Temporarily benched in the wake of Volkswagen’s emissions cheating scandal, the Passat wagon is back – and it has police in its sights. Pitched as “a larger and more comfortable Golf R”, the Passat 206 TSI combines the turbocharged 2.0-litre engine, quick-shifting dual-clutch transmission and clever all-wheel-drive system of Volkswagen’s performance hot-hatch hero in a wagon body.
The manufacturer says emergency services around Australia are examining the machine in a new stripped-out “Proline” form without the leather and luxuries offered to the public.
Regular customers have access to one highly-specified version of the fast Passat, a 206 TSI R-Line model loaded with luxury features.
Priced from $63,790 plus on-road costs (about $70,000 drive-away), the Passat R-Line has premium leather seats with heating, 14-way electric adjustment and driver massaging.
It has an Audi-like digital dashboard and an 11-speaker Harman Kardon stereo linked to a 9.2-inch infotainment screen with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There are clever matrix LED headlights, three-zone climate control, multi-colour ambient lighting and carbon-look trim elements.
A panoramic sunroof, nine airbags and a comprehensive suite of driver aids are standard. The tech includes front and rear auto emergency braking, active cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, blind-spot monitoring and traffic-jam assistance that can steer, accelerate and brake for you. Rear occupants get a good degree of room, plus an armrest, cupholders, dedicated climate controls and choice of USB-C or 12-volt power outlets.
This Passat’s combination of performance and polish is hard to beat at this price.
It costs about $5000 more than a similarly specified Golf GTI but is faster and more spacious. And there are no hidden extras – the only option is $800 for metallic paint.
VW expects plenty of customers to choose the Lapiz Blue finish shown here – one reserved for performance cars such as the Golf R. It goes well with black 19-inch wheels pinched from the hot hatch, as well as the R-Line body kit separating it from lesser models.
Though this isn’t a fully-fledged “R” model, it has impressive performance credentials.
Able to rip to 100km/h in 5.7 seconds – easily besting the latest Golf GTI – the Passat’s 206kW/350Nm motor makes the most of an all-wheel-drive system able to send 100 per cent of torque to the front or rear as required.
The R-Line pinches clever multi-mode shock absorbers from the GTI that give drivers a sliding scale with 15 settings spanning from soft to firm, a much broader scope than the previous car’s choice of comfort and sport modes.
You also get quality Pirelli tyres and a flat-bottomed steering wheel with paddle shifters to match its sports seats and black headlining.
The Passat impresses on the road, where its measured steering response and planted stance combine with unflappable traction to deliver confidence when pushed.
Keen drivers can get on the gas harder and earlier than they might do in a rear-drive rival as the Volkswagen is far less likely to lose traction exiting a bend. Strong brakes and rapid-fire responses from its six-speed transmission encourage you to make the most from its engine, and a lack of body roll helps the Passat feel far more precise than any SUV at this price point.
Polished around town, the Passat’s multi-mode suspension is impressively plush in comfort mode, but the dual-clutch gearbox isn’t very refined at low speeds.
Fuel use is also high at a claimed 8.1L/100km of premium petrol that climbs into double figures if you use the R-Line as intended. Servicing is dear at $3700 for five years.
Another downside, if you can call it that, is a driving experience that is competent rather than exhilarating, although that makes a lot of sense for a family car.
Loaded with luxury features and a surprising turn of pace, the Passat 206 TSI R-Line is a punchy and polished machine for folks who want to buck the SUV trend.
VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT 206TSI R-LINE VITALS
Price: About $70,000 drive-away
Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cyl turbo, 206kW/350Nm
Warranty/servicing: 5-year/unlimited km, $3698 for 5 years
Safety: 9 airbags, auto emergency braking, active cruise control, lane-keep assist, rear cross-traffic alert
Spare: Full size
Cargo: 650 litres