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More Than A 6-Pack? | Volkswagen Passat Variant R-Line

BY Azfar Hashim

It's cheaper than an E-Class equivalent, but delivers almost similar quality with a friendlier price tag - is the wagon Passat's job already done, and VW has nothing to worry about for this class?

Photos by Azfar Hashim

Lets just cut to the chase. This is Volkswagen’s latest wagon to enter their local model line up and while it won’t be a volume seller, it’d be a rather unfortunate case for you to give it a miss.

Because - most importantly if you are looking for a sizeable car - this Passat Variant is brilliantly sized, both inside out: It measures in at 4,767 mm long, 1,832 mm wide and 1,477 mm tall, while its wheelbase is a rather generous 2,791 mm. Not too shabby when you consider the E-Class Estate’s 4,905 mm length, 1,854 mm width, 1,507 mm height and 2,874 mm wheelbase. To put it into another perspective, the almost $50k difference between the two means you do get more car out of the Passat Variant still.

And to throw another trump card into Volkswagen’s path, the cabin feels more spacious than the one offered by Mercedes-Benz. You can actually ferry three passengers at the back easily with both good leg and shoulder room, and on top of that, the chair’s more comfortable. If you’re the sort who enjoys going on long road trips with the family in tow, this Passat Variant offers the better cabin.

Oh, and lets not forget the high quality fit and finish, idiot-proof controls and cockpit that allows you to come in and immediately feel right at home; mind you, the 5 Series Touring didn’t offer me this the last time I took it out for a review. Then there’s the comfortable seat that offers good support, followed by a leather wrapped flat-bottomed steering wheel that feels nice when you place your hands on it. Cup holders on the center console and door panels ensure you will never be dehydrated on that long drive up to, say, Cameron Highlands.

Fancy? Definitely. Cool? Yup.

Fancy? Definitely. Cool? Yup.

Of course, how can I forget: Like the ones seen in Audi’s A8, A7 and TT, the Passat Variant comes with a high-resolution Active Info Display screen placed just ahead of the driver. Besides the standard speedo and tachometer, you also get a myriad of information readily available which you could easily toggle through via a control button on the steering wheel – this includes GPS, distance to empty tank, real time and average fuel consumption. Oh yes, VW’s MirrorLink also comes standard here; pair it with your smartphone and you can see and use apps on your phone, on the screen. Nice premium touches there, VW…

The most important part of a wagon has to be the boot it offers. In here, you get 650-litres and 1,780-litres with the rear backrest folded. Once again not that far off the E-Class Estate’s 695/1,950-litres; but more impressive than the 5 Series Touring’s 560/1,670-litres. It even outshines the A6 Avant’s 565/1,680-litres. And to make things less dramatic, you can easily hide the backrest at the mere tug of a release catch located along both sides of the boot.

This wagon doesn’t perform sloppily though. All thanks to the group’s venerable 2.0-litre turbocharged TSI engine mated to the trusty 6-speed DSG ‘box, power output is a respectable 216 bhp while maximum torque stands at 350 Nm. It also enables this 1.6-tonne car to take only 6.9 seconds to get from standstill to 100 km/h.

One of the most handsomely-styled passenger car you can find in the market right now

One of the most handsomely-styled passenger car you can find in the market right now

With power sent only to the front two wheels, you get a lot of zest coming out of this car; you don’t have to give the accelerator a hard prod just to get it moving. For city driving, again, it doesn’t require much effort just to close gaps or - not that we’re encouraging - cross the junctions before the light turns red (this is as politically correct as I could get).

Out on the expressway, the refinement level is definitely at an all-time high. Unwanted noises, particularly from the engine, are very well masked out of the cabin. Then to make things even better, VW slapped on a set of premium Dynaudio speaker system. If one of VW’s major intentions here were to provide an enjoyable cabin for all occupants, then it must be said they’ve done a swell job.

Although you cannot expect GTI-levels of grip and demeanor, it must be pointed out that the steering returns positive weight and feel. The Passat Variant also could handle fast, sweeping bends with ease but compared to its sedan sibling, you do reach the handling limit earlier – even in the car’s sportiest setting. Body control is as equally as stiff as the E-Class Estate’s, but that’s no bad thing – it would definitely come across as highly balanced for its targeted consumers, and definitely won’t crack the spine of passengers along the KPE.

A large sunroof comes fitted from the factory

A large sunroof comes fitted from the factory

So there you have it, a car from Volkswagen that is properly engineered and put together, has brilliant versatility and comfort levels, on top of an easy-to-live-with demeanor. It can surely outrun most cars in its engine class, keep up with hot-hatches along the twisties and for a few grand shy of $200k with COE, offers brilliant value for money next to its more premium competitors.

If you still think that’s too much money, cross the road and see the Mazda 6 Wagon then. A problem for VW here is that the Japanese option is $50k cheaper – although you (a) need to pay higher road tax and insurance premium, (b) live with the slightly compromised fuel economy (6 Wagon's 15.2 km/L versus Passat Variant's 15.2 km/L if you were to nitpick), and (c) get less gadgetry, it offers similar practicality and is equally enjoyable to drive.