First drive: Volkswagen Passat prototype review

There are also two new petrol-electric plug-in hybrid (PHEV) drivetrains in the works. They use a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in combination with a gearbox-mounted electric motor for a system output of 201bhp and 268bhp respectively. The battery will grow substantially compared with current Volkswagen Group PHEVs. It’ll be around 26kWh, giving an electric range of 80 miles. In addition, they’ll get faster AC charging and DC charging.

To get under way, you hit the start button within the centre console and twist the end of the gear controller to the ‘D’ position.

The changes to the interior, including a new interface and menu structure for the infotainment system, make this Passat an agreeably straightforward car to operate. There’s a higher level of perceived quality, too.

The strongest of the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesel engines provides brisk step-off and in-gear performance, with plenty of low- to mid-range flexibility and relatively refined characteristics.

The seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox is quick to react, a feature that combines with the engine’s low-rev flexibility to make the car feel pleasingly long-leggged at motorway cruising speeds. As is typical for a modern DSG, it can be reluctant to grab a lower gear if you ask for more acceleration.

The steering is accurate and nicely weighted, with eager self-centring and greater feedback than before. The changes to the suspension also bring an added degree of agility and improved body control to the handling. All this makes it a sharper and more enjoyable car to drive than its predecessor. It’s easy to place on the road and get along with. Just don’t expect it to be sporting or remotely athletic.

The new Passat benefits greatly from the new twin-valve dampers, which bring added absorption and more controlled rebound properties. The upshot is much smoother progress, even over badly pockmarked roads.

It is still undergoing final development, but our first drive of the new Passat makes it clear that it is already a better car than its popular predecessor. The changes made to the long-running estate ensure that it retains the intrinsic values and everyday practicality that buyers expect and demand.

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