The Passat R-Line Edition’s purposefully whispering appearance might be the best chance it’s got of justifying that pricetag. Designed by the stylists at VW’s ‘R’motorsport and performance engineering division, the car’s bodykit consists of roof rails, door mirror caps, side window frames, a grille surround and a diffuser insert in high-gloss black, as well as one of the most subtle black roof spoilers you’ll ever see. And while the look is very contrast-heavy, all the black body trim complimented the grey paintwork and black wheels very nicely indeed to these eyes.
There is less that’s special about the car’s interior that you couldn’t also get on a regular Passat R-Line, although that doesn’t mean it’s not a very comfortable, pleasant and reassuringly classy driving environment. The car’s driving position is a touch higher than you might like but its part-leather R-Line sports seats juggle support with cushioning well.
Equipment level is also every bit as kitchen-sink as you’d expect for the money; you get VW’s top-end, entirely buttonless 9.2in Discover Navigation Pro infotainment system and fully adaptable digital instruments thrown in, as well as adaptive ‘LED Matrix’ headlights, adaptive dampers and Area View parking cameras. VW’s very latest Travel Assist semi-autonomous driving system also comes at no extra cost; it works more like Tesla’s autopilot system than most other lane-keep assist systems when it comes to motorway driving, with a ‘capacitive’ steering wheel that only requires the lightest of hands on the wheel to remain active. Alternatively and perhaps slightly worryingly, as someone at independent safety testing centre Thatcham assured me a few months ago, an uncooked sausage cable-tied to the rim works just as well.
Since there’s been no retuning of suspension for this car, it need come as no surprise that this Passat rides in typically well-mannered fashion. Those 19in rims kick up something of a fuss over coarser motorway surfaces and aren’t brilliant at rounding off sharper edges on single carriageway roads, but you only really notice any roughness when you’re using the firmer ride modes. Leave this car in ‘comfort’ and it is and does precisely as described. The four-pot engine remains muted, the gearbox slick and unobtrusive, the car’s gait quite supple and calm. In fact the car doesn’t impose any serious refinement or comfort penalty to speak of.
Switch to a keener mode of operation and you’ll find the car has plenty of outright briskness to summon, from an engine that revs as willingly as almost any comparable turbo four-pot but which doesn’t flood the mid-range with non-linear boost-derived torque.
Around 3000rpm and when locked in a higher intermediate gear, a Passat GTE feels a good deal quicker, actually; and so it should. And yet this one has good throttle response, and a moderately zesty and linear style of delivery, too, which is enjoyable to get stuck into. The twin-clutch gearbox isn’t always as good at picking ratios in ‘S’ mode as it is during more relaxed motoring, and sometimes takes just a shade longer to deliver paddleshift downchanges than you’d like. Nevertheless, you soon get used to exactly how hurried it seems to be happy to tolerate being.