Volkswagen says the new 2011 Passat takes… Actually, can I just interrupt you there to say the Passat Mk7 isn't new, it’s a bloody facelift. New lights, new grille, Bob ist ihr onkel.
Okay, so the new, seventh-gen VW Passat does use the same platform as the 2006 car, but Volkswagen claims that every panel is new.
But it manages to look almost exactly the same as the Passat it replaces!
Maybe that’s a little unfair. The top-spec cars certainly look premium, quite handsome in fact, although I’ll bet a 1.4 on wheel trims won’t be quite so alluring. So what exactly is new?
Lots of technology, that’s what. Some of it is stuff we’ve seen before on other VWs (self-parking, XDS differential, adaptive dampers, start-stop) and others that we haven’t, like a drowsiness monitor that senses when your inputs are getting ragged, a solid sign that you’re about to drop off. All three diesel options (1.6 and both 2.0s) and the basic 1.4 petrol come with fuel-saving stop-start tech too.
The old VW Passat was actually pretty good to drive. How does the facelifted 2011 Passat stack up?
Very well. We drove the top 168bhp diesel mated to a dual-clutch ‘box and it was just about ideal: smooth and gutsy, although the DSG tranny hobbles the fuel consumption to the tune of 8mpg. Like the step from Mk5 to Mk6 Golfs, it’s not radically different, but noticeably more refined.
The optional adaptive dampers lifted from the Golf and Scirocco mean you can glide down the motorway without it all falling apart on the twisty bits. It’s not focused like the Mondeo, but it handles tidily with precise steering and good body control, and the XDS diff very subtly keeps the diesel’s 260lb ft in check.
Where has the 2011 Passat's extra refinement come from?
There’s substantially more bulkhead sound insulation, thicker side window glass (with the option of double glazing) and the windscreen has a thin layer of plastic sandwiched between two panes of glass to keep unwanted sounds out. But there’s also a jump in refinement in terms of perceived cabin quality, which is now miles better than an Insignia’s, although outright cabin space is bettered by the Mondeo.
And what about the sexy Passat CC, the coupe that’s really just a better-looking saloon?
That’ll be overhauled late in 2011 with the same technical improvements but don’t expect such a marked visual change as this.
VW Passat 2011 review: the verdict
If you value driving enjoyment above everything else, you’d still choose the Mondeo, although the Passat is now closer than it was. If you’re concerned about cabin and luggage space you’d buy the Ford too.
So where does that leave the Passat? There are still plenty of other reasons to buy it: the cabin is so welcoming, the drivetrains and refinement excellent and because the trade continues to rate the VW as a cut above its Ford-Vauxhall opposition, residuals are strong too. Most definitely not as boring as you think.