Classically understated in every way except the features list
VW has a flagship that incorporates a seriously luxurious cabin in a classy executive sedan shell. Doesn’t sound any different than the rivals? We thought so too but then, we drove it
Adecade back, the Passat came into the market with the intention to usurp the D-segment. At the time, it mainly rivalled Skoda which incidentally is a family brand. But by then, the Indian market had whole-heartedly lapped up the trdelnik that the Czech had served in the form of the Superb. So a late entry (a whole three years later) into the market and charging a premium over the Czech, didn’t quite go down well with the price-conscious Indian appetite. A couple of years after that, the Skoda even went on to dominate the segment while the Volkswagen fizzled out of contention.
A decade later, Volkswagen chose the same date and venue to launch the all-new Passat with an all-new confidence of having a new flagship sedan steal some market share. The story however, began in the early Seventies when VW started manufacturing this family sedan. Since then, the model has seen seven generations of upgrades, makeovers and quantifiable success. With the allnew model, the Passat enters its eighth generation but then again, Volkswagen still believes in making a late entry to steal the show. This time, two years late. First unveiled for global markets in 2015, the new-gen Passat played a small cameo at the VW stall during the 2016 Auto Expo held in Noida, U.P albeit in GTE form. But even two years on, as we approached the car for a test run, the design has a timeless appeal to it and looks ever so beautiful.
The simple yet strong design lines on the bonnet and the shoulders exude class, strength and sophistication. These are traits that define the car as an executive sedan which quite obviously, is the Passat’s intended place and resulting appeal. This car is an example of Volkswagen’s evolved design philosophy and if you take a look at upcoming cars from the manufacturer like the Arteon, you can see the origins of the design in the new Passat. Blurring the lines between sporty and stately, Volkswagen places the horizontally slatted grille and LED headlamps low with an appearance that makes them look as a continuous unit. This makes the bonnet look larger but lower while also allowing the windshield to be raked sharper. Take a look at the side profile and the roofline lowers till the boot with a subtle hint of a coupe. Make no mistake, this is a 3-box design and one that has been done rather well. The subtlety in its design is even more appealing in the flesh and rest assured, will garner a lot of attention so long as one has taste for understated elegance.
Step inside the cabin to find a continuation of the exterior theme. Most noticeably, the air-con vents are housed in the same manner as the front grille and headlights as a continuous unit across the width of the dashboard. Black Nappa leather upholstery with wooden inserts dominate the top-half of the dashboard while softer plastics have been used in the lower half of the cabin. This is a cabin that’s luxurious and of top-notch quality. So much so that every nook and
cranny has been thought through for driver-focused convenience. The passengers haven’t been forgotten in the process as both front seats are power adjustable while rear passengers can appreciate dedicated vents and controls.
The extensive feature list boasts of a three-zone climate control, electric sunroof, electric rear blind, and automatic parking to name a few. Segment norms for the current crop of executive sedans but good to have them nonetheless. The party trick lies in the back with the “Easy Open/Close” boot which can open with a shake of your leg (when your hands are full, pun unintended) and as you walk away, it will shut automatically.
One of the major highlights of the car is that it’s the first sedan in India based on Volkswagen’s modular MQB platform. This has helped the Passat offer nearly 600 litres of boot space and should you need more, it can be expanded with 60/40 split foldable rear seats. Not just space, the Passat’s handling is
EXTENSIVE FEATURE LIST INCLUDES A THREE-ZONE CLIMATE CONTROL, ELECTRIC SUNROOF, ELECTRIC REAR BLIND AND AUTOMATIC PARKING
another aspect that has benefitted from the new platform. The ride quality is good overall for our road conditions although some may find it slightly on the stiffer side, making for a balanced handling package. The damping is softer at the rear, good for speed bumps and potholes, not so much while at speed on a concrete highway. Seated in the front, the experience is much different as damping is better on the front suspension, possibly aided by the weight of the engine. Mild undulations are felt more at the rear but comfort seems to be the focus than outright sporty handling. There are driving modes that can alter the behaviour of the 2.0-litre TDI diesel engine and 6-speed DSG transmission and switching between them results in a noticeable difference. The power delivery is smooth and the quick shifts ensure a rapid build up of pace for effortless cruising ability. The Passat is as much a sporty driver’s car as it is a comfortable executive sedan to be driven around in. Claimed to offer 17.4kmpl, the Passat is also likely to keep trips to the fuel station at a minimum.