With the latest, eighth-generation model of the Volkswagen Passat, VW is setting its sights higher than its Ford, Renault, Peugeot or Vauxhall/Opel competitors of the past.
In fact, the company hopes that the new Passat has what it takes to be a viable alternative to a BMW or Mercedes. But why would someone that would otherwise be signing on the dotted line for a 3 Series pick the Passat instead?
It's a question that VW is attempting to answer through a combination of subtle exterior design -- the new car's lines are clean in the extreme -- and masses of high-tech features internally. This will be the first VW offered with a head-up display for instance. It also gets a huge 12.3-inch in-dash screen that will be called the Active Info Display and will soon start appearing on other VW cars.
Then there's the quality and layout of the cabin itself and the clever way that Volkswagen has somehow made it roomier, lighter and more comfortable, even though the new Passat is, technically speaking, smaller than the car it is replacing.
As such VW is taking a leaf out of Mercedes-Benz's book, in as much as it is bringing its premium features, tech systems and fittings to its mid-range vehicles and will be offering them for mid-range prices. Something that Mercedes has just done with the C-Class, surprising its competitors in the process.
In terms of engines, the Passat will be offered with an initial choice of economical four-cylinder petrol and diesel engines but more powerful variants, mated to four-wheel drive systems, as well as a hybrid model are also planned.
Volkswagen will no doubt provide further details when the car is officially unveiled to the public at the Paris motor show in October.
- Volkswagen Passat