The new Volkswagen Passat gets a premium and spacious cabin, a reliable and powerful 2-litre diesel engine and bucket loads of features, but is this enough to revive the fading luxury sedan segment?
The wise men at Wolfsburg have finally decided to give a go-ahead to the new Volkswagen Passat for the Indian market. As a result, the deliveries of this flagship sedan will start from January 2018 onwards. One could ask what took the German manufacturer so long to introduce the 8th generation sedan here? The answer is fairly simple, due to our SUV obsessed market, the luxury sedan market has become stagnant, if not shrunk, unless the sedans are from the German holy trinity. Therefore, Volkswagen decided to wait, watch and then finally give the Passat a green signal. As the Passat only comes with a 2-litre diesel engine option in India, it directly takes on the Skoda Superb. With the Passat’s two variants, Comfortline and Highline, priced at Rs 29.99 lakh and Rs 32.99 lakh respectively, it also competes against the petrol powered Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord hybrid. We drive the new Passat for roughly 400km from Udaipur to Jaipur and find out how it fares on Indian roads.
Still served understated
Sticking to the typical Volkswagen DNA, the new Passat’s design remains understated, more like an evolution than a revolution. True, many European buyers love this trademark Volkswagen style, but unfortunately, in India, a car needs to make a bit of a statement otherwise it just gets lost in the crowd. I can’t guarantee that heads will turn around when the Passat passes by, but some will definitely stop and take note of the sedan and admire its muscular yet subtle looks.
The first thing that catches your attention is the new chrome radiator, which looks like Wolverine’s Adamantium metal claws that seamlessly runs in-between the squared LED projector headlamps with the daytime running lamps below it. To add more panache, there’s a chrome strip that runs across the lower bumper, which also houses the fog lamps. This is Volkswagen’s way to ensure that the sedan exuberates premium-ness.
As understated as the Passat is, it’s the creases on the hood and the broad sword-like shoulder lines that run from the A-pillar all the way to the LED rear lamps that make’s its side profile bolder than conservative. This also makes the flanks look brawny and robust. Coming to the rear and that’s where things start to become all plain-Jane and a little uninspiring. Also, the taillights and the trunk shape somewhat resembles the A4.
Volkswagen’s attention to detail, when it comes to the cabin, it is at par with the BMWs, Audis and the Mercedes. The fit-and-finish, the premium materials used along with plenty of features ensure that it’s a joy to be inside the Passat. Mirroring the front chrome grille, the air conditioner panel too is a long horizontal one, which houses a classy analogue clock in the middle of the dashboard above the massive touchscreen infotainment system. To break the all-black monotony inside, there is a single wooden strip that runs across the dash beneath the AC vents. Personally, I love the flat bottom steering wheel as it is perfectly balanced and gives you a nice sporty feel, though where it goes terribly wrong is that it’s too similar to the Polo’s steering wheel. For a flagship luxury sedan to share similar, if not same, spare parts from a hatchback certainly doesn’t make you feel special. Don’t get me wrong, the Passat from the inside feels very luxurious thanks to the use of soft plastics, the Nappa leather upholstery and the endless list of features like sunroof, an electric rear sunshade, an infotainment system that comes with 360-degree camera and self parking assist apart from Apple CarPlay and Android Auto along with the other standard connectivity options.
In terms of safety, as expected, there is no compromise. The Passat boasts of 9 airbags, anti-lock braking system, electronic stabilisation programme, electronic differential lock to name a few.
Comfort is Passat’s middle name and we would like to start from the rear seats. They are phenomenal when it comes to back support, though the thigh support could have been slightly better. The seats are snug and the headrest gives you ample support. Coming to knee and legroom, if you’re 5 feet 9 inch in height then you can easily cross your legs and sit in a relaxed manner. If we had to nitpick then we would have liked it even more if the rears seats could recline. In case of the front seats, everything is electrically adjustable and both are heated and come with massage functions. While only the driver seat gets memory function. Strangely enough, even though the Passat comes with a three-zone climate control, the rear AC only gets temperature controls, no fan speed controls.
Behind the wheel
Based on the modular transverse matrix (MQB) platform like the Skoda Superb, Audi A3 and now the Tiguan, the new Passat is the first sedan from Volkswagen to use this platform. It is powered by a 174bhp, 2-litre diesel engine. Put the sedan in drive mode and step on the gas, it offers a refined and a linear acceleration. It’s no speed demon, but it seamlessly picks up speed while the rpm needle comfortably hits the 5,000-5,500rpm mark without the engine making any fuss. A lot of credit goes to the quick shifting 6-speed DSG transmission. The DSG also responds spontaneously to the paddle shifters, especially while downshifting.
With the option of five driving modes – Eco, Comfort, Normal, Sport and Individual – the power delivery, the response of the transmission and steering can all be changed. It also comes with adjustable dampers. The suspension set up is slightly firm though it doesn’t compromise in the comfort and continues to deliver the much-expected handling capability of a VW car. As we mostly drove on flat and straight roads, we can’t really comment too much about the handling, but going by how the Superb and the A3 handle, the Passat should manage to take on corners with ease.
If it wasn’t for the gorgeous and capable Skoda Superb in the market, we would have said the Passat is the car to go for when you’re looking a refined diesel sedan, which oozes of upmarket luxurious quality and offers all the latest features. The boot space is a humongous 586 litres and it comes with an ease open boot feature where you just have to wave your foot below the boot and it opens up without a key. The cabin is spacious, comfortable and speaks volumes of Volkswagen’s attention to detail. The 2-litre diesel engine has enough ponies and at the same time managed to return around 15kmpl during our drive from Udaipur to Jaipur where we were constantly over the three-figure mark. One may say that the design is too subtle, but this also ensures that the design doesn’t age too quickly. At Rs 32.99 lakhs (ex-showroom Delhi), it is a well-priced luxury sedan, but then you can pay Rs 1 lakh less and opt for the Superb top-of-the-line L&K. That is the only dilemma I have with the Passat. Otherwise, it is truly a German vehicle and you can’t go wrong with it.
- Volkswagen Passat
Engine: 1,968cc / 4-Cylinders /16 Valves/ Turbocharged
Transmission: 6-Speed DSG Automatic
Power: 174bhp @ 3,600-4,000rpm
Torque: 350Nm @ 1,580-3,500rpm
Price: Rs 32.99 lakh (ex-showroom)