So what is it?
An all-new Passat, the first since 2005; or, in other words, a Golf for people who can’t fit all their stuff in a Golf any more.
It’s also the biggest-selling VW in the world, with a Passat sold somewhere every 29 seconds, or 3000 a day. They shifted 1.1 million of them just last year, and this one is vastly better, so it will probably cover the face of the planet in six months and wipe out all other cars forever.
You’re making this up - there’s no way Passat sells more than Golf, surely?
Those people who are Passationate about this car tend to be fanatical, and they should be very excited about the new one.
Passat sells in vast numbers in Germany, the UK, Turkey and China. Yes, more than Golf, even.
Why should I care?
Because it contains more technological innovations than any car VW has ever launched, is a damn sight less anodyne and boring than the car it replaces and is so lovely, and clever, inside you’d just about choose one over an Audi - at least until the next wave of Audis arrives and catches up.
It’s also lighter than the car it replaces and uses up to 20 per cent less fuel, its diesel engines are premium-level quiet and it actually feels a lot like a Golf 7 to drive - i.e. rather bloody good.
Just about everything, but the headline act is the new Active Info Display, which is basically the Virtual Cockpit from an Audi TT at a much cheaper pricepoint.
Lushly rendered, it’s an entirely digital dash display that allows you to shrink the speedo and tacho and push them to the sides so you can see the satnav screen - or your playlists, photos, whatever - bigger in the middle, plus a lot of other tricks. It’s beautiful, intuitive and brilliant.
Other party tricks include Trailer Assist, which allows you to reverse your boat like a pro using the wing-mirror controls as a joystick. Using the screen in front of you, you simply point the joystick where you want your boat (or caravan, in which case you should point it straight to HELL) to go and the steering wheel spins without your help.
The Passat can also now park in normal spaces for you - ie the ones you drive forward into - as well as reverse parking, and can stop, go and steer for you in traffic-jam conditions, so you can stare at your giant screen.
Is it fun to drive fast?
Stiffer and lighter before, and with much fettled steering, the 176kW twin-turbo diesel we tried was slightly dozy in Comfort mode, but switch to Sport and it fairly darts through the bends, feeling much like a high-po Golf. The sedan is more fun than the wagon, obviously, but not by much.
That engine is not confirmed for Australia yet, but they really must bring it. A 206kW 2.0-litre TSI will be launched next year, and a plug-in hybrid GTE is also coming, but not down under.
The range in Australia will start with a 2.0-litre TDI boasting 132kW and 380Nm and a 1.8-litre TSI with 132kW and 280Nm.
And around town?
The ride quality, lack of cabin noise and general ambience of the eighth-generation Passat make it a premium experience. And the Traffic Jam Assist, which will take over when things turn boring, even turning the wheel to keep you in your lane, could save your sanity.
Is there anything wrong with it?
Possibly the fact that it’s a Passat. As a senior German exec admitted “the outgoing Passat was perhaps not the most emotional of cars”, and the new one isn’t radically different to look at.
But it is more impressive in the flesh than pictures suggest, and as a package it’s a far better and more involving car. Perhaps you could lie naked in the sun now and then.
How much, and is it worth it?
Currently a Passat starts at $38,990 for petrol, $44,990 for a diesel, and despite its vast amount of new gear and fruit, prices are only tipped to rise about five per cent.
We don’t know what spec the cars will have when they arrive in Australia next year (some base models we drove didn't get the Active Info Display for example), but it should be a serious bargain.
Would you have one over a more expensive German?
Absolutely. The Passat brings some technology that the more premium brands are yet to wheel out, and the price advantage will make it very tempting indeed.
Australia might finally get on the global Passat bandwagon.