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NO one usually thinks of the Passat, Volkswagen's big family sedan, as the sporty alternative. But the latest iteration of this VW workhorse, with its new-found styling and performance, as well as an R-Line trim, is arguably a serious contender in the mid-sized German segment.
The Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TSI R-Line is the sportiest version of the carmaker's bestselling model, of which about a million units are sold globally every year.
The eighth-generation Passat's timely overhaul in the design and engineering department brings with it chiselled good looks and a new modular platform from the VW Group.
The result is a sleeker, more stylish sedan that looks longer and lower, and weighs up to 85 kg less than its predecessor.
Under the sculpted bonnet, there is a choice of two turbocharged, four-cylinder engines to drive the front wheels through VW's trademark dual-clutch DSG direct shift gearbox - 1.8 or 2.0 litres, producing 180 hp or 220 hp respectively.
The latter is used in the Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TSI R-Line, which means that it has the same powertrain as the Golf GTI. This includes the brilliant six-speed wet clutch DSG and a zero-to-100 kmh acceleration time that is very close to the hot hatch's (6.7 seconds or 0.2 second slower than the GTI).
The Passat R-Line also has Dynamic Chassis Control with three levels of damping - Comfort, Normal and Sport - plus the same selection of driving modes - Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Individual.
The new Passat is not bigger than its predecessor but its wheelbase has been extended by 79 mm to 2,791 mm. So at 4,767 mm long and weighing 1,505 kg with massive boot space, it is obvious the Passat R-Line can't be thrown around like a compact GTI. But there is still that muscular response when you gun the engine and the well-weighted controls. Unlike some German models where the steering is too light or heavy or the leather-wrapped rim too thin or fat, the Passat R-Line's are delightfully middle-of-the-road.
With DCC set to Sport mode, the steering weighs up and the ride stiffens for reassuringly confident handling without additional harshness. The R-Line is focused at high speed but relaxed, with its long wheelbase and rigid body adding to its composure and ride comfort.
The roomy cabin has an appropriately premium atmosphere, with lovely leather seats and a new digital instrument cluster which can be configured to show meters in various styles against a map background. The latter, and the "full length" of air vents, mirrors the interiors of the latest Audi models (Audi is part of the VW Group).
An eight-inch touchscreen in the centre console with navigation and Bluetooth connectivity is standard for the R-Line.
Also part of the R-Line trim are steering wheel-mounted shift paddles and an "R" bodykit.
A big front-wheel-driven saloon may not be most people's idea of the classic German sedan. But given the quality and refinement and capability of the Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TSI R-Line, that may not matter as much anymore.
Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TSI R-Line
Engine: 1,984 cc turbocharged
Gearbox: 6-speed dual clutch DSG transmission
Max power: 220 hp @ 4,500-6,200 rpm
Max torque: 350 Nm @ 1,500-4,400 rpm
0-100 kmh: 6.7 secs
Top speed: 246 kmh
CO2 emissions: 149 g/km
Average OMV: S$34,700
Price: S$180,300 (with COE)
Distributor: Volkswagen Group Singapore