17 Nov 2017 15:51 IST

German precision and performance with a touch of class

VW’s Passat expectedly checks all the boxes. But is it the best option for you?

 

 

The premium sedan market had almost been stagnant for years; this year it has actually taken a hit largely due to the withdrawal of FAME benefits for hybrids (Toyota Camry being the most affected) and due to the lack of any major new additions to the pool of cars in the segment. Last month, Volkswagen waded back into this pool bringing in the eighth generation Passat — a model that has returned to our shores after about an 18-month hiatus.

Volkswagen officials claim that existing Passat owners have been waiting for the eighth-gen model, though unless they had issues with allocations and availability, one wonders why VW didn’t bring the car earlier. The new Passat was introduced in Europe almost three years ago; and in fact in a short while from now may be due for a mid-cycle facelift!

But, finally, now that the Passat is here, together with the Tiguan, VW can hope for a few more of its upper segment vehicles being visible on Indian roads. The Passat and the Tiguan are also priced close to each other, offering a choice between body-styles for the buyer in that price segment. Unfortunately, its big competitor is another VW group brand — the Skoda Superb; more on that later.

Design

Volkswagen’s family design has lately been dominated by straight lines and a very horizontal orientation. Except for the Beetle, which retains most of its curves, even in its current chiselled form, other VW models are all unadventurous excursions into the straight. But, be that as it may, what also has to be added is that with its precise edges and perfect finish, it is impossible to find fault with VW’s current design language.

The new Passat’s design is exactly that; it is not adventurous or stunning from any angle, but it is not inelegant either. Its proportions are perfect, divided into the classic three-box, with a modern touch in its short overhangs, stubby boot section and mildly coupé-like roofline. When viewed from the side, the deep cut tornado shoulder line and the hoffmeister kink in the C-pillar are the most prominent features. At the front, the new Passat’s design is a reinforcement of VW’s trust in straight lines with the four-slat grille being its signature edition in chrome, which merges into the headlamps.

The full LED headlamps now sport the new VW signature daytime running light (DRL) tubes. Cornering fog lamps are set on either side of the front fender, which features a split airdam. The Passat’s rear sports similar VW signature LED tubes in the tail-lamps. The easy-open tailgate gives access to a 586-litre boot with just a wave of my foot below the rear fender. The boot lid also offers a one-touch electric closing mechanism. The only weak spots in the exterior design of the Passat were the 17-inch rims that were fitted in the Highline trim I was test driving. But, the 215/55 R17 Hankooks that were shod on the rims managed to fill out the wheel arches fairly well.

Cabin

The new Passat’s interior design and layout is similarly dominated by straight lines and geometric shapes. But, again, here too, with the quality of materials used and the excellent fit and finish quality, VW engineers have ensured that there is really no reason to complain. Flush mounted panels, elegantly integrated chrome elements around the switches and knobs that will be frequently used, and matte wood inserts on the dashboard and door trim really push up the cabin quality. You could easily guess that it is a VW cabin even if the logo on the flat-bottomed steering wheel were to be covered. Yet, it is not all focused on just practicality and reliability. It oozes German precision, but there is also a feeling of being inside a well-appointed premium family sedan. A chrome-lined pair of slats that run across the dashboard from one aircon vent to the other is broken only by the instrument binnacle and the analogue clock at the centre. The centre stack is a study in symmetry and, depending on the trim variant, features a multi-function display with voice command. It also features controls for the three-zone automatic climate control.

The cabin of the new Passat is spacious with the rear legroom also being quite good, only beaten possibly by the Skoda Superb’s rear passenger space. The headroom at the rear is also adequate, though for six-footers the sharply sloping roofline may make it a tight fit. The centre transmission tunnel runs tall at the rear and so may be a problem for a third adult seated in the middle. The seats themselves are excellent, clothed either in ‘nappa’ or ‘vienna’ leather, supportive with bands of cushioning in the middle, these are perfect for long drives. There are electrical adjustments for the front two seats. Two front seat features that are unlikely to be used very much in India are the massage function for the driver’s seat, and heating and ventilation. A sunroof in the Highline trim variant, an electrically deployed roll-up rear privacy shade and a 360-degree area view rear camera are some of the other features.

Performance

The new VW Passat is being offered with only one powertrain option. The two-litre TDI diesel engine with the six-speed DSG gearbox currently on offer in the Skoda Superb gets its place in the Passat’s bonnet too. This 1,968 cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged diesel engine is offered in the same state of tune as in the Superb and generates 177 PS of peak power and 350 Nm of peak torque. At 1,550 kg, the new Passat is not a very heavy car. The 2.0L TDI does feel nimble even with the same output settings. But, this is a slightly noisy engine and in the cabin the noise is a bit on the higher side, though this is a very usable power unit. With a lot of the torque available from just over 1,000 rpm, the Passat pulls out eagerly from parking lots, traffic signals and during overtakes.

There is a tiny bit of torque steer that is quickly corrected by the anti-slip regulator. This new model also has another unique safety feature in the ‘engine drag torque control’, which basically prevents wheel locking due to sudden engine braking caused by a quick shift down to a lower gear or sudden lift off the throttle. Other safety features including nine airbags, ESP and an electronic differential lock are all standard in both Comfortline and Highline.

Bottomline

The Passat feels solid on the road, gripping tarmac, staying unruffled at high speeds and taking on turns with gusto. There are also four different drive modes to choose from in addition to a personalised ‘individual’ setting. Change in settings tweaks presets for the engine, the direct shift gearbox and the steering. Also working behind the scenes is the dynamic chassis control system (DCC) which adjusts suspension characteristics to match the road surface and driving situation. The suspension itself was quite pliant and accommodating of bad roads, though it seemed to be much noisier than expected while tackling them.

Priced in the Rs. 30 lakh to Rs. 33 lakh range, the new Passat is meant for fans of this VW model’s legendary performance, reliability and quality. But if you are looking for a better bargain, the Skoda Superb offers nearly the same equipment level including hands-free parking assistance for almost the same price.

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