The new Passat aims to reach beyond traditional mid-class rivals, such as the Ford Mondeo and Vauxhall Insignia, in a bid to lay challenge to more upmarket offerings including the BMW 3-series and Mercedes-Benz C-class.
The saloon and estate models will be followed by a successor to the Alltrack - due in July next year - and a plug-in hybrid GTE version in October 2015. A third-generation CC will also join the range by the end of next year.
The new Passat is incrementally smaller in places than before but, thanks to the adoption of Volkswagen’s highly flexible MQB platform structure as used in the latest Golf, it is both roomier and more practical than the model it replaces.
At 4767mm in length, 1832mm in width and 1456mm in height, the new Passat is 2mm shorter, 12mm wider and 6mm lower than its predecessor, which originally debuted in 2005 as the sixth-generation model and was subsequently heavily facelifted in 2010 to create the seventh generation model, in saloon guise.
Underpinning the new Volkswagen is a chassis featuring a 79mm longer wheelbase, at 2791mm. It also adopts tracks that are 31mm wider up front and 14mm wider at the rear at 1584mm and 1568mm. The suspension, claimed to weigh 9kg less than before, uses a combination of MacPherson struts up front and a multi-link arrangement at the rear.
As with the latest Golf, a combination of high strength steel, hot-formed steel and aluminium is used within the body structure, contributing to claimed 85kg reduction in weight over the seventh-generation Passat – some 21kg of which is pared from the body alone. The lightest model in the launch line-up, the Passat 1.4 ACT BMT, clocks the scales at 1312kg.
In combination with a new range of petrol and diesel engines – all lighter than their predecessors – the Passat is consequently notably more efficient than before.
The most economical of the launch models, the Passat 2.0 TDI BMTI, is claimed to average 68.9mpg and emit 106g/km of CO2.
Volkswagen's chairman, Martin Winterkorn, revealed the definitive production version of the new Passat at the company's advanced design studio in Potsdam, Germany, earlier this summer. It appears a good deal less rakish than an early batch of official sketches had suggested but builds on the edgy look of its predecessor, albeit with flatter profile aimed at provided it with added visual length.
“It is designed to be a premium car without premium cost and it is designed to be eye-catching without envy," said Winterkorn. “The new Passat also offers more value for money, because it transfers technologies and features into the mid-range segment, which are normally limited to up-market cars.”
The conspicuously unadorned exterior styling continues the clean and unembellished design language evident on other recent Volkswagen models. It provides the new car with what Volkswagen design boss, Walter d’Silva, describes as a technical inspired appearance that is characterized by short overhangs, subtle crease lines within the body, thin panel gaps and a minimum of detailing.
The technical link is further enforced by distinctive LED tail lamps, which are standard across the range. The headlamps feature either a halogen or LED main beam function, depending on the model. Dynamic Light Assist, which automatically adjusts the high beam without dazzling on-coming traffic, is available among a long list of options.