It's been a minute since we caught a next-gen long-roof Volkswagen Passat out and about. This test vehicle caught the eye of our spy photographer in the chilly north, and yes, it's still wearing the hide-in-plain-sight stickers that make it look like the current model. Of course, we know this is really the new B9, but beyond that, this particular prototype looks downright mean.

Perhaps it's the dark window tint on a white estate, which frankly always looks good. Maybe it's the winter setting, providing a stark contrast to the black windows and trim on this test vehicle. The Passat estate looks long, low, and rather aggressive slicing through the snow. Our spy sources do tell us the next-gen model will be longer and wider, though by exactly how much is still unknown. The wheelbase is stretched out, too, and in these images, it comes across as a sleek, sporty estate with handsome proportions.

Gallery: VW Passat Estate Winter Spy Photos

Will that opinion change once the fake grille and fascia stickers come off? Narrow headlights on the new Passat will not be wholly connected by a grille as depicted here. Instead, a thin grille similar to the Volkswagen Golf will span the lenses, and further down, you won't see horizontally mounted driving lamps. Peeling away the black tape should reveal a large lower grille with the corners curled upward. In simpler terms, this will be a smiling station estate.

Under the stretched skin, we expect to find both petrol and diesel engine options. In fact, this will likely be the last Passat to offer such engines, as VW is pushing hard toward electrification. We've already seen spy photos of this next-gen estate testing a plug-in hybrid powertrain, easily identified by a charging port literally sticking out on the front wing/fender. Rumours say it could pair a 1.5-litre engine with an electric motor and a large battery, giving the Passat estate a potential electric-only range of 62 miles. But that's unconfirmed at this time.

What is confirmed is that the long-roof Passat – called the Passat Variant in some markets – will only be a Variant. The saloon is gone, leaving just the estate to carry the Passat legacy. And that will only happen in areas outside of North America, where the Passat is no longer offered.

Expect a full debut to happen by the end of this year.