You are on a road trip and driving down the hill. It’s 7:00 PM and you are enjoying the sunset the background while you are going through the scenic route. “Paw”, you hear a horn from behind, and what you see in your wing mirror is that right hand side super sharp LED Day Time Running Light. You say in your mind,“that looks stunning!”, and you give side for the car behind to show its entire facia and what you see now is the entire car in your wing mirror, flanked by the uber-cool LED DRL running end to end in the headlight architecture. And what overtakes you and zooms off ahead, is a car wider, and longer than most of the compact luxury premium sedans in India, andlooks like it has acres and acres of legroom, no matter where you sit. The car in context here is the Volkswagen’s flagship sedan in India, The Passat.
Priced at an OTR roughly sitting close to 41 lacs, Passat Highline sits very close to its premium German counter parts. For this kind of a price, you could easily get an entry-level premium sedan. Audi dealers lately were offering the A3 for almost 39-40 lacs and the A4 for around 45-47 Lacs. You can get the BMW X1 for around the same price. So what in you would push you to buy the Passat which is just a shade of 3-4 lacs cheaper than these premium brands.
Well, look at it this way, do you love your rear space, its in acres, it almost rivalled the outgoing E Class. Now we are not comparing it with the LWB Version. Do you love your car to be understated, classy and elegant as you generally don’t like to announce the world that you have arrived. While you may spend 70% of your time in the rear seats, however on those 30% times when you want to drive, you want to drive something that is fun to drive and agile.
If this is you, because both the Audi and BMW will announce the entire world that you have arrived, the Passat does the job for you to let you arrive discreetly at the venue without making a fuss about it. For this and more, the Passat is for you, but to know more, read through the review.
However before we do that, lets look at the brief history and some interesting good to know things about the Passat.
Launched globally, way back in 1973, the Passat now is in its eight generation and is internally codenamed B8. It came to India after 3 years of its global debut and now is in its second year in the country. Passat gets its name from the tradewinds of the west; Passatwinde in German. The name got abbreviated to Passat.
Now shall we look at the car
Design Language - Exteriors
This new Passat is based on the Volkswagen’s ubiquitous MQB architecture (Modularer Querbauksten, translated to Modular Transversal Matrix) and is the second car based on this platform under the VW brandname, while the first being the Tiguan.
The Passat is simply understated and yet classy. When pitted against the competition, the Passat would emerge as a winner while its cousin, the Superb grabbing the second spot. There’s quite some amount of attention-to-detail that has gone in designing this eight generation Passat.
Walk to the front of the car, it bears the typical Volkswagen face, flanked by a three slat chrome grill. The grill merges into the headlamps thereby maintaining a continuous flow. There’s a beautifully done chrome-line which runs across the bumper lip as well. The highlight element in the front has to be those classy headlights, flanked by double-line DRL’s. Remember, those DRL’s were the first thing you noticed in your rear view mirror and gave the car way to go isn’t it. The headlamp gets a full-LED treatment which is auto-leveling as well as auto adjusting. What I would have loved additionally is the fogs being all LED too.
Moving to the sides, the side profile reveals relatively longer front overhang, which ensures a longer bonnet up-front, equally longer wheel base and a shorter rear overhang, therefore smartly integrated boot lip. At 17-inches, the alloys also help maintain the proportions on the side. The chrome-line that runs along side the side profile, adds character to the side profile and the chrome line that runs on the window line, adds a dash of elegance.
The rear profile is clearly the simplest. There’s a sharp crease running at the bottom of the boot which neatly integrates into the rear bumper. The rear taillights are full LED too, and are amongst the best out there in the market, in terms of detailing and illumination.
