What is it?
The most luxurious version of the Volkswagen Passat estate you can buy, at least until the all-new model range arrives next year.
Volkswagen announced earlier this year it would be replacing its older Highline, Sport and R-Line specifications with new Executive and Executive Style packages.
That means this model comes with DAB radio, leather multi-function steering wheel, heated front seats, cruise control, all-round parking sensors and dual-zone climate control granted with Executive trim, as well as the 15mm lowered sports suspension, 18-inch alloys and tinted rear glass which comes with top-spec Executive Style guise.
It should also appeal to company car drivers, with this Passat slotting into the same field as the likes of Ford's Mondeo Business Edition, launched last year. That car cost £833 annually at 20 per cent BIK, and £1666 at 40 per cent. The Passat, meanwhile, comes out at £1100 at 20 per cent, and £2,201 at 40 per cent.
In total, the retail package costs £29,310 if you also opt for the six-speed DSG transmission. However, extras including metallic paintwork, VW's Park Assist system and an upgraded infotainment package took the total price of our test car to just over £32,000. A pricey package, then, but the Passat estate has been seen as something of a benchmark by which rivals like the Hyundai i40 estate, Skoda Superb estate and Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer are judged. Question is, then, whether the Passat still deserves its class crown?
What's it like?
Comfortable and practical, with just a little hint of sportiness under the bonnet.
The Passat's interior is pleasant enough, if looking a little dated in places. Its leather seats are comfortable and easily adjustable for drivers, and there's plenty of space available for front passengers. Thanks to its 1731mm wheelbase there shouldn't be complaints from the rear bench about leg or headroom either, even over long distances.
The cabin aesthetics are fine, with plenty of soft-touch furnishings dotted about. It might not feel as special to sit in as it once did, though, and in places the Passat is starting to show its age. The analogue clock in the centre of the fascia and the infotainment screen are just two examples that stand out - although the infotainment unit itself is easy to use on the move.
Our test car was powered by VW's 2.0-litre TDI Bluemotion engine, so came with 175bhp and 280lb ft of torque. It feels fairly rapid to accelerate, reaching 62mph in 8.6 seconds, and is quiet and refined at speed with very little noise intrusion into the cabin. The six-speed DSG works as well as it always has, while wheel-mounted paddles allow you to take over when required.
VW says the Passat can manae 54.3mpg on a combined cycle with accompanying CO2 emissions of 136g/km. That's impressive, and places the Passat in VED tax band E, meaning it'll only cost you £130 to tax per year.
Our only complaint with the Passat's mechanical package comes with its road poise, as the lowered sports suspension has resulted in a firm ride. That might not matter on the motorway, but at urban speeds you pick up a lot of road imperfections and bumps. It's a blight on an otherwise calm and smooth experience.