Last October, Volkswagen Passenger Cars Malaysia (VPCM) launched the 2021 Volkswagen Passat R-Line for the Malaysian market. Regarded as the sportier version of the Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TSI Elegance, the Passat R-Line is actually over RM21,500 more expensive thanks to a few additions, but is it any better?
We got our hands on the Passat R-Line to see if it's worth spending over RM200,000 for this D-segment sedan, and to be perfectly honest (and fair considering that this particular writer has a 'soft spot' for the Passat), we tried it in almost all the typical everyday driving scenarios, covering daily trips to the office on the highway, shopping with the family, and getting stuck in traffic jams.
How good-looking is the exterior?
Starting with the looks, the Passat R-Line differentiates itself from the Passat Elegance thanks to a number of exterior features. Its sportier facade comes in the form of the R-Line front bumper with black accents, sill extension, rear sport bumper, R-Line logos on the front grille and sides, a small dash of chrome bits, and most importantly, its 19-inch 'Verona' alloy wheels.
Some folks might label the Passat as the perfect car for well-established 'uncles', but these additions to the R-Line definitely amp up its 'youthfulness' that we feel might make it more appealing to the younger crowd. This Oryx White colour option might look good, but if it was up to this particular writer, the Deep Black or Manganese Grey is most likely the best way to go. But to each his or her own.
To us, it looks sleek, and driving it around for some time (and seeing a few more on the road), the Passat R-Line's exterior features slightly edge it out over the Arteon (but again, to each his or her own). Whichever floats your boat, and this one definitely floats ours in the best possible manner. In our opinion, the Passat is a low-key sleeper that can surprise a few folks on the road when the driver gets a bit 'spirited' on the wheel.
What about the interior?
Step inside the quite roomy cabin and you're presented with a sleeker interior that comes with a black-finished roofline, carbon-styled Nappa leather seats, and a bunch of R-Line logos to remind you that this is not the standard Passat Elegance. The seats are spacious and comfortably cool yet supportive, and the addition of the driver ergoComfort 14-way electrically-adjustable seat plus lumbar support definitely takes things up a notch. And it comes with a massage function. Cool beans.
The back seats are also quite spacious with enough headroom for three full-sized adults. They get their own AC temperature control which can be separated from those sitting at the front, as well as a USB Type-C port plus a 12V socket for ease of device charging. They also get built-in sunshades for both sides, and an electronically-controlled unit for the rear window to help keep those bright rays at bay. Perfect for resting toddlers.
The Passat R-Line's very functional factor is further amplified with its fully-digital instrument panel and the 9.2-inch 'Discover Pro' touchscreen infotainment system plus navigation (3D addition to its digital meter display), wireless Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. The adjustable ambient lighting gives it a nice extra premium touch along with the Nappa leather, but we feel that the smooth design can be easily scuffed over time if not taken care of properly.
In terms of functionality and how it has been integrated into the Passat R-Line's cabin, we feel that it's one of the best in its class, look and feel altogether. The only thing that drives me nuts about it is the 'Passat' writing in the middle of it all (above the hazard lights switch) which kind of makes things look a bit cornish. Everyone knows it's a Passat.
Its touchscreen infotainment system is quite easy to manouvre, but we've been told that there's a slight lag when you opt to use the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functions when playing videos. It's not really a deal-breaker, because this particular unit is also fitted with the optional 300W Helix Soundbar, which takes the audio experience to a whole new level when working together with the Passat's standard eight-speaker sound system.
This, however, does take a bit of real estate from its 586-litre boot space, but not by much. You can still easily fit a stroller, a few bags, plus your weekly groceries in the trunk with no issues. But is worth the extra money to have it installed? If you love music with great audio quality while on the road, we strongly feel that it's a must-have.
There's also the three-zone climate control that makes up for this slight drawback. The driver can maintain his or her cool while driving, and the front passenger plus rear occupants can adjust according to their comfort levels. Hits and misses here and there, but more hits to make things up for a few little drawbacks.
How's it like to drive?
Okay, so here's our favourite bit. The Passat R-Line is indeed very athletic in nature and what separates it from the Elegance variant is the additions of Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC), Driving Mode Selection (DMS), and Electronic Differential Lock (XDS). These make things more agile and nimble, but won't affect the Passat's comfort levels that it's known for.
When paired with its 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged four-cylinder engine that produces around 190hp and 320Nm of torque, the Passat R-line is indeed a fun car to drive. The steering feedback, however, might get some mixed reactions due to how light it feels at all speeds. Very light, maybe too light for some.
Luckily, its seven-speed direct shift gearbox (DSG) with paddle shifters are very enjoyable to trash around, especially when you put it in Sport Mode. But for the most part, cruising around in either Comfort or Normal is enough for a pleasantly comfortable drive (especially with other occupants in the car).
In other words, you can drive it around in comfort with little to no drama (despite riding around on 19-inch wheels that some would say to be a tad on the firm side), and when you need to, just slam that pedal to the metal and the Passat R-Line just sprints away with little to no hesitation. And if you drive it sensibly, you'll easily get 6.5 litres/100km, which roughly translates to over 1,000km of travel thanks to its 66-litre fuel tank.
Is it worth spending RM203k for the Passat R-Line?
If you like the jack-of-all-trades car that can reasonably do everything particularly well, then it's a huge yes. Despite having some drawbacks, especially from its Asian competitors like not having Adaptive Cruise Control and other semi-autonomous driver aids (CLICK HERE to check out our review on the Volkswagen Passat Elegance for more details), the Passat R-Line is still a very exciting vehicle to drive on a daily basis.
RM200k is still somewhat sensible when you look at the monthly repayments, and the high levels of comfort will surely be appreciated by the other occupants, especially when you have a baby that loves sleeping in the car, but hates it when the ride is anywhere remotely rough. We love driving it, others enjoy being driven around in it, and it doesn't really look like an 'uncle's car' when you compare it to the other options in the same class. The Volkswagen Passat R-Line is indeed a good companion for the long run, and for that, it gets a solid 8/10 from us.