At launch, all of the Passat's four diesel engines available are Euro 6-compliant, because that’s the norm in a market where more than 80 per cent of sales are to business users.
The range starts with the 118bhp 1.6 TDI and rises to the 237bhp 2.0 BiTDI that is VW's most powerful four-cylinder diesel to date. Both motors are from the same modular family. In the middle are 148bhp and 187bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel units. The Passat GTE comes with a 1.4-litre petrol engine and an electric motor which produce a total output of 215bhp. It's expected that the 187bhp version tested here will be the volume seller and comes equipped with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.
The entry-level 1.6 TDI takes 10.8sec to hit 0-62mph, while the 2.0-litre 148bhp and 187bhp variants dispatch the same benchmark in 8.7sec and 7.9sec respectively. The flagship 237bhp BiTDI with Volkswagen's 4Motion all-wheel drive cracks 0-62mph in 6.1sec.
The VW Group has now beaten just about every undesirable trait out of its dual-clutch transmissions, but one of the few remaining is step-off power delivery.
If you’re in a hurry to get away from a standstill in this particular Passat, the gearbox is too abrupt in its management of the clutch to avoid unhelpful snatches of wheelspin and unnecessary activation of the traction control.
That quirk primarily accounts for our failure to match VW’s acceleration claim of 7.7sec to 62mph. More important, it’s evidence that you need to be delicate with the throttle pedal at times in order to get the performance for which you’re paying. On price, the Passat ought to be able to keep pace with the sportier four-cylinder diesels in its class, both through the gears and on in-gear flexibility.
In reality, it’s just a little bit shy of the standard on both counts. A BMW 320d takes a second less to get from 30-70mph through the gears, and a Mazda 6 2.2d Sport is more than three seconds quicker across the same increment in fourth gear.
In subjective terms, however, this engine still feels stronger than the average modern 2.0-litre turbodiesel, and once you’re off and running the transmission shifts smoothly and quickly. Torque comes in a broad tranche, so your perception of it isn’t enhanced by a sudden whoosh of boost, yet the engine pulls quite freely at high revs.