16 December 2004

VW’s design renaissance continues apace with the new sixth-generation Passat, revealed here officially for the first time ahead of a public premiere at March’s Geneva Motor Show. Wolfsburg’s elegant new saloon goes on sale next June, with prices from around £16,500 for an entry level 1.6 petrol model. A roomy estate will follow next November, along with four-wheel drive versions and a range-topping 247bhp 3.2-litre V6. The styling has been influenced by today’s Passat, but is more contemporary, with hints of both Phaeton and Golf-based Bora. Length is up 62mm at 4.7m, while the car is 74mm wider and 10mm higher at 1.82 and 1.47m.

Underneath its freshened bodywork the mid-range VW uses a new platform known internally as PQ46. Essentially a stretched and widened version of the new Golf’s PQ35 underpinnings, it returns the Passat’s engines to a transverse layout from today’s longitudinal installation. This has two primary benefits: first, it makes building the car cheaper, and second, it increases interior space. The new packaging means VW stylists have been able to shorten the bonnet by moving the A-pillars and bulkhead further forward, creating a larger interior and additional boot space, which rises 90 litres to 565. As with today’s Passat, the new model will be offered with front- or four-wheel drive – the latter using a Haldex multi-plate clutch system which shifts drive from the front to rear axles according to levels of grip. There’ll be an initial choice of six engines: 113bhp 1.6-litre, 148bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder and 197bhp 2.0-litre turbo FSI petrol units along with 104bhp 1.9-litre, 138bhp 2.0-litre and 168bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder pumpe düse turbodiesels. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, and a six-speed auto optional. The DSG dual-clutch ’box will be available on top-end models. The car rides on a heavily reworked suspension. The old multi-link (front) and torsion beam (rear) set-up is replaced by a MacPherson strut (front) and multi-link (rear) arrangement, as with the new Golf. The steering has also been revamped with an electro-hydraulic system featuring speed-sensitive assistance for the first time. VW’s reputation for delivering class-leading interiors looks to be continued. The first pictures back up remarks from Wolfsburg insiders who claim perceived quality is even better than that of today’s car, with soft-touch plastics for the upper section of the dashboard, damped switchgear and classy chrome highlights. The design of the dashboard, centre console and door trims borrows heavily from the upmarket Phaeton. The Passat is also awash with technology, including an electric handbrake, auto-hold function for keeping the car still at traffic lights, keyless entry, Bluetooth capability and optional ADR –automatic distance recognition that uses a radar sender linked to the cruise control.

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