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Volkswagen Passat: Shines under the Goan sun

S. Muralidhar | Updated on August 17, 2011 Published on April 13, 2011

Volkswagen Passat   -  BUSINESS LINE

Volkswagen Passat   -  BUSINESS LINE

Volkswagen Passat   -  BUSINESS LINE

Volkswagen Passat   -  BUSINESS LINE

Volkswagen Passat   -  BUSINESS LINE

Volkswagen Passat   -  BUSINESS LINE

Volkswagen Passat   -  BUSINESS LINE

Volkswagen Passat   -  BUSINESS LINE

Volkswagen Passat   -  BUSINESS LINE

Volkswagen Passat   -  BUSINESS LINE

Volkswagen Passat   -  BUSINESS LINE

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To put it succinctly, it will always be difficult for successors of successful cars to be as successful.

Case in point – the new Volkswagen Passat. Can it better the outgoing model? Can it beat the benchmark set by the predecessor? We drive it in Goa – the sun-and-sand capital of India – to find out.

The new Passat has been criticised by some as being too close to the predecessor inside and behind what doesn't meet the eye. But, clearly every thing about it seems new to the onlooker. There is a lot more that is different in the new package and that which you can only feel.

This is the seventh generation Passat and it is now in India, just a few months after its global debut. To knock a few punches at that existing benchmark VW India has also launched the new Passat with a fancy set of new features and a killer price tag.

Design

The new Passat in its first reveal has apparently borrowed a lot from its bigger, more luxurious sibling – the Phaeton. The bi-xenon headlamps and the tail-lamps hark back to the Phaeton's and the new Passat's proportions also seem to have gotten a bit more generous. The lines all around the new Passat have become sharper and more pronounced. A new LED daytime running lights strip has been integrated into the headlamps, a crisp four-slatted bonnet grille, and a large airdam with loads of chrome accents make the front of the new Passat appear plusher. But, though the new Passat's design enables it to merge seamlessly with the other VW family cars, there is a bit the predecessor's uniqueness missing.

The side profile is also sharper now, with the shoulder line and lower character line now being crisper. The rear of the Passat is even more Phaeton-like. It is a simple backside with VW's signature lines and prominent badging. There is also the new appendage BlueMotion Technology that you'll see at the bottom right of the boot lid. We'll get to that a little later.

Inside the new Passat, the theme is dark grey or beige and there are a number of luxury trim choices. Aluminum panels, walnut-burr wood trim and a lot of VW trademark simplicity in the layout and knobs give you a sense of sitting inside a car that belongs in a segment that is just above the Passat. The seats are also plush and thickly bolstered to provide a nice comfy position. Depending on the variant you choose, there is also the option of perforated, climate-controlled leather seats.

With a large windscreen, there is a lot of glass area and so the interior of the new Passat is well-lit and in the peak of summer could also mean a lot of sun. But there are a number of features that the Passat is being offered with that will keep the interiors quite cool. There is of course the roll-up sunscreen at the rear and the sandwiched, laminated window glass should help the cabin cool down quicker. The windscreen glass also features acoustic lamination to keep out the noise.

Volkswagen is clearly targeting the back bencher with the new Passat. Not that this is a bad marketing strategy in a market like ours, where most buyers in the segment choose to handover their expensive super luxury cars to their chauffeurs to drive. With the amount of attention that has gone into keeping out noise and vibration, and the amount of damping that the suspension has been tuned for, the new Passat should be more of a delight for the owner at the rear than it would be for the self-driving owner who is on the look out for a sporty ride.

Performance

The new Passat is being offered in three trim variants – Trendline, Comfortline and Highline. We drove the Highline trim with the six-speed DSG automatic gearbox. The Trendline variant is offered with the six-speed manual gearbox. Both the gearboxes are paired with VW's two-litre (1,968cc), four-cylinder common rail diesel engine. This is the only engine option and, frankly, a smart choice (as yet) given the preferences of buyers in this segment.

