VW Design Director Klaus Bischoff on the New Passat

The Passat is Volkswagen’s bestselling model after the Golf, and its been a successful product for the brand for over 40 years — VW Group design chief Walter de’Silva even bought an early model when he was living in Turin. But with today’s company car buyers flocking to more premium products from Audi, BMW and Mercedes, the Passat has lost a share of the lucrative market. There was only one thing to do.

Building on Volkswagen’s pure design ethos, the eighth generation Volkswagen Passat is more upscale than its predecessor. Designers sought to insill more emotion in the surfaces and redefined the outgoing model’s proportions while remaining true to the brand’s design language. The new car is still immediately identifiable as a Passat.

“It’s not a revolution but an evolution,” says Volkswagen design director Klaus Bischoff. “If you go steps too far then you lose the qualities of the Passat.”

The brief was to make the new Passat more of a premium car; more comfortable and elegant, elevating the car’s quality feel while retaining its historically strong value proposition. As such, the new model is 85kg lighter, has more interior space with increased headroom and more connectivity features than its predecessor.

The cornerstone of the Passat’s qualities lies in its functionality, but while practicality was at the top of the brief is a more emotional design as well.

“We struck a balance between functionality and design,” says Bischoff. “It’s a lot more attractive. It’s lower, wider and all aspects of the proportions are better but it’s also better in functionality. It’s always a fight between rational qualities and emotional qualities, but out of this fight comes something super balanced.”

The most obvious change is in the proportions. Though 2mm shorter than the outgoing model, the new car is 12mm wider and the A-pillar has been moved further back, giving the car a longer hood.

Chrome horizontal elements in the grille emphasize this added width and, with a wider track width (32mm at the front and 20mm at the rear), the wheels are pushed out to the far edges of the body and the fog lamps sit in a blade-like element, giving the car a stronger stance.

The new Passat’s wheelbase is 79mm longer — pushing the front wheels forward by 24mm and the rear wheels 17mm rearwards — while the overhangs have been decreased by 69mm. Paired with the shallower DLO, the new car’s roofline looks far lower than the 14mm drop suggests.

Its profile is visually anchored by a wraparound lower sill line and defined by a bone line running the length of the car. This element incorporates the door handles to enhance the visual purity of the bodyside and gains more definition as it towards the rear. Here, the undercut becomes more pronounced, highlighting the shoulderline in the process.

The rear, characterized by two simple lines, features a new recess in the trunklid for the plate and integrated tailpipes to emphasize power. The estate version of the car is even more elegant, with more fluid lines concealing a 47-liter increase in luggage space.

“What you see here and what you’ll see more from us are the emotional qualities,” says Bischoff. “It’s more flowing, more elegant, more sculptural. But we are moving the brand fast forward. So with every leap and every product that we do we try to jump as far as possible without losing the qualities of the brand.”

The new Passat also features more technology. LED projector lamps at the front give the car an unmistakable look while LED rear lamps present a different design under braking.


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