A new Passat is due to be revealed at the Paris auto show this fall, but just how new is it? Look for it to get fresh sheet metal and a restyled cabin, but the DNA beneath the sleeker skin remains largely unchanged.
The brief given to the designers called for a crisper and more elegant appearance - and for that new uniform VW look. "We have been accused of visual sameness," acknowledges VW styling director Walter de Silva. "But to understand our strategy, you need to look at the big picture. First of all, we must create a truly sustainable common form language for all VW models. Once the customers have taken in the new identity, we can start to differentiate slowly and very carefully. Consider for example the redefined family face, the implementation of which will be complete early next year. It defines the brand, and it must in essence remain about as consistent and classy as the design philosophy pursued by Apple. What makes all the difference is how the sculpture, the surfaces and the detailing relay exactly the right mix of style and substance."
That means the freshened Passat will feature is plenty of horizontal brightwork to signal that coveted up-market touch, along with bolder air intakes, a more angular grille, slimmer mirrors and parallel double streaks along the cleaned up flanks. Inside, expect to find a richer interior adopted from the CC, with optional heated and cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, voice control for the navigation system. Customers also will be invited to choose new extras like adaptive headlights, lane departure warning, blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control (with brake-to-stop capability), and an automatic parking aid.
Revised suspension tuning promises more precise handling and a more compliant ride. Although the new Passat is a full-size car, the base version in Europe will be powered by engines starting at a tiny 1.2 liters and 105 hp. North American customers will be able to select from four different engines: a 160-hp 1.8-liter four-cylinder, a 211-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder, a 300-hp 3.6-liter V-6, and a 170-hp 2.0-liter TDI. Four-wheel drive and the desirable DSG dual-clutch transmission are standard with the V-6.
All this is just an interim step until the Passat's all-new replacement arrives in 2014, at which point the wagon, sadly, will disappear. The Passat CC and the Passat cabriolet (due to replace the Eos by 2014) are supposed to move the nameplate up-market and to make it easier for customers to trade up to the new Phaeton - that car is expected in 2013 and will be positioned in a more accessible price bracket than last time, thereby moving the two nameplates closer together, hopefully making customers more comfortable to ascend the Volkswagen price ladder.