Note - If you need additional photographs or another point of view, you can read Kaustubh Shinde's first look at the VW Passat BlueMotion.
It's been silent for the last couple of days here on IAB. I flew to Goa to take part in the VW Passat BlueMotion media drive while my team members still aren't able to let go of the excitement after India broke the 28 year old jinx of not having won a World Cup.
Did I miss out on the fun of India winning the World Cup?
No, the Passat, through the twisty roads in Goa more than made up for it.
Why should I buy the new Passat?
For starters, the Passat is not from Mercedes or BMW. For a car costing between 25-30 lakh rupees, you get the most possible level of equipment.
At around 30 lakh rupees, the other two Germans offer Corporate or stripped down editions with just the badges. Considering the fact that this is a Volkswagen, the income tax office is not going to alerted with your purchase. This car is for people who don't want to be seen in a BMW or a Mercedes Benz. Maybe they own them or like to stay away from the limelight.
How does the new Passat differ from the old one?
[caption id="attachment_27251" align="aligncenter" width="750" caption="Beige interiors offered on the base variant, while the top-end is dressed in black. Strange, isn't it?"][/caption]
Though the new model sits on the same platform as the outgoing Passat, almost every body panel has been changed. The nose is inspired by the flagship Pheaton model and every other feature has been made a bit more elegant. The seats have been modified for better comfort. The ambient lighting has been changed.
The modified centre console and redesigned accents have proved to be better to look and feel over the outgoing car. The new Passat has an analog clock instead of a digital one which is perhaps the only feature going backwards.
Why isn't VW offering a petrol engine? Have they forgotten to?
No they are very sensible. The Passat' segment is predominantly a diesel segment. Customers are understanding the price difference is substantial between the two fuels and on the long run, the savings are too. VW tells us there is no petrol engine planned and the advantages of a modern diesel like fuel efficiency and better refinement make it lucrative.
What is BlueMotion? Isn't the color they are looking for green?
Green is a common color connoting the environment and doesn't catch human attention anymore. BlueMotion is a series of fuel saving technologies on the Passat that makes it environment friendly. Optimized gear ratios, start-stop technology that shuts the engine at traffic lights, brake energy recuperation feature that charges the battery during braking, gear shift indicator that prompts the correct gear, an efficient electric power steering, etc are a few of them. The engine is fuel efficient and is expected to return close to 16kmpl in the yet to be published ARAI tests.
What is the kind of diesel engine under its bonnet? Aren't diesels supposed to be crude and noisy?
The 2.0-liter 4 pot CRDI motor can be easily mistaken for a petrol from the driver's seat. The engine revs freely and even at 5k RPM, the in-cabin atmosphere is calm. Sound deadening on the new model is very good and harsh vibrations are felt only when turning the engine on.
Is the rear seat like on the BMW and Mercedes cramped on the Passat?
Remember that the Passat is a bigger Volkswagen and longer and wider than the Jetta. The rear seat experience is naturally very pleasant. The sun block on the window is useful on a bright day. Air-conditioning vents at the rear are very effective. Two well-built adults can sit in utmost comfort. Shoulder and thigh support is very good.
What are the best features on the new Passat?
There are plenty of new features on the Highline model (costing about 30 lakh rupees) to talk about.
- Firstly there's the park assist which comes in handy on this long and wide VW. Activate the feature by selecting the type of parking (parallel or perpendicular) and drive by the vacant parking area between two cars or behind a stationary car. The system detects it and asks you to engage the reverse gear through the rectangular display next to the speedometer. You simply modulate the brake and the car steers and accelerates itself into the prescribed space while providing visuals on the display present on the center console. If the angle is too steep or the gap very narrow, it indicates you to put it into Drive so that it can adjust its position by moving forward and steering to align correctly to park in the tight gap.
- The reverse guide camera pops out of the VW logo on the boot. The FM/CD display on the center console turns into a TV screen with guide lines for an accurate parking. There's no need to turn back and risk a crick in the neck.
- The 6 speed DSG transmission is an improvised automatic transmission. The shifts are not lightening quick but the response time is marginally better than the German rivals. There are three ways to drive the Passat - you go for the "Drive" mode where both yours hands stay on the steering wheel at all times and let the car change gears or you slot the shifter into the manual mode and tap it up to engage a higher gear and down for a lower gear.
