Volkswagen Shouldn't Bother Creating an Enthusiast's Passat
Volkswagen is toying with the idea of creating a hot, performance-oriented Passat variant that grabs people’s souls, assaults their eyes and won’t let go of their imagination. It shouldn’t bother.
According to Motor Authority, the automaker wants to wring more sales out of its increasingly overlooked midsizer by appealing to the enthusiast set. Even with visual cues and a power boost, it’s extremely unlikely that Golf fanboys will move their lust (and cash) to the Passat camp.
If Volkswagen wants to halt falling sales, it needs to change the foundation and house, not just paint the window trim.
The Motor Authority report describes a concept housed in Volkswagen’s Chattanooga development center. They describe it as “a white Passat with black mirrors, a black-painted roof, a black lip spoiler on its deck lid, black badging, revised tail lamps and red accents on its fascia and brake calipers.”
Other design cues set it apart from the duller R-Line, and the body has been lowered by 20 millimeters. Engineers still haven’t figured out what engine to use. The 1.8-liter turbocharged four cylinder is an obvious choice (but not very exclusive), while the 3.6-liter V6 would add a good measure of power and price.
U.S. sales of the current-generation Passat peaked in 2012 (117,023 units), falling every year since. The 2015 tally was 78,207, and 2016 figures reveal even less demand. It doesn’t help that the once-appealing 2.0-liter diesel is now sidelined by scandal.
The Passat has some bright spots, interior space being one, but it’s losing the midsize sedan battle. In fact, the midsize sedan is losing its own battle, with buyers increasingly turning to crossovers and SUVs. A handful of midsizers are bucking the trend, with the Accord, Sonata, Legacy and Malibu picking up sales, but its a contracting marketplace.
To stand out and attract buyers, the basic package must be appealing. Specialty models are mostly PR. Ford plans to offer a power-packed, all-wheel-drive Fusion Sport next year, but it also sells a hell of a lot of base and mid-range Fusions.
All Volkswagen can offer is a bland styling that’s barely discernible from the pre-refresh model, with no all-wheel drive and a very expensive V6 option. It needs to do better in the styling department and offer competitive horsepower in sub-premium models. That means sourcing a 2.0-liter turbo from the Volkswagen Group parts bin and trying to hack out a mid-range niche.
According to the report, executives in Wolfsburg haven’t approved this “hot” Passat. They’d be better off focusing their efforts on the Passat’s long game and correcting its flaws.
[Image: Volkswagen of America]
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Starting with the pictured car, to get to an interesting Passat, perhaps called the Passat Track. (can't use "S", already taken by Audi, and besides, Audi’s S line has become 30% more money for 5% more content…. Perhaps Porsche would let VW use "GTS" because that's really what the car could be, a sports grand tourer). 1. Lose the ridiculous trapezoid chin ubiquitous to Japanese cars; makes cars look like carps. From the bumper surface down, make it a continuous slight radius back with two large openings/air intakes, one on either side of a central pillar and each occupying about 30% of the surface. Give it a subtle splitter shelf, dark color. 2. Keep the big wheels (19s?) but make them 245 or 255s. 3. Four pot brake calipers (NOT Boy Racer Red) all around, no sliders. 4. Coil-over suspension all around 5. Twin-turbo V6 and a 6 speed gearbox, with an optional PDK. 6. Quaife-based AWD with a rear-drive bias. I want to be able to set this car with the throttle without having to first lift or LFB. 7. Having said that, any electronic aids need to be switchable (including complete “OFF”, and that means left foot braking capability without killing the power!!!) 8. Recaro seating. 9. Only available colors: Meteor Gray, or Guards Red, both with the opposite color very subtle door decal “Passat GTS” just below the belt line between the wheel wells, block letters. 10. Offer it in an Avant version (maybe I just spec’ed out a late ‘90s Audi Avant RS4???) Build that car, VW, and I’ll stick with your brand after you buy my diesel Sportwagen back from me.
Picking up my Fortana Red Passat R-Line tonight. Got LED package with comfort package. Only 1/6 in the country according to the dealer search. The 1.8T was much much better than I thought. I will have room galore and sweet 19" wheels. Bye bye Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk.