The Volkswagen Passat has always been the proper middle ground between the executive cars and the entry level sedans from luxury automakers. It offers the performance, the toys and the comfort, without the extravagance. It, then, is the perfect tool for the businessman, who doesn’t want to annoy his boss.
Volkswagen took three long years to bring this new version to India after its international debut. It is the new eighth generation (sixth, actually if you discount the B5 and B7 which were actually facelifts) model based on the MQB architecture that underpins the new Superb. The front grille, with its extended chrome, over the headlamps, makes it appear wider and lower. The side profile is unmistakeably like the last two Passats before it, and the rear appears to be an evolution of the previous B7 with thinner tail lamps. It is not a design that gets you excited and talking, but will please everyone. These days VW makes the Arteon (Passat CC as it was known earlier) for those who want a sporty four door sedan, so the Passat has to do the sensible family car role. The new Passat is unassuming, yet elegant; actually, that works.
The sense of solidity and understated elegance prevail on the inside too. The Passat gets a very modern dashboard with vents that run its entire length like you get in modern Audis. The familiar analogue clock still takes centre stage, and the infotainment system is reasonably big and now packs so much functionality into it. You get park assist, 360 degree cameras, tyre pressure monitoring, Android Auto and Apple Car Play, three zone climate control, nine airbags (including one for your knee), selectable driving modes etc. The Indian car doesn’t get the fully digital instrument console for some reason although you get pointless features like heated seats thrown in. The seats both front and rear are firm yet supportive, something you will appreciate over long distance. The rear seats have generous legroom and headroom is surprisingly good for the roofline. The boot which opens to a small wave of your leg near the rear bumper is cavernous at 586litres. It can be further increased by folding the 60:40 splitting rear seats down, via a lever in the boot itself.
The engine is the familiar 2.0litre diesel, here with 177bhp and 350Nm mated to a six speed dual clutch gearbox. It is similar state of tune as in the Superb, dispatching 0-100kmph in 8.46sec. It feels instant and ready to rev right up to 5500rpm. The gearbox is quick to up-shift and reasonably fast to down-shift too, letting you make full use of the well weighted paddle shifts behind the wheel. The punchy nature of the engine lets you do quick overtakes and in sport mode, the throttle responses are even sharper.
If there is one downside, the engine is a bit harsh and you are always aware it is a diesel underneath. It is quite fuel efficient than the earlier motor returning over 16.2kmpl in mixed conditions in our tests.
It is the first time, the Passat or any car in its class, comes with electronic damper control linked to the driving modes. If you select sport, it will stiffen up the dampers, load up the steering, sharpen the throttle and make the gearbox hold on to gears much longer. In this mode, the car is relatively good fun, changing directions eagerly and feeling composed even on the undulating bits. There seems to be some braking on the inside wheel to make the car turn in sharper, the brakes are fantastic and fade free. On the stiffer setting, the suspension tends to crash bit more than ideal. Also, you feel the suspension could do with a bit more travel and refinement. It is setup on the firm side but you don’t feel too much movement in normal mode, at city speeds.
In a segment that has seen huge decline in sales over the last few years, the new Passat makes a strong case for itself. It is a marked improvement over the car it replaces and one that can prove to be a good alternative to rivals from a segment above. It comes feature-packed, is comfortable, spacious, practical, good looking and now better to drive than ever before. If understated elegance is your thing, there is nothing quite like it.
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