The phrase "all-new" is overused in the motoring world. In the world of platform sharing and gradual, evolutionary midlife changes, it's rare that a manufacturer releases a car that is new from the ground up. So when Volkswagen released its 8th generation Passat, you could be forgiven for questioning just how "new" it really was. But to write it off as a mere update would sell VW short, because the new Passat really has been redesigned from the ground up.
Despite having a wheelbase 79 mm longer than the model it replaces, the 8th-gen sedan is 2 mm shorter and up to 85 kg (187 lb) lighter than its predecessor. It's also lower than the old model, to give the car a better stance and help with handling.
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As well as being lighter, the new Passat is a sleeker looking machine than the car it replaces, with a longer and lower bonnet line. VW has also moved the base of the windscreen back, to create a more "premium" silhouette, crucial if it is to take on BMW, Mercedes and Audi in the competitive mid-size class. Despite the lower roofline, VW claims that legroom, headroom and luggage space have improved over the 7th-gen model.
The Passat's "premium" silhouette is coupled with slimmer, wider LED taillights that are designed to emphasize the width of the car. Up front, optional adaptive headlights (similar to those featured on the new Mercedes CLS) can adjust their output to provide the brightest possible beam without dazzling oncoming cars.
Ensuring the 8th-gen Passat boasts a premium feel was a focus for VW, which is keen to take the Passat upmarket in Europe. Inside, it debuts the company's optional "Active Information Display," which replaces the speedo and rev-counter in the instrument binnacle with a customizable screen that can display details about navigation and radio, as well as speed and revs. This can be combined with a heads-up display that projects key info onto the windscreen to keep the driver's eyes on the road.
If you're the sort of person who struggles with tight car spaces, the new Passat may be the car for you. It has Park Assist, which is now able to park nose-forward in 90 degree spaces, as well as a 360-degree view camera that gives the driver a clear image of the situation around them at low speed. After all, you wouldn't want to scrape the Passat's sharp creases and prominent chrome grille, would you?
Although good looks and fancy tech is important, what's under the hood is still crucial for a new car's success. All of the Passat's engines are new to the model range, and are up to 20 percent more efficient than the units they replace.
Because diesel engines are key in Europe, the Passat will be available with a twin-turbo 2.0-liter engine, making 240 hp and 500 Nm of torque from just 1,750 rpm. The diesel will be combined with a 7-speed DSG gearbox and VW's 4MOTION All-Wheel Drive system. A plug in hybrid will also be available, with an electric only range of 31 miles (50 km). Petrol engines range from 88 hp to 276 hp in output, with the top-tier engines all coupled with a 7-speed DSG gearbox.
VW's new "Traffic Assist" system combines lane-keeping with radar cruise control to essentially drive the car at low speed. The driver must always have their hands on the wheel, however, so they're ready to intervene if something goes wrong.
In the US, the current Passat is different from the model the rest of the world receives. While the new model will be sold in most markets, there is no word about whether the US will get it. In Europe, the car will make its public debut at the Paris Motor Show, and is expected to go on sale late in 2014.
Volkswagen's release video for the Passat is below.