2021 Volkswagen Passat review

Bigger, quicker, and better handling than a mid-size luxury SUV, the Passat 206TSI is the perfect family-size sleeper

Comments
Anthony Crawford
Anthony Crawford
Senior Road Tester
PROS
  • It's the ultimate affordable sleeper with muscular straight-line performance
  • Adaptive suspension makes this a delight on long hauls and quick through the corners
  • Huge boot and loaded to the hilt with kit
CONS
  • A more satisfying engine note would be nice
  • Enjoying your Passat 206TSI R-Line comes at a cost at the bowser
  • Get used to three-point turns
Manufacturer Links

Someone forgot to tell Volkswagen people don’t buy wagons in this country, because this week marks the return of the ultimate affordable sleeper; the 2021 Volkswagen Passat 206TSI R-Line Wagon.

That’s not nearly the end of Volkswagen’s wagon mania, either. It will introduce the Mk8 Golf Wagon in July, only to be followed by the new Shooting Brake version of the Volkswagen’s Arteon passenger flagship.

Better still, enthusiasts can celebrate as we look forward to hotter models with the arrival of the Mark 8 Golf R in 2022, along with the Tiguan R and T-Roc R SUVs that will follow.

Volkswagen has all its bases well and truly covered, just in case people finally come to their senses and realise they’re far better off in a wagon than a less efficient and dynamically inferior SUV. But that’s just me having a bit of a rant.

The hero colour for the latest rendition of the 206TSI R-Line is Lapiz Blue metallic – a favourite in the Golf R palette – and it’s got real street presence riding on the standard-fit 19-inch Pretoria alloys in Matte Graphite.

Mind, it’s still subtle, as only Volkswagen knows how to do so well, but also beautifully resolved and well-proportioned at the same time despite its generous proportions, which make it look even more voluminous than its dimensions might suggest.

This is nothing less than a luxurious and well-equipped five-seater with more cargo-carrying capacity behind the second-row seating than a Mercedes-Benz GLE large SUV, for around half the price.

And, that’s before we drill down into exactly what you get for your hard-earned dollars, or take a look at the performance play. Suffice to say, the Passat 206TSI R-Line looks like an outstanding value proposition.

How much does the Volkswagen Passat 206TSI R-Line cost?

Priced from $63,790 before on-road costs, the Passat 206TSI R-Line commands a sizeable $5000 premium over its higher-riding but lower-powered Passat Alltrack 162TSI Premium sibling.

You can get into a lower-specced Passat Alltrack 162TSI wagon, with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto and 4Motion AWD for as little as $46,990 excluding on-roads, which is still relatively well-equipped and boasting all the latest in active safety tech, too.

But for those looking to save a grand or two more, you’ll get the same level of all-wheel drive performance and similar levels of equipment from sister-brand Skoda, with its Superb 206TSI Sportline wagon priced from $62,090 list.

However, I’d argue the Passat looks more polished, and your residual value is likely to be greater when it comes time to sell.

To get a more accurate idea of pricing you can use the Volkswagen Passat configurator to build and price one in your own specifications. Additionally you can use Volkswagen’s finance calculator to get an idea of repayments.

What do you get?

More appropriately there’s not much you don’t get, including the important stuff like a full-size alloy spare to match its standard-spec Matte Graphite rims.

Unusual on cars in this price range are Matrix LED headlights for high- and low-beam with dynamic light assist.

But for those folks who want a line-by-line list, here goes.

First off, and what separates the 206TSI from its standard-spec 162TSI stablemates is the R-Line package, which bundles:

  • Stainless steel pedals
  • R-Line body kit
  • R-Line badging
  • Aluminium front/rear door scuff plates
  • Rear privacy glass
  • Roof spoiler with aero extensions
  • Sports suspension (15mm lowered)
  • Sport front seats in carbon Nappa leather-appointed upholstery with R stitching
  • Three-spoke, flat-bottom leather steering wheel with R-badge insert
  • Progressive steering
  • 19-inch ‘Pretoria’ alloy wheels in Matte Graphite

Other standard equipment includes:

  • Panoramic sunroof with electric sunblind
  • Three-zone climate control with air cleaning and allergen filter
  • 360-degree camera system
  • 9.2-inch ‘Discover Pro’ touchscreen with gesture control
  • Satellite navigation
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
  • 11-speaker, 700W Harman Kardon sound system with 16-channel amp
  • 10.25 digital instrument display  
  • LED ambient lighting with 30-colour palette
  • LED interior lighting
  • Auto tailgate
  • Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
  • Electric folding/heated mirrors with reverse-dipping function for passenger side
  • 14-way electrically-adjustable front seats with driver’s massage and easy entry/exit
  • Animated LED indicators
  • Chilled glovebox
  • One-touch up-down on all windows with sunblinds on rear-side windows
  • Adaptive dampers with 43 available settings including the standard Comfort, Normal and Sport modes

