A brief history of the Volkswagen Passat, from its inception in the early 1970s through to the present day.
The Volkswagen Passat is almost unrecognisable from its first incarnation when it was launched in 1973, so much so that the early versions of the vehicle are considered as classics. Derived from the German for ‘tradewind’, the Passat has stood the test of time despite the winds of change which have blown through the car industry over the past four decades.
Originally created to capitalise on the Audi models which Volkswagen owned following the Bavarian firm’s takeover by Volkswagen, the Passat was the fillip between the fading popularity of the Beetle and the soon to be created Polo and Golf models. The Passat’s importance to the company was such that it was credited with saving Volkswagen after the company had originally over-reached in purchasing other car firms.
The success of the 1973 model led to it being updated in 1981 using the B2 platform, which saw it being sold with four cylinder petrol and diesel engines. In 1985 the second generation underwent a facelift with the larger bumpers, grilles and new tail lights included outside of the car, whilst the interior was also updated. These slight changes paved the way for the next generation of Passats which took on the hallmarks of the modern Passat body shape that can be seen today.
The B3 and B4 were the first Passat models to be built in the recognised Volkswagen style, as opposed to using the Audi saloon platform. This enabled the company to develop the Passat’s characteristics of a sleeker body and a fully independent four link suspension which would be continued to the present range of Volkswagens. Although the B5 generation from 1996-2005 shared Audi’s body characteristics these were once more dropped when the current generation of Passat vehicles rolled off the production line in 2005.
Known as the Passat B6, the fleet was constructed with the Golf’s Mk5 PQ46 body used as a template. A facelift was carried out in 2010 thanks to Klaus Bischoff and Walter de’Silva, which focused largely on the car’s exterior. Now called the B7 version, the vehicle also features a fatigue detection system and an automatic ‘city emergency braking’ system. It is doubtful these will be the last changes to the Passat, which has evolved considerably since its first outing in the early 1970s.