Volkswagen’s intention with the Passat, it seems, is not to provide a car that is able to excite or engage its driver. At least, not in the fashion that, say, Ford seeks to do with the Mondeo. Instead, VW has drawn on its experience with the 15 million Passat buyers to date, and some lessons from the (rather fewer) Phaetons it has built, to deliver a car that is big on refinement and hush, and appropriately un-vocal about dynamism or involvement.
Even at town speeds, you can tell the kind of car that the Passat is going to be. Its predecessor rode fairly well, but this one moves that on a level. There’s a suppleness to it over potholes and surface imperfections that signifies its intent. With lighter suspension than before, the reduced unsprung weight deals more deftly with poor roads. There’s no steering kickback to speak of and noise levels are hushed.
Up the speed a bit and, sometimes, the composure of a car like this one begins to wane. But the Passat’s doesn’t. Its suppleness translates at higher speeds to a car that still rides well, but also one that retains perfectly adequate control over its body movements. It’s not as well controlled as a Mondeo (which feels tauter, with little trade-off at low speeds) but the Passat does have the measure of a Vauxhall Insignia. Compared with its cousin, the Skoda Superb, the Passat offers a keener drive, too.
What the Passat doesn’t offer, though, is much to enjoy while you are piloting it on a twisting road. You go, it goes; you steer, it steers; you stop, it stops. That makes it a fine motorway companion. For the enthusiast that’s a bit of a shame.