Volkswagen Passat Review & Test Drive

OVERVIEW ;

Volkswagen currently sells mostly mass-market cars in India like the Polo, Ameo and Vento, but we all know that the German automaker entered the Indian market more than a decade back with offerings like the Passat that were slotted in the premium segment. While the company replaced the older Passat with the new generation after some years, the premium sedan was then discontinued from the market owing to lack of sales, largely due to a lot of competition in the same price range. Now, VW is back in the premium segment with the 8th generation Passat which has just been launched in India. But, is it as exciting as the older one? Does it even stand a chance in the market now? Time to find out.

DESIGN AND STYLE ;

The exterior of the car has gone through several changes, which comes as sublime and stylish as well. Take the front facade. The front profile looks even sleeker and stylish with the new restyled headlamps cluster. The sharp edged headlamp cluster come with crisp angles, and adorning square shaped LED lamps and LED daytime running lamps, which makes the headlamps sharper, while the front grille section looks same with three chrome grille slat, and the VW logo at middle. Another additional feature comes in form of a sleek chrome bar running the entire width of the car above the headlamps and the front grille section. Not only that, the nose section of the car looks different too. So far, the entire front section looks different and classy.

At the side profile the large wheel arches come holding 18 inch Dartford alloy wheels. The ORVMs come sporting LED side turning lamps, which looks stylish. These are also power adjustable, heated and auto dimming on driver’s side. The sharp and crispy character lines running the length of the body frame gives the car a sporty look. The side profile also boasts a side skirting at the lower level of the body. The roofline blends perfectly to the rear pillar, and a panoramic sunroof on the roof makes the car premium looking. The rear profile too comes bearing the same design language, as the tail lamps come restyled. The dual exhaust vents gives the car a sporty appearance. So far the entire exterior portfolio of the 2016 Volkswagen Passat looks sporty and classy.

CABIN AND COMFORT ;

Like the exterior, the cabin feels impressive, if familiar. Some bits, like the instrument cluster design, the layout for the controls on the centre console, and the steering wheel are typical of VWs, or Skodas for that matter. However, the striking bit about the Passat is a theme that seems to have been borrowed off Audis – the air-con vents. The actual vents flow into faux vents to create a band of black and silver horizontal lines that run across the dashboard. The metallic button for the engine start feels rich and of high quality. The brown wood trim and the soft-touch dash are pleasing to the eye too.

The front seats will be comfortable even for larger frames, even on long journeys. In terms of space, even 6-footers won’t have reason to complain. The front seats are electrically adjustable and are heated too. However, there is no cooling functionality on offer. A big miss for our Indian conditions. The driver’s seat gets two memory settings and a massage function. The massage was thoroughly enjoyable. While the Passat maybe thought of as a chauffeur-driven car, the rear seats are not equipped with a massage function. However, the three-zone air-conditioning system makes sure that you set the temperature and air flow according to your preferences. Also, the manually operated sunblinds on the doors and the electrically operated sunblind for the rear windscreen cocoon you further.

Using the rear bench behind a tall boy is possible too. In terms of knee room or the sense of space, despite the increase in wheelbase, the Passat won’t be as large as the Superb. Also, some people might find the seat back angle a little upright, and sitting three abreast will be tiresome for the passenger in the middle as the seat-back protrudes into the lower back and the cushioning is firm as the armrest is tucked away there. For two occupants, however, the rear bench will be ample. However, because of the low roofline and the all-black cabin, the cabin feels cosy, not lavish. In terms of boot space, the Passat has 586-litres to offer, and it tackled four overnighter suitcases and some camera equipment with ease. This can be expanded to 1152-litres by flipping the 60:40 split second row down.

