When a vehicle has been in a car maker’s model line-up for over four decades, it definitely implies that the model has been performing exceptionally well for the company. The car in point here is the Volkswagen Passat. Currently available in its eighth-generation iteration, the VW Passat has been launched in the country recently, albeit a couple of years later than its global launch.
The Passat, incidentally, is Volkswagen’s first sedan in India to be based on the MQB, its multi-vehicle modular construction platform. MQB, which stands for Modularer Querbaukasten, translates to Modular Transverse Matrix that supports for shared modular construction of its transverse, front-engined, front-wheel drive (optional four-wheel drive) automobiles. The first Volkswagen product to be based on the MQB platform in India was the recently-launched Tiguan SUV.
Volkswagen India has launched the Passat in India in two trims levels – Comfortline and Highline. We were invited by the company to drive the Highline variant of the Passat from Udaipur to Jaipur and experience the various features of this premium sedan. We tell you if the Passat could be a strong contender in the premium sedan segment. Read on.
DESIGN & COMFORT
The Passat features a typical Volkswagen front-end design, which includes the grill, bumper and headlight design. The car has a short grill with a chrome upper border and three horizontal chrome slats stretching from headlight to headlight, accommodating the ‘VW’ logo right in between. Although the Passat is a wide car, the undisturbed horizontal grill slats provide a visual stance making the car look wider than it actually is. The chrome treatment is also carried over to the lower grill, as well as to the bottom of the bumper. This chrome strip at the bottom of the bumper continues across the sides of the car on the lower end of the doors, culminating at the rear bumper. This provides a classy chrome look around the entire bottom of the car.
Overall, the Passat features minimalistic design elements with very few, but prominent lines and creases, which are subtle and soft to the eyes. The bonnet features character lines that flow beautifully into the front grill. Meanwhile, a stronger shoulder crease presents itself from the front fender right up to the tail lamps. This shoulder crease is quite prominent, and a clever design element is the placement of the outside door handles within this line.
At the corners of the front of the car sit re-styled headlight clusters with automatic full-LED headlamps and LED daytime running lights (DRL), as well as fog lamps with cornering lights. The new Passat Highline trim also comes with newly-designed 17-inch alloy wheels with 215/55 section tyres that fill up the wheel arches well and provide the car with a proportionate stance. On the other hand, the Comfortline variant of the Passat is equipped with 16-inch alloy wheels featuring 215/60 size tyres. The rear of the car has a very simple design featuring LED tail lamps, with the logo acting as the manual boot lid opener, and also concealing the rear camera.
Inside, the new Passat exudes premiumness in terms of space, materials used, as well as fit-and-finish. There is generous use of soft-touch materials across the dashboard, as well as the door pads, with the wood inserts bringing in a much-needed contrast to the all-black interiors. The front air-conditioning vents feature a design that makes them seem to be extending from one corner of the dashboard to the other. An analogue clock on the dashboard adds a touch of class to the dashboard, and breaks the line formed by the vents. The car is equipped with a multi-function flat-bottom steering wheel that has been ergonomically-designed to offer a comfortable grip, along with easy access to the cruise control, infotainment system, multi-information display and gear shifter. Bang in the middle of the centre console sits the 6.5-inch touchscreen infotainment system featuring a music system with eight speakers and various multimedia connectivity options.
The infotainment system also provides phone connectivity with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, which also enables navigation through the phone. This system acts as the display for other information relating to vehicle performance and monitoring, driver performance, as well as the 360° vehicle view. The infotainment system is very responsive to touch, with performance as close to as a smartphone. There is also a rotary dial that can be used to control the system for those not too comfortable with the touchscreen alone. The instrument cluster in the new Passat features two large analogue dials for the tachometer and speedometer, with smaller dials within presenting information of engine temperature and fuel level. There is also a digital multi-information display in between the larger dials, which provides vehicle information that can also be seen on the infotainment system.
Volkswagen claims to have increased the space inside the Passat, thanks to the MQB platform. The wheelbase now has increased by over 70 mm to 2,786 mm. There is definitely no dearth of space inside the cabin, which offers ample amount of legroom and headroom to front and rear occupants alike. The seats are wrapped in Nappa leather upholstery, which kept us comfortable throughout the entire drive, with electric adjustment for the front seats. In addition, the driver’s seat features massage function, along with the ability to be heated. The cabin in the new Passat is an airy place, which is a result of the large windows, and is further escalated by the electric panoramic sunroof.
