The Volkswagen Passat IS coupe
AFTER AN ABSENCE from Volkswagen driving for a considerable time it was interesting to find myself, once a confirmed VW enthusiast whose image in this light has not rubbed away after some fifteen or more years, driving the latest Wolfsburg offering or would have been if I could regard the VW Passat as anything other than a badge-engineered Audi. True, Volkswagen have their own ideas about gear linkage, body styling and suspension rates, but broadly the Passat is an Audi 8o with the VW badge on it, and a rather poor indented Wolfsburg castle symbol on the cross-spoke of the steering wheel.
However, the finish and trim are in the excellent VW tradition and keys and hand-book reminded immediately of my old, well-loved Beetle. And in its own right the Passat LS two-door coupe, which is the car at present being sold by VW dealers in this country, is a very acceptable family car. The LS is the mid-way model with the 1,471 c.c., 75 b.h.p. engine, an economy 1,296 c.c. version and an 85 b.h.p. TS i4-litre model being available, also an estate-car body. As this is basically an Audi there is water-cooling, front-wheel-drive and the special Audi steering geometry which is planned to give straight-line running when braking hard on slippery surfaces or should a front tyre blow out or aquaplaning conditions be encountered the poor man’s Maxaret, although on a different principle. For die-hard Beetle fans, such as I confess still to be, the rear-engined, air-cooled insect persists, in much improved guise. I found the Passat a very willing, restful car, quick about the place without calling for the higher echelons of skill or concentration. It felt less stable, obviously than the BMW I had temporarily exchanged it for, but does corner very safely with no real hint of driven front wheels, the understeer of extremely rapid cornering becQming neutral for the average fast driver. Like my early Beetle, the steering, geared 3i
turns, lock-to-lock, is very smooth and Pleasant, needing a light touch from those accustomed to beefier control. The servo disc/drum brakes, their hydraulic circuit split diagonally, can be forgotten, so effective are they, although when using them one encounters uncomfortably off-set, rather close together pedals, nor is there anywhere to park the left foot.
For Motorway driving I thought the Passat noisy, for the engine buzzes a bit, but this is not really fair criticism, because for a family type car it isn’t excessively loud and also this is another penalty of the British speed-limit, because if the car is allowed to increase its speed towards its 98 m.p.h. maximum, it quietens out quite noticeably. The vague gear change, with the positions clearly marked in the nacelle before the driver, sometimes baulked badly getting into bottom and second. The seats have a durable knap-surfaced cloth trim but are hard in the cushion, although otherwise fairly comfortable on long runs. The front back rests are adjustable by means of small black knobs but the driver found his stiff and tended to reach out and use the higher knob intended for quick release to give back-seat access because the squabs do not move under spring action. On the passenger side the scat back did not move forward properly for this purpose. That, and a knob which came off the rheostat panel-lighting control and a rather nasty
Yale-like petrol-filler-cap key were the only outof-Wolfsburg tradition items I found fault with.
Once you understand their action and allowing for the confusing lighting sequences to comply with the German never-sidelamps-only law, the minor controls are excellent and very neat. Two substantial stalks look after the usual services, with the horn sounded by pressing the steering wheel spoke. Neat little press buttons, with inbuilt lights, look after hazard-warning, rear window heater (Sekurit) and side and headlamps, dipping being by flicking the left stalk lever. The two-speed wipers, properly angled for r.h.d., are operated by the r.h. stalk and there is a powerful electric washer. The shallow simulated wood fascia has also the rheostat knob afbrementioned, excellent fresh-air vents at its extremities, and the simple heater controls, with two horizontal quadrants for positioning and two-speed fan and quantity of air and a big knob for heat-control. The heater is very good indeed and simple to use. The Vdo instruments comprise the ito m.p.h. speedometer and matching dial containing six tell-tales and the heat and fuel gauges, with a Vdo quartz crystal clock of smaller diameter between them, all in a nacelle before the driver. In certain conditions of day-light the fuel contents are almost impossible to read but the gauge is commendably
accurate, if very slow in operating. VW apparently discourage having loose obiects about the car, the stowages being confined to a driver’s under-fascia shelf and a lockable under-fascia drop well. l’hese are unobtrusively placed. The ignition key was a bit difficult to put into the steering-column lock. The interior and internal door handles, and the arm-rests, etc. are very nicely contrived. The turn-indicator stalk and interior lamp-have not been altered to the as for r.h.d. cars but you meet this in far more expensive foreign makes. A cigarette lighter and ashtray are nicely fitted to the underside of the black-finished bulkhead.
I found this orange Passat growing on me and somehow a nicer car than the Audi 80. It goes very ably, doing 0-60 m.p.h. in under 123 seconds and its canted-over, overhead-camshaft engine will rev. to 7,500 r.p.m, which gives you almost 6o in second gear and, without screaming it up quite so much, all but 85 m.p.h. in third gear. The high-gearing of the Beetle is perhaps not quite followed out, 11000 r.p.m. in top gear being equal to 66 m.p.h., so that you are revving a bit hard on our Motorways, in spite of which this is a very happy Passat on such roads. The engine sometimes snatched badly when picking up speed.
The Oiugiaro-styled body is pleasingly crisp and functional in appearance, has generous areas of glass, if rather wide screen pillars, and is very spacious in the back seat, which has no central arm-rest, and in the unobstructed boot, the lid of which is openable without the key, using a turn-control. There are no bumper overriders but the lamp clusters are smart. ‘The Passat LS has rectangular Melia headlamps, which could have given a better full-beam, the small-engined VW having circular lamps, the TS dual headlamps. For a 970-wheelbase car the space within is notable. Another notable feature is the economy, for in normal motoring I obtained 34.4 m.p.g. of 98-octane petrol. The to-gallon tank thus gives a range of around 340 miles. Starting gave no cause for anxiety, being especially prompt after a cold night in the open. The test car was on 13″ Continental tyres.
The steering is rack-and-pinion, the suspension by MacPherson front struts and the dead back axle is sprung on coil springs, which give a generally good ride. Heated rear window, reverslog lamps, “lilted carpets”, heater and untkr-sealing arc standard equipment and the 17 fuses are as accessible as the rest of the servicing items. Note, too, that apart from an oil change every 5,000 miles the Passat needs servicing only at a,000-mile intervals, which is a step towards the long-life, no-liability motor car. Unfortunately the price here of this pleasing Passat is high, £1,729, without seat belts. But even so, the Passat Should be in considerable demand. W.B.