it is still a bit too garish for my taste. Still, it works fine and all dials and switches are clearly discernible in the dark without causing undue tiredness to the eyes.

 

Look at the specs for this car in the UK CAR database and find one very well specified car indeed.

Leather covered steering wheel on an adjustable column, height and lumbar adjustable sports seats with headrests and seat belt height adjusters let you get positioned just right. From there you can perch your arms on the door rests and centre rest whilst fiddling with the cup holders and filling the door bins with debris.

Air con keeps you feeling cool even if you do not look it sitting in a Passat.

If you need it, it's here. If you don't, VW have given you what you need and missed out superficial noddy rubbish that only breaks later.

 


A fuel injected 2.8 V6 with DOHC is hardly remarkable in today's high tech engine world. 193bhp is not to be sniffed at but is hardly remarkable either. 200 would sound oh-so-much better. Still, peek under the bonnet and see a V6 which is really quite compact for its displacement. Laid traditionally north- south its logical to stuff the drive out to the rear wheels. Oh, and let's hook up the front while we are at it. 4 motion sounds a bit noddy and twee but it's not. Building on all that Audi rally knowledge, its close to the pinnacle of 4x4 design for the road. Clever torque-sensing diffs abound, translating into drive directed to the grippiest wheels.

In between is a slick 5-speed box of positive action. 5 speeds being more than enough to match the superb torque spread of the V6

Perhaps its just VW differentiating their products but it does not feel quite so silky as an Audi V6, though it's just as powerful. Accelerating along sliproads and into Motorway traffic is a delight as you only need a short run-up to have the clock spinning around past the legal limit, allowing you to slip easily into the traffic stream.

 

6 cylinder 2771cc. 
30 Valve Quad cam. 


193 bhp up to 144 mph.

Standing to sixty in about 7.4 seconds.

 

Okay, so we know its 4-wheel drive that connects to independent suspension at each corner, as should every modern car. Mounted on the stub axles are 4 wheel disc brakes controlled by ABS, so you've got maximum grip when going and maximum grip when stopping.

Power assisted steering is standard on most cars but it has to be balanced with a degree of feedback, The Passat has it all, including a superb steering wheel to hang on to when testing the road holding.

The model tested had Xenon headlamps fitted giving an excellent night vision and also looking very cool.
The gearbox is a standard 5-speed, light and easy to use but revs high even in 5th gear. The engine has an abundance of power to propel the car at high speed with less revs. Why did VW choose the ratios fitted or not add a 6th gear?

I was quite surprised to see quite how much the Passat had in this section. The car is positively awash with safety features: driver and passenger air bags, ABS, side impact protection, side air bags, high level brake light, pre tensioned height adjustable seat belts, strong body, good safety cell and, of course, reputation.

From the security point of view, it has alarm, immobiliser, central locking, locking petrol cap, locking wheel nuts and a VIN. It’s all the more disappointing then, to see the insurance running at an estimated Group 17, doubly disappointing in view of it's intended audience of probably more mature drivers and it's well camouflaged capabilities. But, I suppose inevitable, in these days of rip-off insurance.



Still, how does it all hold together? Is it a complete dream or a complete dog's dinner of techno trickery?

First thing noticeable was my inability to get a smooth change in the lower gears. The clutch is light, smooth and progressive so there is no problem there. Whether it was down to me or a function of all that drive train and a slightly woolly throttle response, I am not quite sure. Anyway, it smoothed out with a little practice and a slightly slower, more deliberate change action.

The ride is quite smooth, especially when you take into account just how much running gear is revolving under the chassis, the size and weight of the alloys and the low profile of the tyres. It feels on the firm side, but then that is okay by me. Inside engine noise is well subdued and, as is the modern way, so is exhaust noise. Shame, because it could do with just a little edge to it to remind you what you have under the bonnet. As it is, the lack of aural assault can easily allow you to slip along well above the legal limits.

The power-assisted steering is positive in it's action and well weighted and, combined with the 4x4, gives a constant feeling of high gripping security. There is no trace of bad behaviour at the speeds I want to go at. It cleaves around bends positively and changes of direction are achieved with little roll, just the sideways pressure of the seat bolsters to remind you that you are generating some fairly high side loads on the tyres.

4x4 spreads the load on the tyres so that they give the impression of grip beyond their nominal width and avoid the bad behaviour that really low profilors can give on less than perfect surfaces.

To be honest, I never really noticed that it was 4x4 to any great extent, other than a marked reluctance to begin under-steering. However, that can be taken as a measure of the system proficiency .

Performance is, shall we say, adequate. 144mph is a lot for an Estate with less-than-perfect aerodynamics. Sub-8 second races away from the lights to 60mph and will keep all but the most determined GTi at bay. Though when you look at the 1400kg-kerb weight you realise how much quicker it could be if it was not quite so big and hefty. Whether you would be prepared to give up the little but heavy luxuries in return for even shorter acceleration time or a whisper of economy is debatable.

VW claim 35mpg when cruising but I suspect somewhere between the Urban figure of 18.5mpg and high speed figure of 26.4mpg would be more realistic.

On the other side of the car's demeanor is it's pure practicality. It has a big boot area, complete with area blind (as befits an Estate) and roof bars for that really practical look and added versatility. Interior space is good both front and back. And even the 4x4 system does not seem to intrude noticeably (though I'm sure it does in measured reality).

For me, the V6 turbo diesel version with its 28.5mpg, 52.3mpg and 40.4mpg economy, 133mph top end and 9.5 second sprint offers a much more sensible option and plenty of performance. But, hey, if you don't pay for petrol why would you care.

The only question is whether this car intrudes a bit too far into AUDI territory to really appeal to the market sector. 
Though, in all reality, it is just as good and a little cheaper.

 

For full specifications on the VW range click here.


Please send your comments to UK Car using the contact us on the left.