There was no shortage of fanfare and pizzazz last night at VW Group’s pre-Paris show preview – cars entering stage driving through flames, beneath faked rainfall, rolling down a mock ski slope, exploding out of a parcel, scooting beneath a 100m-long sheet, rising from beneath the floor or emerging alongside pre-war Bugattis in a mocked-up historic garage.
Then there was the new Volkswagen Passat, which was just driven onto stage accompanied by a whiff of dry ice.
This is the seventh-generation Passat, new at skin level and re-engineered beneath; saloon and estate variants go on sale at the same time, in January 2011 in the UK.
Drivetrains are as you’d expect – though economy is improved by up to 18 per cent over the current model thanks to the likes of stop-start and part-time alternators.
It’d be easy to be a bit mean about this car, because, as enthusiasts, I suspect that it won’t necessarily light our fire. But let’s face it, there are people who drive 30,000 miles a year or more whose only requirement is that they’ll feel almost as good getting out of a car as they did getting into it eight hours earlier.
That’s the kind of virtue that VW’s guv’nor of development, Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, suggests the Passat is not short of: its functionality [fatigue detection, city emergency braking] and features taken from the Touareg and Phaeton were at the top of his agenda, not things like design flair or driving dynamics. He says it’ll give mile after mile of “comfortable and safe driving".
Arguably the most interesting feature? On keyless-go models, the boot can be opened by waving your foot underneath the rear bumper; in case you’ve got your hands full, see. (It only works if you have the keys on you, by the way.) Hard to get excited about, I know. But probably fairly painless to run.