The Volkswagen Passat Estate really brings the goods in its eighth-generation guise. It's slightly shorter, but the longer wheelbase means more space for passengers and cleverer packaging ups the luggage capacity from 603 to 650-litres with all the seats in place. UK buyers get an all-diesel line-up, with a 240PS all-wheel drive flagship.
The eighth generation Passat has sharpened up its game quite significantly and those changes are most apparent in the way the chassis and suspension combine to improve cabin refinement. The longer wheelbase has certainly helped in this regard, giving the Passat a more assured feel on the road and the stiffness of the MQB chassis lets the suspension soak up surface imperfections without having to devote resource to managing chassis flex. There's been real attention to detail in the quest for refinement. The engine is mounted on a rigid steel structure that's is claimed to further dampen vibration which, when combined with a lot of analysis of the acoustic qualities of the engine bay materials and shape, has cut engine noise significantly.
Given that the Passat Estate features an all-diesel engine line up, that's something you'll really appreciate. The range opens with a 120PS 1.6-litre TDI unit, but Volkswagen believes the volume seller's going to be the 2.0-litre TDI unit with 150PS. This is offered with either a six-speed manual gearbox or a seven-speed dual clutch DSG. There's a high output 190PS version of this engine offered, while at the top of the range is a 240PS 2.0-litre BiTDI engine with two turbos. If you need some modicum of off road capability, then you might want to consider the 'Alltrack' version, which mates the 150PS and 190PS 2.0 TDI engines with a higher ride height and 4MOTION all-wheel drive. Alternatively, there's a petrol electric plug-in hybrid GTE version.
Although the wheelbase has grown by 79mm and the car looks bigger than before, the tape measure doesn't lie. This Passat Estate is actually a little shorter than before. It's lower too, although a few millimetres of extra width don't hurt. All-out carrying capacity has improved though. There's an extra 47-litres with the split/fold rear seats in place, with an impressive 650-litres on offer. Fold the seats down and that extends to a huge 1,780-litres. Big storage bins in the doors and centre console add everyday utility to the cabin.
The dashboard is a good deal more angular than before, although Volkswagen would probably call it 'architectural' and now features a big central screen and a set of optional digital 'virtual' dials. The seats, as in most Volkswagens, initially feel unyielding but are supremely comfortable over longer distances. Three adults can fit in the back too. Materials quality in the cabin is markedly improved, the Passat now edging closer to premium German marques like Mercedes and BMW.
Sooner or later, you'll come to ask yourself the inevitable question about the Volkswagen Passat Estate, "Am I about to buy a boring car?" You might well ponder whether that makes you a boring person, but that association is a fallacy. If you are fundamentally boring, a Ferrari isn't going to magically endow you a Clooney-esque louche charm. Likewise, a Passat Estate, for all its undeniable utility, doesn't make you a boring person; merely one that understands what makes a great estate car.
And it is a really outstanding vehicle for family buyers. Let's face it, who needs a lumbering SUV when estate cars are this good and this useful? To put the Passat Estate into that sort of perspective, consider this. To get the same interior quality and load space with all five seats in place, you'd need an SUV like a Mercedes M-Class which, incidentally, starts at almost fifty big ones. So, don't ask yourself if you're being boring choosing a Passat Estate. Ask instead whether all those who buy big SUVs are being hoodwinked by slick marketing. If you've got this far, you probably know the answer to that one already.Click here to find out more about our Volkswagen Passat Estate range