At 586 litre of boot space, it may not be the class-leading, but does the job of carrying your week’s trip luggage and that occasional airport run trips’ luggage very well. And oh yes, it does get a virtual pedal too, should your hands be full and you need to open the boot,all what you need is the key in the pocket and one swivel action by your foot below the boot. Overall, the chiseled front, sharp side and rear profile complement the whole visual package. There’s a sense of sophistication this Passat offers and that is very reassuring. If you are someone who doesn’t want any attention, yet you want to make your presence felt, look at nothing but the Passat.
Now, if we are done drooling over the car, shall we step-in?
Design Language- Interiors
Passat comes with passive entry sensors on all the 4 doors. With the key in your pocket, simply place your fingers on the door, the doors unlock. Now, remember, its a German car, so opening the vault-like door, will require some bit of effort. The doors open or close in three-stage action. Once in and you close the door, the “thud” itself is reassuring enough, to let you know, that you are inside something safer.
Once inside, what you notice all around is that the soft touch plastics, leather and felt lining have been used generously. The fit and finish is exceptional, as expected in the cars of this segment.
The Passat gets an all-back cabin. Despite the dark interiors, the cabin feels roomy, thanks to the light grey pillars, larger roof line with the panoramic sunroof and the big glass area in general.
The front fascia houses an8-inch touchscreen system, which is neatly integrated in the dashboard. The end-to-end running ACvents look classy and are flanked by a very retro looking analogue watch which adds a sense of sophistication.
Meanwhile, the audio duties are taken care by the 8-speaker set-up, with tweeters next to the door handles and speakers next to the bottle holders. With right tweaking and tuning, the quality of sound is acceptable. However, if you are an audiophile and are very particular about how your music library sounds, I am afraid that you will have to look at someone else. This is something that the Superb scores really high amongst its competition. The 12-Speaker Canton Setup in the Superb, simply is Superb and suits the taste of an audiophile in you.
In today’s day and age of virtual cockpit displays and TFT Screens, Passat’s analogue instrument cluster though looks out of place, has a retro cum modern charm to it. Retro, as it gets a twin-pod cluster;one for the tachometer and another for speedometer, and modern because the centre screen displays host of information around the car.
The seats are super comfortable and good place to be for your long drives. They provide adequate lumbar support and thigh support, with various electronic adjustments to get that perfect driving position.
Talking about features, the feature list in this top-of-the line Highline that we had for the review is quite exhaustive. It gets 9-airbags, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, a 360 degree camera, Nappa Leather Upholstered seats, ambient lighting and hands-free parking, apart from laundry list of usual safety and comfort features. We wish it came with multiple color options for the ambient lighting though and a virtual cockpit display to take on it’s own siblings, younger and older both.
Overall, should you wish to be in the front seats, I can assure you, they’d be a great place to be in.
Let’s step in the back seat and see how it is fairing. Shall we?
First thing that you notice when you step behind is the acres and acres of space. Trust me when I say this, you won’t need the feel of buying the Mercedes-Benz E Class, once you have bought this one. Yes, all black interiors, don’t bring visual sense of space, but once you are seated, and with the driver’s seat occupied by a relatively taller driver, you have ample space to stretch your legs behind. The seat cushioning is spot on which helps you relax after a hard day at work. The three-zone climate control AC ensures you set your preferred temperature behind, perfectly sculpted rear and side window blinds, help you create your personal space where you can simply take a power nap, while your chauffeur drives you home.
The centre armrest is like any other European car. It allows easy access to the boot from behind. Should you wish to quickly find something from the boot, you don’t have to step out of the car. Instead, flip the armrest down, open the latch and done, you can access your stuff from the boot.
Overall, after a hard day at work, and on days you are not in a mood to drive, I can strongly recommend the back seat of this Passat. It won’t disappoint you.
Performance- Engine and Gearbox
Volkswagen offers the Passat in India in only one engine option;the 2.0 TDI, churning out 180 PS of power and 350 NM of torque, mated to a 6 speed DSG Gearbox(similar state of tune of its Czechsibling, the Superb).The power comes in at around 1500 rpm and goes quickly all the way till 5400 rpm. The engine is punchy and the car makes progress quickly. What I particularly did not like is the engine noise filtering inside the cabin. At all times, you know that you are driving a diesel. Slightly depressing, as within the same group, the Skoda and Audi do a much better job of containing the engine noise and ensures, the noise does not filter inside the cabin.
