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Driven: Volkswagen Passat Variant 2.0 TSI

Text by Sheldon Trollope, evo Singapore.

Photos by evo Singapore.

Why estates have never really caught on remains a mystery. For starters, they offer the drivability of a sedan while being able to carry bigger loads. Even if you don't have a compulsion for flat-packed furniture, there's no denying that stations, estates, shooting brakes or whatever the manufacturer calls them are more stylish than their three-box contemporaries.

A case in point is the car tested here. In VW-parlance, it is known as a Variant, which makes things interesting when we start referring to the Variant variant - not unlike 'the the' Ferrari; (La)Ferrari.


In any case, the Passat Variant makes the most of the already classy styling that the VW's latest family sedan is blessed with. Up front, it gets a cool LED daytime running light treatment paired with a slim grille that adds up to impart a menacing stare that aligns it more with the Phaeton flagship rather than the Golf family that resides beneath it in the brand's line-up.

The Passat may stem from a family car background, but VW's designers have (rightly) styled this car to look as sophisticated as an executive Audi, BMW or Mercedes for its cars like the A4, 3 Series and C-Class respectively that have been chipping away the family car segment this VW resides in.

Tasty details such as 19-inch tyres and LED head and tail lights augment the overall classy appearance that continues inside. With the 2.0-litre TSI models, a full digital screen is found in the driver's instrument binnacle. Dubbed Active Info Display, this 12.3-inch screen renders a digital image of the speedometer and tachometer while allowing the driver to display information such as satellite maps or fuel efficiency readouts.

Locally the Passat range is topped by the 2.0 TSI Variant variant tested here. The classy though questionably practical off-white leather seats and panoramic sunroof give the cabin a welcoming ambience. Rear passenger space is also generous as three adults can be comfortably accommodated on long road trips while the Variant's cargo bay is all too happy to swallow 650-litres of baggage or even as much as 1780-litres if you load it to the roof.

I have always suspected that estates handle arguably better than their equivalent sedans on account of their rear suspensions being beefed up to accommodate the additional loads.

Although I did not get a chance to put this theory to the test in a back-to-back comparison, this Passat Variant at least, performed convincingly up the steep and twisty roads to Genting Highlands where tarmac lined with slippery moss, and altitudes of up to 1000-metres above sea level would show up lesser cars. At no point did the VW run out of breath as this is one the advantages turbocharged engines offer over naturally-aspirated motors that would be sapped of horsepower by now.

'At this price point, the level of fit and finish is something you might expect to
only find in the $300k segment'

The six-speed DSG automated twin-clutch transmission also makes the most of the available power and torque to the point where the driver seldom if ever needs to call upon the paddle shifters for manual overrides.

In the cut-and-thrust of Kuala Lumpur's rush hour traffic, the Passat Variant makes for a comfortable place to be in as the suspension soaks up the bumps while the DSG transmission slurs its gear changes smoothly to never really bothering its occupants.

'I have always suspected that estates handle arguably better than their equivalent sedans on the count of their rear suspensions being beefed up to accommodate the additional loads'

The ethos of the Passat Variant however is more comfort and long distance cruising ability than outright performance. For others, the car's highlight is bound to be the Dynaudio sound system that keeps all aboard entertained with bass-thumping ability and crystal clear high notes. Just as well that this car's infotainment system comes equipped with Apple CarPlay, MirrorLink and Android Auto, which will be automatically activated when the appropriate mobile device is plugged in.

In Apple CarPlay for example, the central touchscreen effectively became an extension of my iPhone with 'essential' apps being available such as Phone, Messages, Apple Maps, Podcasts and Music being presented on the main screen. Apps such as YouTube or video-playing apps are locked out as the driver is not expected or shouldn't use them while driving.

To be a proper Q-car in the evo sense, the Passat Variant needs at least another 100hp or so along with a proper work-out in the Volkswagen's R department. However, it's hard to fault the current car when you consider its price point of $184,300 with COE.

At this price point, the level of fit and finish is something you might expect to only find in the $300k segment, yet alone a level that lists in the sub $200k-range. So on that count, the Passat Variant should please all but the most demanding of drivers.

Read the original article here.

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