Also, standard onboard every Volkswagen Passat is IQ.Drive, which bundles:

  • Driver fatigue detection system
  • Autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian detection
  • Manoeuvre braking, front and rear
  • Park assist (parking bay and parallel parking assistance)
  • Front/rear parking sensors
  • Proactive occupant protection
  • Blind-spot assist
  • Rear cross-traffic assist
  • Travel assist (adaptive cruise control with adaptive lane guidance for semi-autonomous driving at low and high speeds)

To see a detailed list of all the standard features and options offered on the Volkswagen Passat download the official Volkswagen Passat brochure.

Is the Volkswagen Passat 206TSI R-Line safe?

The Volkswagen Passat wears a five-star rating from ANCAP, based on testing conducted in 2015, when it received an overall score of 35.89 out of 37.

Apart from the active safety systems listed above as part of the Passat’s IQ.Drive technology, the Passat 206TSI R-Line has Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system as standard, as well as 10 airbags incorporating dual frontal, front/rear side, and full-length curtain airbags.

There’s also ISOFIX child seat anchor points for the outer rear seats, as well as three top-tether anchor points.

You can find further information on these safety systems on the official Volkswagen Passat website.

What is the Volkswagen Passat 206TSI R-Line like on the inside?

It’s clean, with horizontal lines and largely premium soft-touch materials in combination with the very latest in technology that gives the cabin a spacious feel but uncluttered look.

The multi-adjustable sports seats may not look extraordinary to the eye, but not only does the Nappa leather make them some of the most comfortable in the business, they’re also incredibly well bolstered. Enough for some serious corner carving, even.

It’s not the very latest in Volkswagen’s tech catalogue as we’ve seen in the latest Mark 8 Golf with its shift-by-wire selector, but I’m a sucker for an old-school shift lever in something with a bit more poke than the average daily driver.

Even the Sports steering wheel has a certain tactility about it, which makes it easier for the driver to make those rapid changes of direction that you can get away in this hot Passat.

The brightwork is a classy blend of patented alloy and chrome trim bits that’s just the right amount to be interesting rather than garish.

Make sure you make the switch to USB-C charging cables, because there are two up front and only one for the second-row passengers, who also get climate controls.

Manual window blinds are the go if you’re transporting babies or toddlers, but only the Passat sedan gets an electric blind for the rear screen.

Space, and plenty of it, is what Passat does better than most. And, there’s no shortage of that throughout the cabin, with the big Passat (it measures 4773mm long, 1832mm wide and 1500mm tall) serving up an abundance of leg, elbow and shoulder room across both seat rows.

Rear legroom is massive, and the seats themselves have good levels of bolstering, as well as being upholstered in the same soft Nappa leather as those up front. Equally capacious is boot space – a massive 650 litres is available behind the rear seats, expanding to 1780 litres when the second row is folded.

It’s not quite a dead-flat 60/40 split-fold, but near enough, and sufficient capacity to swallow my 29-inch MTB whole, and a full-size alloy spare under the floor, to boot.

If you’re looking for more details on the interior design and features, you can find official pictures an commentary within the official Volkswagen Passat brochure.

What’s under the bonnet?

The return of the Passat 206TSI R-Line marks the return of the high-output 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine making a stout 206kW from 5600 to 6500rpm and 350Nm of torque between 1700 and 5600rpm.

It puts power down through a six-speed DSG dual-clutch gearbox to all four wheels using Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system.

The same ‘EA888’ powertrain also does service in the Skoda Superb 206TSI Sportline and Sportline Wagon and was wholly designed and developed by Audi AG, boasting technology such as direct injection and valve-left tech, which enhances the existing variable valve timing.

Australia misses out on the Euro 6-certified 200kW/350Nm version of this engine featuring a seven-speed DSG and petrol particulate filter (PPF), largely down to our market’s high-sulphur petrol and lack of emissions targets. The EA888 motor is now making as much as 235kW and 420Nm in new models like the Golf R and Tiguan R.

Pity, because we feel the Passat 206TSI R-Line could handle plenty more grunt with its 4Motion system putting the power down at all four corners.

You can find further technical specifications on the engine within the official Volkswagen Passat brochure.

How does the Volkswagen Passat 206TSI R-Line drive?

