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Saturday 21 October 2017

EIGHTH WONDER

WORLD LAUNCH: New Passat edges even closer to luxury brands, writes Philip Hedderman

It's longer, lighter, more fuel-efficient and, dare I say it, a little bit sexier.

We're at the world premiere of the new VW Passat but there's an air of déjà vu as the dust covers come off the German car giant's second-most successful car.

You see, although the eighth generation is 100pc new from the ground up with chassis, engine, suspension and interior designed from scratch - there is an eerie familiarity about it.

I can't quiet figure out whether it's a baby Phaeton, a more mature version of the magnificent CC or perhaps a mixture of both.

One thing is for sure - VW were never going to stray too far from the tried and tested formulas.

With over 22 million sold since 1973 and a staggering 1.1 million ordered in 2013 there's simply too much at stake.

The marketing spin of "evolution rather than revolution" springs to mind here. Although they resisted the temptation to repeat that mantra in Potsdam, the strategy certainly paid off with the Golf.

QUALiTY

The same applies with the Passat with the exterior design and even more so the interior, but the build quality and aesthetics could rival any of its luxury competitors - especially Mercedes and BMW.

Bizarrely, the new model is bigger inside (33mm)even though the actual body is shorter by 2mm.

Thanks to reduced height, wider track and shorter overhangs the wheelbase is stretched, giving extra legroom in the rear and bigger boot.

The saloon gets an extra 21 litres of luggage space while the estate serves up a massive 660 litres (up from 603 litres).

It's got a level of technology available to give the aforementioned luxury marques a run for their money too, including active info and head-up display, city emergency braking (which detects danger and automatically stops car if the driver is distracted).

Then there is trailer assist (automatically parks car with a trailer so no more opposite lock) and the cleverest of all - traffic assist.

This optional extra will take over driving in traffic jams where the car will accelerate and brake in stop-start situations and operates at speeds up to 60kph - you simply steer.

The new Passat will be powered by 10 petrol (1.4 litre TSI) and (2.0 litre TDI) diesel engines ranging in power from 120 to 240bhp,and there's even a plug-in hybrid generating 211bhp from the electric/petrol combo.

Thanks to stop-start and the shedding of 85kgs, the oil burners are boasting fuel economy of 4.1l/100km (0.5l less than the current model) and emissions of 108g/km.

Standard kit on the entry level Threadline includes stop-start, LED rear lights, keyless start, air con, hill hold, driver alert system, five-inch touchscreen colour multi-function display, cooled glove box and centre armrest.

Top of the range Highline gets Xenon headlights, LED rear lamps, 17-inch alloys, leather/heated seats, climate control (front and back) and chrome exhaust panels and colour multi-function display.

Specification and price are yet to be decided, but judging by looks alone the Passat is sure to capture the hearts and minds of the converted.

More importantly, if the new model follows the blueprint set out by the Golf it could pose a serious threat to the compact executive segment.

But it won't be an easy ride with the imminent launch of the all-new Mondeo and of course the real cuckoo in the nest - the new Audi A4.

We'll be driving them all soon, so watch this space.

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