What is it?
This is the US-spec VW Passat, which in America costs from around £13,000. But before you phone your nearest dealer and accuse them of ripping you off, bear in mind that, despite its name and similar visual appearance, the car is significantly different from the Euro-spec VW Passat.
The US-market Passat sits on an extended version of the European car’s platform, which makes it 10cm longer, 1.3cm wider and therefore more spacious. Every body panel is different and it has a bespoke interior. However, despite its low price, VW hasn’t followed the example of its US-spec Jetta and fitted less sophisticated suspension to the American Passat; instead, it keeps the same advanced multi-link suspension of the European car.
Much of the cost saving comes from the fact it is built in the US, at a $1 billion plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, using 80% US sourced parts – and, perhaps, because VW isn’t chasing profits aggressively as it seeks to triple its US sales to 800,000 cars a year by 2018, thereby challenging the likes of Honda and Toyota.
It is sold with a range-topping 276bhp 3.6-litre V6, along with a 168bhp 2.5-litre petrol –the predicted best-seller – and a 138bhp 2.0 litre diesel. Here we test the two extremes of the range.
A lightly modified version of this car is also on sale in China.
What’s it like?
Critics say it’s bland to look at, VW claims it’s a timeless and sophisticated design – and you can be the judge.
Certainly the interior loses little to its European counterpart. The quality of the materials is a match for the best, and all of the equipment is pretty familiar, save for some larger cup holders in the door pockets and the slightly low rent analogue clock in the centre of the dash.
It’s spacious too, those extra centimeters sitting within the wheelbase and adding welcome shoulder and leg room in the front and back. The only oddity is that the rear seats don't run to the edges of the cabin, leaving hard plastic filling out the resultant gap. It’s not a major problem, but nor is it the last word in sophistication.