You know you’ve got the keys to something special in your hands if you find yourself looking back at the car every time to leave it parked. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing with the Volkswagen Passat 206TSI R-Line all week.

To me, it’s the ultimate, relatively affordable sleeper, and looking especially tasty in Lapiz Blue Metallic with contrasting Matte Graphite alloy wheels. Seriously, this is one of the best-looking wagons on the road. And this is all before I’ve even hit the start button.

There’s nothing really special to the ears on start-up, at least in Comfort or Normal mode. Switching to Sport, though, and the tone changes with a higher tempo and a few more decibels.

The compression ratio of 9.3:1 differs from that in the 162TSI versions, which are set at 9.6:1. Either way, there’s no shortage of get-up-and-go in the Passat 206TSI R-line, as well as a willingness to keep on pulling all the way through the entire rev range.

Volkswagen hasn’t given us any 0-100km/h claims for the facelifted model, but the 206TSI version of the pre-facelift model quoted 5.7 seconds, making it substantially quicker than the latest Mk8 Golf GTI (6.4 secs).

I didn’t detect much lag in throttle response, either. In fact, I don’t recall giving it a second thought. You can give it the boot from low speeds and it just gets down to business. That’s a plus for me, as some VW products (particularly the SUVs) suffer from too much lag.

Not a lot of satisfying noise, though, from this 2.0-litre turbo-four motor, at least inside the cabin. It sounded better outside under acceleration, according to mates.

It’s not just the pace of this go-fast Passat that excites, it’s more the handling and ride that speaks volumes about the engineering that’s gone into this thing.

There’s proper breadth between the various adaptive suspension settings. Comfort provides luxury levels of bump cushioning on Sydney’s worst-of-the-worst surfaces – that’s broken roads, decimated edges and big speed humps.

But here’s the thing, it’s not floaty like some, it still feels tied down and composed at speed. Choosing Sport, stiffens up the dampers simultaneously and reduces any perceived body roll for more serious handling work and tight roundabouts, without compromising suspension compliance. Amazingly, it’s still comfortable on its 19-inch alloys and low-profile tyres.

And, while it measures nearly 4.8 metres in length, don’t let that sway you into thinking it’s too big to daily, because often I’d find myself looking back into the abyss that’s the rear of the Passat and thinking to myself ‘geez, it feels like I’m driving a Golf GTI‘, as you’re largely unaware of its length even in the tight stuff.

Even understeer seems to have been sorted, as there’s no hint of it pushing into tight downhill bends with quick changes of direction required. I tried is several times and the steering was nicely weighted, quick and accurate, even if there wasn’t the feedback you might get in more purposeful performance cars.

However, laboured with a turning circle of 11.7m, the usual U-turn outside my house ends up a three-pointer instead. The only downside, so far.

If you want to use your Passat 206TSI R-Line to tow, though, you’ve got a braked towing capacity of 2000kg, with a towbar load limit of 90kg.

If you’re interested in getting in the driver’s seat, you can book a test drive via the official Volkswagen website, or reach out to your local Volkswagen dealer to arrange one.

How much does the Volkswagen Passat 206TSI R-Line cost to run?

Volkswagen offers a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first, with three and five-year service plans for the Passat costing $1600 and $2500 respectively.

Whereas the Passat 162TSI versions can use 95 RON fuel, Volkswagen recommends 98 RON for the 206TSI R-Line, which gets the same 66-litre fuel tank.

Volkswagen claims fuel consumption of 8.1L/100km on the combined cycle, and an urban figure of 9.9L/100km, but we got closer to 15L/100km, albeit while having a little bit more fun behind the wheel.  

CarExpert’s Take on the Volkswagen Passat 206TSI R-Line

It uses a bit more of the premium stuff if you’re any sort of an enthusiast driver and doesn’t sound all that special on the go, but that’s about the extent of any gripes I have against the latest Passat 206TSI R-Line.

For those of you looking at a premium medium-size SUV, who are prepared to at least consider a genuine alternative that offers superior design, better handling, ride and performance with more space and tech for less money – Christmas has come early for buyers of the Passat 206TSI R-Line.

And, choose Lapiz Blue Metallic.

Click the images for the full gallery

MORE: Everything Volkswagen Passat

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Ratings
OVERALL8.5
Show Breakdown
Cost of Ownership 7.9
Ride Comfort 9.1
Safety 8
Fit for Purpose 8.9
Handling Dynamics 8.8
Interior Practicality and Space 9.2
Fuel Efficiency 7.5
Value for Money 8.8
Performance 8.4
Technology Infotainment 8.4
Pricing
A$63,790 MRLP
Specs
8.1L
206kW
186g
5 ★
View full specifications