The new 2012 Volkswagen Passat is expected to up the stakes against Germany’s luxury automakers, with the car’s designers hoping it will be mentioned in the same breath as the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class and Audi A4.

These are the latest spy shots of a prototype for the new sedan variant, revealing a longer and wider platform than the current car. Though the new Passat will be larger than the outgoing one, the use of lightweight materials in its construction should ensure a lighter kerb weight and improved mileage.

Under the hood, a replacement for the R36’s 3.6-liter engine will be in place, putting out close to 300 horsepower from a displacement of 3.0-liter. To improve mileage and maintain power, the new engine will also be using direct injection, while the rest of the powertrain lineup is expected to benefit from some form of forced induction as well. Other models will include a new hybrid as well as a high-performance diesel with all-wheel drive.

To give the Passat some much needed panache, Volkswagen will be pulling out all the stops to make the next-generation a technological showcase, with features that should have the traditional German luxury marques feeling a little worried.

Expected to debut in late 2011 as a 2012 model, the next-generation Passat is tipped to feature a host of new technologies, possibly including airless tires, a wiperless window cleaning system, and an advanced user interface. There may also be an electronic stability system with a feature that automatically offers counter-steering assistance in adverse driving conditions.

One year after the launch of the Passat sedan will be the station wagon, which you can see spy shots of by clicking here. This will be followed closely by a new high-performance model to replace the current R36.