Mindful of European government and consumer indecision when it comes to the impending switch to EVs, Volkswagen has granted a stay of execution to its traditional combustion model lines. Which is why we still have a Golf as well as an ID.3, a Tiguan as well as an ID.4 and, as in this case, a Passat alongside an ID 7. The brand can't continue to invest in development of the old badges as it once did though, which is why this ninth generation Passat shares everything under the skin with the fourth generation Škoda Superb that's built alongside it at VW's plant in Bratislava, Slovakia. It also has something to do with the fact that you can only now have your Passat as an estate.
You can see why Volkswagen was unwilling to let the Passat nameplate go just yet. A part of the company's line-up since 1973, it's racked up over 30 million sales. Though its days of big production volumes are over, there's still plenty here to please model line loyalists in this, the largest Passat yet.
Quite a bit's new in the apparently familiar powerplant line-up, but the key engineering change for this MK9 Passat is its MQB Evo platform, shared with the MK3 Tiguan. It's a key contributor to this B9-series model's newfound 'big car' feel - and has been engineered to take a full-EV powertrain, though there's no sign of that just yet. Surprisingly, Volkswagen is no longer offering the 2.0-litre TDI diesel that was the default choice of most customers in the previous generation. There's no 4MOTION 4WD option either, though both of these things are still available in other markets.
Instead, your Passat will have to come with a 1.5-litre petrol engine: either there's a conventional 48V mild hybrid eTSI model with 150PS. Or the same engine provides the basis for a couple of PHEV variants with either 204PS or 272PS. These use a much bigger 19.7kWh battery than the old Passat PHEV, hence a considerably increased EV driving range of up to 62 miles. Still want that diesel? As before, all Passats must have 7-speed DSG auto transmission.
To improve handling, Volkswagen has fitted the Vehicle Dynamics Manager system originally developed for the Golf GTI, which allows wheel-specific braking interventions by the electronic stability control and wheel-selective adjustment of the dampers. One of the benefits of this is greater differentiation between the various driving modes. Which are used for the optional (and now much improved) adaptive damping system, now called 'Dynamic Chassis Control Pro'. This includes clever twin-valve dampers which better absorb bumps thanks to more controlled rebound properties that make the ride almost limo-like.
Design and Build
Space is what this ninth generation Passat is all about. For the first time in this model line's history, it's only available as an estate - a station wagon that significantly bigger than its predecessor. The 4,917mm length is 144mm longer than before, plus the car is 20mm wider (1,852mm). To disguise these quite prodigious dimensions and try and make the car look a little less boxy, Volkswagen has reduced roof height by 10mm (1,506mm). There's a deeper front bumper and wheel sizes are up to 19-inches. The long, low look has improved the drag factor to 0.25Cd.
Up-front inside, there's a heavily restyled dashboard with a 10.3-inch instrument screen and a separated 12.9-inch infotainment monitor (upgraded to 15.0-inches with top-spec trim). Both run the brand's latest MIB4 software, with its smarter menu structures, higher resolution graphics, a permanent climate control bar and conversational voice control. The slider controls for volume and temperature are carried over but are now back-lit; the gear selector has been moved up to the steering column where the steering wheel now has physical buttons; an arty dashboard panel is enhanced by night-time ambient lighting; and there's a higher feeling of perceived quality. You get more cabin storage space too.
Perhaps the biggest cabin change though, is in rear seat legroom. The wheelbase length is up by 50mm and leg space at the back has increased by exactly that amount. It really is palatial now in the rear. Luggage capacity is up by 40-litres to 690-litres (even on PHEV versions). With everything folded, there's 1,920-litres of space, 140-litres more than previously.
Market and Model
Expect pricing to sit in the £38,000-£45,000 bracket, with the estate range split across three model lines - 'Life', 'Elegance' and 'R-Line'. All variants get LED headlights and taillights, roof rails, smartphone-mirroring and USB-C charging ports. Plus climate control and a rear view camera, along with a 10.3-inch digital instrument display and a 12.9-inch central infotainment touchscreen.
Key options include IQ.Matrix LED headlights and various parking tech features. 'Park Assist Plus' steers you in and out of spaces automatically, while 'Park Assist Pro' is able to do this while you're standing outside the vehicle, thanks to the car's capability for remembering the last 50-metres of its journey. The usual 'Travel Assist' semi-autonomous drive tech is available too.
Safety kit includes a clever 'Automatic Post-Collision Braking System' that automatically brakes the car down to 6mph after a collision - so if, say, someone hits you and, understandably, you go to pieces, the car will automatically sort itself out. There's also a 'Front Assist' system that at speed, scans the road ahead as you drive for potential accident hazards, warning you if one is detected and automatically braking if necessary. You get that same kind of functionality at urban speeds too, as part of a 'City Emergency Braking' system included as part of the 'Front Assist' package.
Cost of Ownership
The economy figures aren't too much different from before. Which means that if you opt for the base eTSI petrol 1.5-litre petrol variants, you're looking at about 45mpg on the combined cycle and about 140g/km of CO2. The mild hybrid comes with Active Cylinder Management (ACTplus), which deactivates the TSI engine when conditions allow, enabling the Passat to coast along with zero tailpipe emissions.
As we told you in our 'Driving' section, the PHEV models are capable of around 62 miles of range before you need to use fossil fuel. Volkswagen reckons that will allow many families to use this car as an EV, given German market research suggesting that 95% of journeys are less than 31 miles long and 99% are shorter than 62 miles. The brand claims that with petrol and electric power sources combined, the Passat eHybrid's range would stretch to over 620 miles. The PHEV battery now supports DC charging at up to 50kW - which is much faster than the old-shape Passat GTE, which was limited to just 3.6kW AC charging. That means a 10 to 80% battery top up will take around 25 minutes, while a new 11kW on-board charger allows full home battery replenishment to take as little as 2 hours.
As for servicing across the range, well as usual with Volkswagen models, there's a choice of either 'Fixed' or 'Flexible' maintenance packages. You'll choose the 'Fixed' approach if you cover less than 10,000 miles a year and with this, the car will typically be looked at every twelve months. If your daily commute is more than 25 miles and your Passat will regularly be driven on longer distance journeys, you'll be able to work with a 'Flexible' regime that can see you travelling up to 18,000 miles between garage visits - or every two years, whichever is sooner. And warranties? Well the standard package is three years and 60,000 miles.