Your writer isn’t a luxury aficionado. My favourite restaurant has a 99-cent menu, my entire house is furnished by Ikea, I often feel awkward ordering Starbucks, I don’t typically partake in luxury sandwiches, and you’ll frequently find me lounging in sweatpants and sandals when nobody’s looking.
Still, the benefits of driving a luxury sedan are universally undeniable. You don’t need to be a luxury buff to appreciate a quiet and well-damped ride, a tidy interior, a smooth-as-glass engine, and a relaxing atmosphere from which to take it all in.
And that’s what the Volkswagen Passat is all about. I had a friend with one of these in high school and even back then formed a favourable opinion of its understated, non-glamorous take on luxury. It’s a German luxury sedan lined with leather and goodies and gadgets—but it doesn’t have the ego, the ‘in your face’ presence or the pretension. It’s not glitzy or designed to make people take any more note than “hey, that’s a nice-lookin’ Volkswagen” when it rolls up. You could take it to the mall, and nobody would expect you to get out wearing gold chains, spray-tan and a designer man-scarf.
Though the tester had some chrome, it was used sparingly. The body lines are clean and tidy and simple. And, with the beige paint, it didn’t look like too much of a party animal—though the Sport Package added some athletic looking wheels and carbon interior accents to replace Passat’s LeSabre-esque wood trim for a mature sportiness all around.
2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI, dashboard. Click image to enlarge
So, in all, a luxury sedan that flies under the radar. And flies without burning through its fuel supply like an orbit-bound rocket thruster too since the tester came with the TDI Clean Diesel bolted between its front wheels. Equipped thusly, the top-line Highline TDI model came in around $36,000 with the DSG automatic—though shoppers can save about $1,500 if they opt for the manual transmission, which you can get, even in this loaded trim. Sign me the heck up.
In any case, the pricing seems highly reasonable, especially given that the Passat hits above its weight in a few key areas.
First, the ride. It’s creamy and smooth and laid-back with a touch of tautness dialed in for good measure. It’s responsive enough in the cornering department, but comfort first, and all without handling like a bungalow. I picture German engineers arguing over the fine-tuning of the suspension, and what they’ve come up with works nicely for long haul touring without sacrificing any and all responsiveness.
Second, the cabin. Usually, in a luxury sedan, you get screens and interfaces and control knobs, dials or switches, and layer upon layer of varying colors, textures and materials working towards a rich, and very busy, look. In the Passat, it’s delightfully simple—and so very German. Clean, meticulous and logical. There’s nothing complicated looking or even particularly exciting to lay your eyes on in here. Simply, it’s a just a tidy atmosphere that supports the relaxing, laid-back ride, and contributes to the Passat’s easygoing character.
Third, the engine—which is strange, because it’s a diesel, which most folks still figure is a smelly, sooty and filthy way to propel a car. Thirty years ago, maybe. Today, this TDI Clean Diesel, like most comparable diesel engines, is a remarkable piece.