But, you will ignore the engine rumble, as the car is able to make progress very quickly.
What aids this progress is the dynamic DSG gearbox. It behaves as if it knows what you intend to do behind the wheel and prepares the car even before you have thought of undertaking a manoeuvre. I have to say, no matter how many cars we have driven and reviewed in the past, nothing comes closer to the VW AG groups’ DSG gearboxes lightning quick gear shifting capabilities.
The Passat also comes with Paddle Shifters, but honestly, I never felt the need to use the paddle shifters as the gearbox on most occasions was able to choose the right gear.
Performance- Ride, Handling and Drivability
Passat is the only car in this segment to come with segment-first Dynamic Chassis Control (abbreviated to DCC). What it does is that on the basis of the driving mode(s) you select, the car alters its power delivery, steering weight, throttle inputs and suspension dampers.
Usually, the generic reaction is that these driving modes are a marketing gimmick. But nah.Trust me when I say this, in Passat, you know immediately that the cars’ responses have changed.
While in Eco Mode, where the car becomes lethargic and progress in general is muted, in Sport Mode, the car becomes agile, throttle inputs sharpen, slightest dab on the accelerator and the car surges forward with agility, steering weighs up well and as you go faster and faster, the car holds its line much more sharply. Cornering becomes an absolute cake walk.
Remember, the guy in a Passat could overtake you easily on the curves and surge forward with certain confidence,probably he must have been driving in the Sport Mode.
Now, with DCC or Dynamic Chassis Control in the car, does it become a BMW? No, that’s not what the car is able to achieve, but what it does is, it enables you to drive faster with more confidence.
The flipside for the DCC is the fact that in Comfort Mode the car becomes overtly mushy over the bumps and potholes and the car tends to loosen up the body control, and in Sport mode it behaves exact opposite where the body control sharpens up considerably and the suspension stiffens up, which means you can feel every single rumble strip and those occasional thuds filter inside the cabin.
How do you counter react this?Well then, for this you have the Individual Mode, which lets you choose each of this parameter individually. I can foresee, lot of current owners, must be using the car in Individual Mode, rather than choosing overtly mushy Comfort Mode or overtly sharp Sport Mode.
Speaking about drivability, as mentioned earlier, this bread and butter 2.0 TDI has a highly tractable power delivery. The car feels completely at home in start-stop trafficor going around the city for the inter-city runsor cruising down on the highways for those official or personal trips.
One thing that you will always have to remember is that you are driving a car which is 4.7 meters in length. Your lane changing or overtaking maneuvers have to be well planned, as you need to ascertain whether you will be able to slot the car in the gap.
I did say at the beginning, for the kind of the money you pay for this version of the Passat, you can easily jump into buying the entry-level cars from the big 3 Germans. An Audi A3, or if you haggle successfully, the A4, Mercedes-Benz GLA, BMW X1 or even for that matter now the outgoing 3 Series. So why wouldn’t you want to put your money on these cars instead of picking the Passat? Well to begin with, none of this cars or SUV’s in the contention offer the kind of space or the understated classy and elegant looks the Passat offers. Moreover, with the Passat, it is that moment of love at first sight.Remember, you saw those DRL’s in your wing mirror and went “wow” in your mind…
This is something that is guaranteed, and will happen to all the by standers when they see you zipping-by in the Passat.
So for that person in you, if he wants his car to be modern, yet old school, classier and elegant yet not Korean or Japanese, wants to make his presence felt in a subtle way and yet not want it to be over the top, and finally loves German Quality and Engineering, then for that person in You, the Passat is the perfect car.