Generating a peak output of 170PS, the engine offers a 20 per cent hike in power compared to the previous Passat. That is a considerable jump in performance despite the marginal increase in weight of the car (thanks the many new features). The engine also delivers most of the power as the engine rpm level crosses the 4,000 mark. The peak torque of 350 Nm also kicks in as the engine rpm level nears the 2,000 mark, which is all pretty good for its class of vehicle.

The DSG dual clutch gearbox is also pretty impressive with its ability to do really fast shifts. This automatic gearbox gets a dual clutch combo that enables one to be in standby even as the other is engaged. The shifts themselves are barely discernable, though there seems to be a lag in transmission of the driver inputs/ information when you stomp the throttle. The gearbox waits just a noticeable bit as it decides the correct slot to match the driver demand.

As we drove the new Passat around Goa inside the small fishing villages, along coast stretches and the crowded market places, there is a remarkable sense of isolation and calm inside the cabin. The engine's refinement comes through during hard acceleration and the noise from the aircon vent is more audible. The steering is well-weighted and precise, though a little more feedback would have been welcome.

Though there are a lot of features that seem to be oriented towards making the Passat more comfortable for the owner in the rear bench, that hasn't stopped VW from loading up a few that will be better appreciated if the new Passat were to be self-driven. The fatigue detection system that warns the driver if he seems to be drowsy or distracted is one, as are the 12-way adjustable front seats with active airconditioning and the nifty new Parking Assist system with the rear camera hidden behind the circular VW badge on the boot lid. There is also the triptronic manual gear selection option using steering mounted paddles for those who like a sportier drive and then there is the auto dimming exterior mirrors.

BlueMotion Technologies

The new Passat is offered with VW's proprietary BlueMotion Technologies package for the first time. The bunch of eco-friendly systems that the package offers are meant enable a reduction is emissions and improve fuel efficiencies. Apart from the frugal engine and the DSG gearbox that together contribute to reducing the fuel consumed compared to a similar powertrain without this technogy, the most prominent of the range of refinements included is the Start/Stop system.

The Passat's system automatically shuts off the engine when the driver brakes to a halt and then the engine comes alive again the moment the driver touches the throttle pedal. There is also brake energy recuperation, which recaptures the energy during braking (that would otherwise be lost) and converting it to power the batteries. While the DSG dual clutch gearbox is said to be finely tuned to optimise fuel consumption, in the manual gearbox, a gear shift indicator in the info display is meant to prompt the driver to select the most appropriate gear slot for the current driving cycle.

Despite all the good intentions, there may be a few features in the new Passat that might just be more of a novelty and/ or they might end up being impractical. The Park Assist is one of them, needing more space for it work efficiently than what you might find in the average Indian car park area. Even after a few trails, in an open parking lot, it might still be quite difficult for the average driver to let the car's systems completely take control of the parking process. But, yes, it is quite a novelty to watch the car's systems take over the steering process and all you need to do after choosing the right parking (parallel or perpendicular) pattern is to control the throttle and brake.

The Start/Stop system is another that just might get a bit annoying in extremely slow-moving, stop and go traffic, though it will achieve the goal of saving some fuel for you.

Bottomline

The new Passat packs in a lot more – like a electric slide sunroof, more safety features like the airbags all around, hill hold control and the usuals like ABS, EBD and TCS. There is also a rough road package to keep the occupants even more relaxed in bad terrain. Fuel efficiency numbers, the driver fatigue system and the rear ride quality could not be experienced or verified during our test drive.

Clearly, the new Passat is packed to the gills with features and will be good value for the new prices that have been announced ranging from Rs 20.8 lakh for the Trendline to Rs 25.65 lakh for the comfortline (both ex-showroom, Delhi). Remember it is a diesel and it is a Passat! For existing owners of the Passat, it can be a difficult decision to make to replace. After all, Passats don't get tired, seem go on and on, and retain their value too.

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Published on April 13, 2011
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