Although Volkswagen refers to the new Passat as the seventh-generation model, it’s more accurate to describe it as a comprehensive refresh of the previous-generation Passat, rather than an all-new car. This explains why the new model looks rather similar to the previous one but yet the cosmetic changes are far reaching because every exterior panel, except for the roof, is new. The visual alterations bring the new Passat in line with VW’s latest corporate look which debuted with the Scirocco in 2008. The old car’s curves and circular lights have been replaced by crisp lines and more simplicity, the kind we’ve seen on all recent VWs. There’s also a clear visual link to the Phaeton, VW’s flagship saloon, to give the Passat a more upmarket image than before.
The prominent horizontal chrome strips in the grille make the Passat appear wider than it is and the VW badge which sits proudly is also distinctive. The thick bumper separates the grille from the air dam below and tucked away in the lower sides is a slim, rectangular fog lamp cluster which houses two lamps. A nice touch is the way the chrome bit that frames the fog lamps and the strips on the air dam comes together to mimic the front wing of a racing car.
The angular headlamps house bi-Xenon projector units and a string of LEDs to give the Passat a distinctive light signature and, when viewed from the front, the Passat looks quite attractive, if not striking. It’s when you look at the Passat from the side that it feels familiar but the bolder creases running across the length of the car and on the bonnet make the Passat look more sculpted than before.
The defining feature on the flanks is the sharp belt-line that starts at the headlamp, zips over the wheel arch, and cuts above the door handles all the way to the tail-lamp, never softening or slowing. The door aperture is the same as before but the sheet metal has been redesigned. This means the kink in the rear windows is retained and the silver strip surrounding the windows sets it off perfectly. Between the wheels, the car has grown a mere three millimetres while overall length has gone up by just 4mm but the Passat manages to look substantially bigger.
The smart-looking rearview mirrors have a sweptback design with built-in turn-signals. The rear has lost the rounded organic look of the previous Passat and the new wraparound design with a string of LEDs is another reference to the Phaeton. Two chrome strips — one on the boot lid lip and one lower down on the bumper — add some opulence to the design.
To improve refinement, VW has used special lamination on the front and rear windscreens that reduce noise. New engine mounts and sound deadening have been used to isolate the cabin further. However, what makes the Passat stand roof and fenders above its rivals is the sheer tech that’s packed into it. The Passat’s best party trick is VW’s Park Assist system which is quite an amazing driving experience. Activated by pressing a button on the centre console to specify either parallel or perpendicular, the Park Assist system detects a suitable space and then takes over the steering. All you have to do is take your hands off the wheel and operate the accelerator and brakes. It does take the hassle out of parking but it’s not entirely fool-proof and only works if you’ve lined up the car properly for the system to take over. Given the way other cars are parked and haphazard parking lots (seen in Delhi’s Connaught Place during office hours), you don’t always have the luxury of a perfect approach into a parking slot.
Other bits of tech include Dynamic Light Assist which lets you use the high-beam continuously by masking the full beam to prevent dazzling oncoming traffic. Attention Assist to alert drowsy drivers is another feature to debut in this class of car but we couldn’t quite fool it to get it to work.
The new Passat also comes with VW’s BlueMotion technology, which is essentially a collection of eco-saving tricks and tech to lower emissions and improve efficiency.