Secret new cars
In early 2014, VW will release the next European Passat codenamed B8. For the fourth time in the model's history, the Passat will have a fundamental shift in DNA. After two switches from longitudinal to transverse engines (B3/B6), the next evolution will ride on Volkswagen's MQB platform. This modular components set provides an infinitely greater dimensional flexibility as well as a much more space-efficient packaging.
Even though B8 virtually maintains the current length, width and height, the interior is half a size bigger, the weight comes down by about 75 kilos, and the assembly can be sped up thanks to a larger number of prefabricated modules. For optimum economies of scale, MQB has been designed to cover almost the entire VW brand spectrum from the Polo to the Passat.
VW Passat (2014): what the B8 will do
Another key advantage of this architecture is its ability to spin off a variety of bodystyles at relatively low expenditure. In addition to the saloon and estate, the follow-up to the four-door Passat CC is already being planned. It may arrive early in 2013 or late in 2015, depending on the fate of two other potential Passat derivatives. One is the three-box Passat coupé which would be positioned one rung below the Audi A5.
The other one is the Passat Cabriolet which would feature a retractable hardtop to differentiate it from Audi's A5 soft-top and to qualify as up-market Eos replacement. While the core sedan and the wagon variants won´t make it to China and North America, the other Passat offspring have global marketing potential, sources say.
What will the B8 VW Passat look like?
Designwise, B8 will be crisper, sharper and more modern than B7 (pictured) which was essentially a major facelift of the previous car. Although horizontal design elements continue to dominate the more elegant and more dynamic silhouette, insiders predict new styling traits such as a bolder plan view, a more three-dimensional grille, more substantial C-posts and a more advanced LED light treatment with unmistakable graphics front and rear. Inside, we can expect a new touch of class along with the next generation MMI technology for an even more intuitive access.
Predictably, the engine line-up is as modular as the whole vehicle concept. In the works are EA288 (new modular four-cylinder diesel), EA211 (new modular four-cylinder petrol engines) and EA888 (third generation big bore four-cylinder petrol units). Here is what the Wolfsburg grapevine is predicting for B8:
The VR6 will be dropped. Mild hybrid is likely to be standard, but one must pay extra for the plug-in hybrid which combines a choice of 50kW or 80kW electric motors with a four-cylinder petrol engine to yield an emission-free driving range of 12.4 and 37 miles respectively. Too sophisticated? Then check out the B8 with CNG which is based on the 150bhp TSI unit. DSG and 4Motion remain the most popular drivetrain-related options. An all-electric Passat blue e-motion is currently not on the cards.
Although the next Passat shares its MQB component set with the 2013 Golf VII and Audi A3, two major markets will keep the Passat name for different vehicles. In North America, the Passat remains faithful to the PQ platform it has recently adopted from the current Euro model.
In China, VW has just launched an XL version which uses bits and pieces from different corporate parts bins. The latter two models feature an extended wheelbase for more rear legroom and enhanced street cred.
So why didn't VW simply pair the two non-European cars?
Because American and Asian customers have different preferences. The status-conscious Asian clientele can't get enough leather, wood and chrome. The US buyers want more interior space and value for money. In exchange for more presence and content, the cars built in Anting and Chattanooga have been cautiously decontented - there is no 4WD for the VR6 model, nor the full choice of driver assistance systems, no high-end diesel, no Bluemotion fuel misers.
Instead, VW added a more powerful dual air-con for China and a more potent Fender sound system for the US. Despite the generous standard equipment, the fully loaded top-of-the-line export models cost roughly the same as an entry-level Passat marketed in the old world.
By Georg Kacher