With its family-friendly shape and comfort, some say the Volkswagen Passat 206TSI R-Line still has the drivability and performance of the much loved Golf GTI.
Borrowing the Audi 80 Quattro’s all wheel drive configuration and with loads of engine power, will Australian buyers be lining up for this latest offering from Volkswagen in the Estate class of vehicles?
Lets see what Car Sales had to say in their review:
The updated Volkswagen Passat has landed in Australia. Now as visual facelifts go, this one is relatively minor in nature but there is a little bit more going on underneath. The question is, is it enough for the Passat to keep some sight of the all-conquering SUV in the sales race. In this flagship 206 TSI trim, I reckon it just might be. Let’s check it out.
For 2021, this mid-life facelift of the eighth generation Passat is relatively minor in nature; new front and rear bumpers with LED light clusters and new colour palette, fresh safety intake and a revamped interior. Volkswagen no longer offers a sub-$40,000 entry variant, but it has re-installed the flagship Passat 206 TSI R-line driven here, which had been the victim of a lengthy WLTP compliance. The 206 R-line tops out the range at just under 65k.
For me, this is where the most meaningful changes have taken place. The Passat has long challenged the luxury cohort with its interior presentation, refinement and comfort levels, and those traits have only been reinforced for 2021 with the introduction of a new capacitive-style touch display at the bottom of the centre fascia, then the air controls, all your climate control settings, but it has more of a digital veneer than before.
The good news is that everything is still really easy to place, really easy to use, and you don’t have to go through a touch screen for a basic command like recirculated air. Which is always really good in terms of its user-friendliness. There’s also wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless Android Auto and a Harman Kardon surround sound system. What do you miss out on? There’s no wireless phone charging and there’s no head-up display either, which is beginning to sort of reflect the age of the eighth generation Passat.
Room is plentiful throughout the five-seat cabin, and certainly up to the measure of families and weekend adventurers alike. With rear air vents, a huge 650-litre boot area with a full-sized spare, plus three USB points and three 12-volt outlets spaced around the cabin. All of the tech here is user-friendly and cleverly integrated, and it works well on the move, minimising distraction. Safety has likewise been broadened for 2021, with the Passat range incorporating Volkswagen’s latest IQ drive suite. Essentially, this is the full gamut of modern safety technology, with the exception of a speed assist function, a new travel assist suite offers level-two autonomy.
Once activated, it means the Passat can stay centred in its lane and keep a safe distance from vehicles in front, as long as the driver’s hands remain on the wheel. So then, safety is well and truly covered, but I reckon for many, this will be an even bigger selling point.
Underneath the bonnet of the Passat 206 TSI is the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine as the Volkswagen Golf R hot hatch. Now, like that application, the Passat apportions drive to all four wheels by a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.
Now if you are going to rebel against the SUV course, well, this has to be a pretty good way to do so. The Passat 206 TSI R-line feels inherently sporty, it feels very European, and it feels very sophisticated inside the cabin. It drives much in the same way as well. We know that the Golf R’s engine is a known quantity, it produces plenty of power, peak torque from just 1700 RPM and it works well with the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. It’s a very smooth, very clinical unit and quite efficient as well. We’ve had very little trouble matching the 8.1-litre per 100K claim.
All told, the engine makes 206 kilowatts and 350 newton meters. But while overseas markets get a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, Australian vehicles make do with an older six-speed unit on account of our poor fuel quality, which rules out the latest particular filter engines. That same reasoning also precludes Australia from a plug-in hybrid variant of the Passat. Only a couple of really small bugbears in terms of dynamic impressions for me. There is a little bit of hesitation upon initially taking off, and that’s just a legacy of the dual-clutch automatic transmission. But also with only six ratios on offer instead of seven as you’ll find in other pairings with this engine, if you’re doing a lot of highway driving, you might find that it revs a little bit high in top ratio. At 110 kilometres an hour, you’re doing between 2500 and 3000 RPM. Hardly a deal breaker, but something to keep in mind, if you’re doing a lot of long distance miles.
The 206 TSI feels really well acquitted in terms of its sportiness, it’s got really nicely weighted steering, the controls are all really nicely modulated as well, and it’s never really out of its depth, it hunkers down nicely through corners, it feels controlled over big drawn out undulations and it’s a really refined place to be as well. Nicely insulated road noise and wind noise and the cabin is rarely infiltrated with any engine noise, and when it is, it actually sounds pretty good.
In terms of ride comfort, the elephant in the room here is that the Passat 206 R-line is a little bit firm on initial compliance. It seems to really tremor over even billiard-smooth roads, very minor kind of imperfections, really tremoring through the cabin. But once you get up to speed and onto some rougher B-grade gravel roads, it’s less noticeable.
Volkswagen’s Adaptive Chassis Control suite ably tailors the Passat to sporty, efficient or comfort driving alike, reinforcing the all-rounder theme. The updated Passat range is backed by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty while Volkswagen says a five-year service plan will set buyers back $2500 based on 12 months, 15,000 kilometre intervals.
While the latest changes to the Volkswagen Passat are by no means wholesale, they do help refine the formula and improve the appeal of Volkswagen’s enduring wagon. In this SUV-crazed market, it’s great to see the sports wagon is alive and well, and I think the 206 TSI is a great execution of the breed.