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Volkswagen Passat 140TDI Highline 2016 review

There's plenty of promise in the fully loaded diesel sedan ... but it fails to complete the course.

When the Volkswagen Passat rolls in to test for The Tick I'm feeling good.

I have very positive memories from the press preview last year, when the new Passat indicated it was up in quality, quietness and comfort. A little bland but the sort of car to recommend to someone in the Camry class.

It didn't do quite as well in the Car of the Year shootout in December despite making the top half of the field. That was partly because of some very classy competition — headed by the Kia Sorento — and because the mid-sized VW is, well, a little bland.

But bland was not likely to be a problem with the fully loaded 140 TDI Highline that sits at the top of the latest Passat line-up and comes with a gutsy diesel engine making 140kW and peak torque of 400Nm.

There's a suite of luxury gear including leather seats and auto aircon. The safety package has a rear view camera and rear-traffic alert, plus auto cruise control, lane keeping assist and city emergency braking.

The Passat looks good, the cabin is well finished — although lacking some of the interest and involvement of such rivals as the Mazda6 and Ford Mondeo — and the sports front seats provide great comfort and support.

Then... within a few minutes, and despite just 1650km showing on the clock, the Passat goes rogue. There is no power, no response, a yellow warning light on the dash and every indication that something badly wrong is happening in the engine room.

The active safety gear bolsters the driver's confidence.

The car equivalent of the Windows fix of Ctrl-Alt-Del — stop, turn the car off, lock the doors and wait five minutes — seems to do the trick and the car is back to normal, the diesel driving sweetly via the six-speed DSG gearbox that's well suited to the strong torque.

It's also quiet in the cabin, enhanced by the big colour multimedia screen. There is ample boot space for the run back from the supermarket, while the active safety gear bolsters the driver's confidence.

Then... it happens again. Exactly the same. The difference now is that the car barely makes 40km/h on a hill to my house, where it's always been an easy 60 for anything else, and there is zero response to the throttle. It will eventually ease up to about 2800rpm in a low gear on the flat, but that's it.

So it's time to call Volkswagen. Headquarters is taking no chances and the car leaves the next morning on a tilt-tray truck.

A Golf Alltrack is quickly dispatched to fill the gap but the Passat has already failed on The Tick front. It can never recover when it's failed to complete the course.

But then things get worse. And I'm feeling the same things as the owners who have been hit by DSG problems and now the uncertainty of the Dieselgate drama that is still far from resolved.

In fact, I'm wondering whether this car, despite the "all new" tag and all the promises, carries over from Dieselgate or is the start of another drama.

It doesn't help that I hear nothing for three days. And only a call to someone important at HQ — not generally possible for a regular VW owner — finally gets the wheels turning.

I'm told the problem has been traced to some sort of hose fault in the region of the turbocharger. It's not major but it means the car is not coming back any time soon.

In fact, it won't be mobile until a part arrives from Singapore (no timetable on that) and the faulty piece is replaced.

So now I feel like all the other owners who have been left hanging by Volkswagen Australia in recent years. I've been lucky to get the Alltrack — a neat package, a good size wagon for Australia and in a similar style to the Subaru Forester — not that a regular customer would be.


I'm still feeling disappointed as I write. Withholding The Tick is easy payback for the first road test failure I can remember since the 1990s.

There have been little niggles with vehicles since then but the last car that completely "failed to proceed", to borrow the Rolls-Royce term (its cars could never suffer a working-class breakdown), was a Peugeot that stopped when the catalytic converter collapsed and blocked the exhaust.

PS: Can I share the nickname the Passat earned during its short time with me? I call it Jaws. Just when I thought it was safe to get back in a Volkswagen...

Does the Passat earn your tick of approval? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Volkswagen Passat pricing and spec info.

Pricing Guides

Based on 138 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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Range and Specs

132 TSI 1.8L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $15,950 – 26,980 2016 Volkswagen Passat 2016 132 TSI Pricing and Specs
132 TSI Comfortline 1.8L, PULP, 7 SP AUTO $18,990 – 34,990 2016 Volkswagen Passat 2016 132 TSI Comfortline Pricing and Specs
140 TDI Highline 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $21,989 – 35,990 2016 Volkswagen Passat 2016 140 TDI Highline Pricing and Specs
206TSI R-LINE 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $31,990 – 39,990 2016 Volkswagen Passat 2016 206TSI R-LINE Pricing and Specs