The VW Passat is the reverse of a shouty car. And that's not meant as an insult. We all squirmed when Iain Duncan-Smith warned us not to disregard 'the quiet man'. The Passat goes about its business with a salt of the earth, bourgeois lack of fuss and self-promotion although it does possess more charisma than the current work and pensions secretary.
It is a very big global seller indeed. The Passat has notched up getting on for 22 million sales since its launch in 1973 and the new version is the European Car of the Year for 2015.
I drove it from London to South West France with the wife and two veg on board. To cover 600 miles of billiard-table smooth French autoroutes, twice within a week, you could not find a better packhorse. It sits at 130kph in near perfect silence, sailing past all those suffering Frenchies in their beaten-up Citroens and Peugeots. And, frankly, with diesel - they only come as diesels in the UK - at 88p a litre at Carrefour, one travels with barely a care in the world.
Passat driving brings you a higher perceived road status than a Mondeo, Mazda or a Vectra estate but you still come in below the BMW 3 Series or the Mercedes C-Class. The Passat is solidly in the middle market. But not necessarily in the way Derek Smalls, the Spinal Tap bassist, describes himself - placed between the fire of David St Hubbins and ice of Nigel Tufnel - as 'lukewarm water'. A comparison with the 3 Series Touring makes little sense. The Passat is far roomier both for driver, passengers and luggage. In the BMW, you squeeze into a cockpit. By chance our holiday companion had a 3 Series Touring to carry around his aromatic Standard Poodle. The veg preferred the Passat.
Our model was heavily loaded with fun extras such an Ibiza club crucial sound system and a posh touchscreen navigation system. This meant it came in at a steep £36,000. But you get precious little 5 Series Touring for that.
The Passat is a smart, sensible, thoroughly Germanic proposition even if it fails to make the heart quicken. I love the Polo, the Up and even have a soft spot for the Phaeton, which looks like a Passat after a plate of wurst too many. In more romantic times, VW used to name its cars after winds: Scirocco, Jetta, Corrado. The Passat is said to have come from the German for 'trade wind'. Which is nice. It just didn't lift up my skirt. My wife, however, loved it. Irrationally so.
VW Passat Estate GT 2.0 TDI SCR
Price: £30,910 (£36,235 with all the toys)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbo-charged diesel
Transmission: six-speed automatic DSG box
Fuel consumption: 61.4 mpg (combined cycle)
CO2 emissions: 120 g/km
Power: 190 bhp
0-62 mph: 7.9 seconds
Top speed: 144 mph