The third mode is my favorite - put it into "Sport" where the throttle response quickens and the shifts are sharper. Using the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel is the best way to drive the Passat. The left side paddle is for going down a gear and the right paddle takes you to subsequent gears. The paddles can help take your calls on all three modes, but the experience is sweeter when the Sport mode is engaged.
- As expected, the Bluetooth function is present and a 6 CD changer features on the top-end model. The audio quality is extremely good. The touch screen helps you pick your favorite radio station or the song from the USB/CD to suit your mood.
If I go on a long drive, will I be able to carry all my luggage in the boot?
The boot is big enough to swallow a dining table. There is a passage provided when you tip over the rear arm rest that allows you to pop small items into the boot. The boot-kick feature when one swings his leg under the bumper to release the boot is expected shortly on the Indian model. Another useful feature is the rear seat release feature placed in the boot to fold the seats flat.
Is the diesel engine slow in taking calls? It's a diesel at the end of the day, isn't it?
No this particular diesel engine has the credentials to replace an equivalent petrol engine. The 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine produces 30 PS more than the outgoing Passat and 170 PS in all. The more important facet is the 350Nm torque between 1,750-2,500 RPM. The engine is very responsive and the acceleration is fierce. No one will complain about the lack of oomph. Complaints will come only on the slightly lazy 6-speed DSG.
If this is a fast car, won't I crash easily?
No you won't. That's the beauty of this animal. Safety features include Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) incl ABS with brake assist ASR, EDL & TCS. With the ESP turned on, one has to be a maniac to cause an accident. It is loaded with all kinds of electronics working to absorb every input and correct it accordingly.
ABS ensures there's no lock up and the EBD works when brakes are applied around a corner. After an hour of driving hard, you sense you couldn't have done it all by yourself. The electronics make you feel like a great driver. Try doing the same course at similar speeds with the ESP turned off and you understand the very small role you played in keeping the car stable at all the sweeping corners.
What if I am an idiot and end up crashing?
The Passat comes with driver’s and front passenger air bag, curtain air bag system for front and rear passengers, side air bags for front passengers. Need I say more?
Why are you sounding like a Passat advertisement? Can't you find anything bad to talk about?
Yes, there are bad bits on this car I'm afraid. They are very small niggles that can be overlooked while signing on the dotted line. But nevertheless they are niggles.
1) The horn, which is the biggest safety feature on infested Indian roads, plays games with you. Inputs are not taken seriously. There's a processor working on your input and the delay is imminent. I suggest they get it replaced with a simple no-frills one. Apart from clearing up your path, it can save weight and stay true to the BlueMotion theme.
2) The DSG gearbox, though very advanced, still has some distance to go before gelling with the overall advancement of the Passat. A lot is expected from the next generation DSG box as it can shrink the response time and make it feel exactly like a manual. If you are particular about the manual, VW offers the Trendline model (base model) with a 6-speed manual, but it lacks equipment.
3) The Passat has electrically adjustable front seats with blowers in them. They offer different kinds of adjustments but they are a pain when you are sitting at the rear and wanting more leg room. You need to kneel down on the floor and reach for the adjustments. Providing a lever that sticks out of the rear like on the Vento, can fix this problem as the Indian Passat customer is predominantly a rear seat traveler.
4) Under thigh support on the front seats could have been better. For tall people, it is ordinary.
5) LCD screens on the headrests for the rear passenger is absent. VW has to give this a look as long journeys in the rear seat will be uncomfortable without entertainment.
Will you buy one?
Absolutely. Being a true Indian, I'm looking for VFM instead of simply a badge. When I pay 25-30 lakh rupees for a car, instead of pure legacy and brand prowess, I'd want it to have maximum features, room and luxury. The resale value of a VW might not match up to the levels of a BMW or Mercedes Benz, but why must I put that over something like rear seat comfort? As long as I own it, I want it to serve me well and keep me in comfort.
VW is proactive in building a good dealer base, so service is something I won't have to worry about. Given its fuel-saving technologies, I won't be spending a fortune at the pumps. The paddle shifters and truck loads of torque are so much fun if you I'm in the mood to have some myself.
So yes, I'd certainly like to own one if VW offers it in red!