ENGINE AND GEARBOX ;

In India, the Passat gets only one powertrain option – the 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine mated to a six-speed direct-shift gearbox (DSG). The engine does duty in the Skoda Superb and puts out an identical 177hp and 350Nm of torque in the Passat. Power comes in from around 1,500rpm and builds rapidly all the way to the 5,400rpm redline. Along with a downshift from the quick-shifting gearbox, delivery can be quite spiky. Shifts are quick as expected and can also be called up via the paddles mounted behind the steering wheel. The only downside here is that the engine note is a wee bit harsh and fairly audible both outside and in. In most scenarios, the DSG is superb at reading your pedal inputs and responding accordingly. But, even in traffic, in the off chance that you catch it out with a sudden twist of your right ankle, it can cause a bit of a hiccup in power delivery, accompanied by a slight jerk as a cog is swapped up or down. These instances are few and far between, though, and for the most part, the Passat just rolls on seamlessly.

VW claims a fuel efficiency of 17.42kpl and helping you achieve this is the onboard Think Blue Trainer that gives you prompts to improve your driving efficiency.Power delivery can also be tweaked via the car’s drive modes that alter engine, gearbox, steering and, in a first for this class, damper properties too. The ride is typically European, giving you good high-speed confidence with a planted and reassuring feel, if slightly stiff for our road conditions. The wheels tend to skip over speed breakers and crash down on the other side; of course, you can tweak this with the adjustable dampers. The ride is quite comfortable for most purposes; it’s just that the sound of the suspension at work is far louder than it should be. Also, sharp edges catch out the suspension which seems to have a firm rebound setting on the dampers even in Normal mode. The steering has a good amount of weight and gets firmer in Sport mode. At times, the weight can swiftly increase mid-corner though.

RIDE AND HANDLING ;

The arrow-straight, smooth highways in Rajasthan allowed us to do some serious speeds, helping cover the 400km distance in a lot lesser time than expected. Apart from the engine and gearbox, credit also goes to the car’s confident, sporty handling. The suspension setup is firm which is typical of Volkswagens, and makes for a planted feel. The steering wheel is communicative, offering ample feel and feedback along with a weighted feel especially around fast corners. The Passat’s handling prowess in fact isn’t surprising at all when you consider that Volkswagens are acclaimed globally for their handling.

The 215-section Hankook tyres offered a lot of grip, and helped in boosting confidence levels around fast corners. The ride quality is equally commendable too. Despite the sportiness and the firm feel the Passat does not unsettle its occupants, and soaks up bumps and potholes with aplomb. I did hear a few thuds going over bigger potholes but even then the car did not lose composure which is impressive. On the whole, the Passat feels properly European in terms of its ride and handling – firm and confident – but at the same time it has a feel that will be appreciated by Indian drivers and the chauffeur-driven types equally for its comfort.

SAFETY FEATURES ;

In terms of the feature list, the Passat is equipped with a three-zone climate control system, automatic parking, tyre pressure monitoring, an electric rear sunshade and, of course, since we can’t get enough solar rays, a sunroof too. Entertainment duties are handled by a touchscreen unit that gets you Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, aside from the regular USB, Aux and Bluetooth options. The system also has handy buttons for easy access to frequently used functions, and a proximity sensor that throws up commands as soon as you reach for the screen. In addition to the car’s setup, the screen displays the 360-degree camera and self-parking functions, all in very good resolution.There’s also a full complement of safety kit in the form of nine airbags, including one for the driver’s knee, ABS, ESC, and VW’s drag reduction that prevents the front wheels from locking in case

BOTTOMLINE ;

Compared to the older Passat, the latest-gen is a big leap for the carmaker in terms of looks, features, comfort and technology. It is fun to drive and still offers predictable and secure handling. Also, when it comes to back seat comfort, I’m convinced that chauffeur-driven car owners will love it.Also, thanks to the MQB architecture, VW Group has been able to share parts and technology across siblings and even brands. This has helped the carmaker make significant savings and eventually price it at a competitive price of Rs 29.99 lakhs for the Comfortline and Rs 32.99 lakhs for the Highline. At this price point, this VW luxury sedan is on par with its rivals like the Skoda Superb, Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord.Besides, Volkswagen has pulled up their socks and managed to get their service act together. Understandably, this shouldn’t make for a dicey buy even for previous Passat owners. So if VW continues to build up this confidence amongst potential buyers, I don’t see any reason that will drive away a prospective buyer. He might, in fact, drive away with one Passat instead!

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