CONVENIENCE & SAFETY
The new Passat offers numerous storage spaces on the door pads, centre console and arm rests. There is a closed storage space behind the gear lever, which has space to house two cups, along with the front centre armrest concealing a storage box. The centre armrest in the rear seat also includes beverage holders. As a convenience feature, the car has an Easy Open boot with 586 l capacity, which can be opened with the swipe of a foot under the rear bumper and closed using the electric button. The boot space can be expanded to 1,152 l with rear seats folded. As an added convenience feature, the quick-release latches to fold the rear seats are provided inside the boot of the car. The rear side windows come with manually-operated roll-up sun shades, while the rear windshield features an electrically-operated sunshade.
Other features offering convenience in the new Passat are the three-zone climate control with separate controls for the rear air-conditioning vents, keyless access and engine start/stop button. Safety is of high importance in the Passat, which comes with nine airbags, Electronic Stability Control (ESC) including ABS, Anti-Slip Regulator and Electronic Differential Lock, Hill-Start Assist, and electromechanical parking brake. Other features include Auto Hold Function, front and rear disc brakes and two ISOFIX child seat mounts, and all these safety features are standard across both variants of the new Passat. The car offers certain driver assistance systems limited to the top-end Highline trim, which are Park Assist for hands-free parking, reverse camera with 360° view and Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC).
The new Passat is powered by a 1,968 cc, four-cylinder, turbocharged, TDI, common rail direct injection diesel engine. This engine puts out about 175 hp of maximum power from 3,600-4,000 rpm, with peak torque of 350 Nm coming between 1,500 and 3,500 rpm. The engine offers ample juice to power the over 1,500 kg Passat from start, with almost no lag being experienced before power delivery. It is easy to reach triple-digit speeds and then some, since the engine is live almost throughout the rev band, with very little struggle even near the rev limit. This engine is quite an efficient motor, with a claimed fuel economy rating of 17.42 km/l, which on our drive averaged out at 13 km/l. Even with fuel efficiency around the 13 km/l mark, the Passat will prove to have a good driving range, thanks to its 66-litre fuel tank.
The engine is mated to Volkswagen’s fairly-new six-speed, dual-clutch, DSG automatic transmission that offers a sport mode and paddle shifters. The gear shifts are lightning-quick and precise, with manual shifts providing similar results. The gear box compliments the engine extremely well, making this powertrain a thoroughly enjoyable package both when being driven sedately or otherwise.
The new Passat is said to be about 70 kg lighter when compared to its predecessor as a result of the MQB platform, yet seems to have improved levels of rigidity. The suspension set-up of the car comes in the form of McPherson struts with anti-roll bars in the front, with the rear featuring a multi-link set-up. This suspension system, along with the electric, variable assist power steering provide for a driving experience that is engaging and rewarding, even for a car of its large dimensions. The suspension has been tuned to offer high levels of comfort, with bumps of all sizes being soaked very well, almost ensuring zero harshness inside the car. The cabin is quiet when driving style is maintained at typical city-driving conditions, with engine noise starting to creep in as the throttle is pushed down. While tyre noise was almost non-present, wind noise begins to enter the cabin beyond the 130 km/h mark.
Volkswagen offers Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) system in the Highline variant of the new Passat, which allows the driver to switch between five driving modes – Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Individual. DCC essentially is a system that constantly adjusts the characteristics of the suspension dampers to match the road surface being driven on, with relation to the driving mode selected. The suspension set-up is pretty hard in Sport mode, with a definite change in suspension towards the softer side as other driving modes are selected. This active chassis system works very well, especially in combination with the dynamics of the engine, steering and transmission. The DCC system makes the car perform precisely even when the car is fully-loaded with five occupants and a loaded boot.
The driving dynamics of the new Passat is enhanced further by the steering system, which weighs down as speeds increase, making the car change path precisely to the direction it is pointed towards. The DCC system, steering, engine and transmission, along with the other driver assistance systems provide a confident drive of the Passat at all times, and over pretty much all road surfaces. The safety features don’t seem to be too intrusive, allowing the driver to have a bit of fun while pushing this large premium sedan enthusiastically.
The new 2018 Volkswagen Passat has been launched at prices of Rs 29.99 lakh and Rs 32.99, ex-showroom, for the Comfortline and Highline, respectively. The car is priced pretty much in line with other cars in its segment. The new Passat offers a subtle overall design, with typical Volkswagen engineering in terms of a high level build quality, drive and equipment. The overall design comes across as one of a suave product focussed on carrying out the job at hand with utmost class, without gathering much self-attention. But this simple minimalist design language of the Passat may be the factor that could also turn away potential buyers looking for a premium sedan with a bit more styling. However, if reliable performance in an understated, business-like format is what one seeks in their premium sedan, the Volkswagen Passat would be an ideal choice notwithstanding comparison.
TEXT: Naveen Arul
PHOTO: Bharat Bhushan Upadhyay
Additional images of the 2018 Volkswagen Passat: