Volkswagen Passat 206 TSI R-Line Wagon 2017 review | road test
February 13, 2017
- Great engine
- Excellent performance
- Spacious and practical
- Small amount of turbo lag
- Could do with tougher looks
- Ride is a tad hard
Based on new car MSRP
$35,490 to $59,990
Richard Berry road tests and reviews the new Volkswagen Passat 206 TSI R-Line Wagon with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
Do your part to stop the spread of SUVs - buy a wagon. Yes, sports utility vehicles have become so popular that this year they’re expected to outsell regular cars in Australia for the first time. The thing is wagons generally offer just as much (or greater) cargo space and have more sporting ability than their SUV siblings.
Take Volkswagen’s Passat 206TSI R-Line wagon which is not only the flagship in the range but the spiritual successor to the Passat R36 war wagon that was revered for the way it could haul ass and a decent cargo at the same time. It’s a hard act to follow, but the new wagon has been given a drivetrain transplant from another Volkswagen known for being an animal.
The eighth generation Passat arrived in 2015 but this flagship of the range didn’t land in Australia until late in 2016 and when it’s not hating SUVs it hunts Subaru’s Levorg and other fast wagons including Volvo's V60 T5 R-Design and the Skoda Superb 206 TSI.
Quickness aside this is still a wagon and that means it needs to be practical, too.
So how did the Passat 206TSI R-Line wagon deal with children, shopping and everyday commuting? Is it as athletic on the road as it is on paper? Could it be the best reason to join the resistance and not buy an SUV?
The Passat and Superb wagons share a huge amount of DNA but they aren’t identical twins. A quick peek at the dimensions show the Passat wagon to be 89mm shorter than the Superb at 4767mm end-to-end and 32mm narrower at 1832mm wide.
The Passat is also arguably better looking than the Superb. Rumour has it Skoda designers have Post It notes stuck on their computer screens saying, "Don’t forget. Must not be as pretty as a Volkswagen!”
The Passat 206TSI R-Line wagon is easy to pick from the other Passat variants thanks to its sports body kit, LED headlights and specific badges.
If you were to press your face up against the glass you’d see R-Line leather seats, alloy pedals, paddle shifters and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. If this was an airline the interior would be business class – not over the top, but seriously handsome.
Just an aside, and I know it’s not the done thing, but I think the Superb’s interior is plusher.
Let’s get straight to the point, the cargo capacity of the Passat 206TSI R-Line wagon is 650 litres and that’s enormous. That’s 35 litres more than the latest Volkswagen Tiguan mid-sized SUV’s boot and 70 litres more than the even bigger Toureg’s cargo space. The Subaru’s Levorg is a smaller wagon, and with only 486 litres can’t match the Passat’s boot capacity. But the Skoda Surperb wagon beats it with 660 litres.
With the rear seats folded flat the luggage capacity of the Passat wagon increases to 1152 litres.
The cabin is cavernous and thanks to a wheelbase of 2791mm rear legroom is limo-like. I’m 191cm tall and can sit behind my driving position with a full hand-span distance between my knees and the seat back.
Many cars are called five seaters – but ask the person mashed in the middle of the back row if they agree and in most cases they’d disagree violently. But it would have to be an extra portly human who would say the same about the Passat wagon.
Headroom is also excellent – even with a sunroof. You couldn’t wear a top hat, but a bowler would fit perfectly.
The centre fold down armrest in the back row has three cupholders – two regular sized and an espresso hugger, while up front there are two more normal cupholders. All doors have big bottle holders.
The ride height of SUV’s tends to make putting small children into car seats and taking them out a lot easier on the back. Having a toddler myself, I know this to be true and would say this is one of the greatest strengths of an SUV. But while the Passat 206TSI R-Line wagon is indeed lower, its rear doorways are large – both wide and tall, with a roofline that’s as flat as a table. That somewhat makes up for the lack of ride height.
It also means just getting yourself in and out is a lot easier – especially good for those who are tall or aren’t as agile as they used to be.
Price and features
The Passat 206TSI R-Line wagon lists for $59,990 ($2000 more than the sedan) making it the king of a line-up which starts at $35,490.
You may be paying a lot more than for the entry variant, but the extra dollars unlock the most and best features of the range.
There’s proximity unlocking, 19-inch 'Verona' alloy wheels, three zone climate control, adaptive cruise control, an 8.0-inch display with the 'Discover Pro' media system that includes sat nav, eight-speaker stereo, reversing camera and parking sensors.
The standout standard features are the leather seats, the LED headlights, the stunning 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, auto parking and a suite of advanced safety kit.
The Superb 206 TSI lists for $52,690 but doesn’t get some of the Passat's fancier toys like LED headlights and a digital instrument cluster.
Our test car’s optional panoramic sunroof and Harvard Blue metallic paint brought its price up to $62,690.
Engine & trans
Did you just jump straight to this section? Can’t blame you if you did. The Passat 206TSI R-Line wagon engine is a special thing. The 206kW/350Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder is the same heart that beats inside the revered Golf R, and like that hot hatch the Passat 206 TSI is all-wheel drive. A six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission shifts gears unfathomably quickly.
The Golf R version of the engine has the same power output but it pulls harder thanks to 30Nm more torque. In the 0-100km/h sprint the Passat 206TSI R-Line wagon trails it by only 0.7s
Serving suggestions – they’re just a guide whether its fuel for your body or for cars. Volkswagen reckons the Passat 206TSI R-Line drinks at an average combined rate of 7.4L/100km. Country roads, highways, the 25km daily city commutes and day care drop offs saw our test car return 13.7L/100km according to the trip computer. Please note: I tend to drive like I'm trying to outrun an atomic blast.
The Passat 206 TSI R-Line is a bit of a sleeper in that it’s far more powerful and agile than its fairly sedate appearance would let on. Sure, it’s not as quick as a Golf R, and it sure doesn’t feel as ‘chuckable’ as the hot hatch either, but the Passat 206 TSI R-Line is impressively dynamic.
From a standstill there’s only a slight pause between mashing the accelerator and the jump into hyperspace as the turbo spools up and all 350Nm of torque charges in at 1700rpm.
Our test loop through some great bush roads showed the wagon to not only power out of corners well, but the balance, poise and grip is excellent. As we swung it through the corners we could feel its width and length, but in a low-slung grand tourer way.
The ride on 235/40x19 low-profile Pirelli Cinturato P7 tyres is on the firmer side, but you can adjust the suspension from comfort to sport settings for a soft or harder ride. The cabin was quiet even on coarse chip roads, the steering was quick and sharp, and those sports seats were still comfortable and supportive after two hours straight.
A special mention needs to be made about the LED headlights – these are brilliant, literally – the uniform, bright light provides excellent visibility which is so vital on dark Australian country roads.
ANCAP safety rating
This latest generation Passat scored a maximum five-star ANCAP rating. Coming standard on the 206 TSI R-Line is some great advanced safety kit such as rear traffic alert, blind spot and lane keeping assistance and auto emergency braking – although this only works at speed under 18km/h.
For child seats there are three top-tether anchor points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.
Under the floor you’ll find a full sized spare alloy wheel along with more tools than you’ll ever need to change the wheel.
Basic warranty3 years / unlimited km warranty
The Passat 206TSI R-Line wagon is covered by Volkswagen’s three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended at 12 month/15000km intervals. The first five services are capped at $3471 in total.