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Old 11th April 2011, 09:11   #1
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Default Driven: The 2011 Volkswagen Passat

The Volkswagen Passat has been launched in India at a price of 20.80 lakhs (ex-Delhi).

What you'll like:

• Well built, solid & safe construction
• Loaded with technology (Regenerative brakes, Self-Park, rear view camera and more)
• Smooth 168 BHP engine and DSG gearbox. Refined noise levels
• Balanced ride and handling package
• Interiors boast typically German detailing, great ergonomics and A+ driver visibility
• Aggressive entry-point pricing strategy for the Trendline

What you won't:

• Same platform as outgoing Passat. Interiors are nearly identical
• Superb still has more legroom for chauffeur-driven sahibs
• Electric power steering takes away tactility. Keen drivers won't like understeer bias
• Climate control just about coped with Goa heat, at the back
• Long-term ownership costs & reliability are yet unchartered territory
• Highline variant goes into BMW 320d, X1 & Mercedes C Class price range

NOTE: Click any picture to open a larger higher-resolution version in a new window.

Last edited by GTO : 11th April 2011 at 13:49. Reason: Adding note on accessing the larger picture sizes
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Old 11th April 2011, 09:12   #2
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Default Volkswagen Passat : Test Drive & Review

The D segment was previously a category used to cream the market or put a shine to the brand. The low volume of cars sold meant that, not every player took the needs of the D segment seriously. Customers become more demanding & the technology in these cars is different. Not all cars were properly optimised for our unique driving conditions. It ends in a vicious circle; customer wants technological features, the dealer cant cope with it and can't be bothered since it is a small segment (then), customer walks off, cuts his losses and moves to another company. These customers are usually decision makers and that can be a key influencer on company car fleets.

Cut to 2011. The small D segment just got bigger. Customers upgrading from the C+ segment want more, including the service that they have been used to. A brief recap on the D segment over the past decade:

2001 - Explore

This was a three way battle between the Mondeo, Sonata and Accord. First-gen Honda Accord is too plain-jane and ends up a slow mover. The Mondeo, as brilliant as it was, suffered electrical problems, fuel pump issues, rear suspension issues and developed an "expensive to maintain" image. All these could have been resolved if the dealers were prepared to understand and diagnose. The Sonata was outclassed both dynamically and brand wise, despite having the early advantage.

Circa 2003-2004 - Dominate

Honda Accord - All new generation changes the game, even though it only had a petrol variant. The Accord had a 16 lakh rupee price, class leading looks, decent dynamics, automatic options and the V6 if you wanted more punch.

Skoda Superb 1 - Priced a good 4 lakhs more. It promised E class space for near C class price, but looks too much like the Octavia. Almost bombs until the diesel variant is brought in. Sales were limited, and reliability issues cropped up. I see one or two rotting at my dealer (I own an Octavia vRS) due to lack of parts. A Superb taxi driver in Singapore told me that the gearbox modules give up. It takes 3 months to get the part in! Additionally, tuning that complex 2.5L diesel engine is a skill in itself, as I understand from different forums.

Sonata Embera - Arrives during end 2005. Offers nearly everything (diesel, petrol automatic, space, comfort), it achieves nothing! Cheap interior and poor marketing contribute to its failure. It even came as a diesel automatic - a potential killer of a combination. I drove up with my mum in the OHC Vtec to a dealer to buy her a Getz. The dealer wanted to get me to upgrade to a Sonata. His first words "Honda is rubbish, just a badge!" If you insult a customer's previous decision - which he was happy with BTW - that's just not a good start.

Ford Mondeo - Despite a refresh, indifferent service means a good car withers away.

And so the Honda Accord still rules. Lesson - Customer wants a degree of opulence and to be treated so.

New Entrants - Circa 2007

VW Passat comes in, priced at 2 lakhs more than the Superb. The VW premium is hard to justify, especially for a 4 cylinder vs a 6 cylinder engine. It sells in limited numbers. Methinks it was used to establish the brand, give some early margins to dealers and help VW understand after sales dynamics. They sure learnt a lot after those turbo failures.

Game Changers - End 2009

Enter the New Skoda Superb 2: Proves less is more - smaller engine delivers impressive performance, economy, space and blow-you-away equipment at a reduced price. Despite awkward looks, an impressive value package shines through. The new Honda Accord has a presence and that's it! It proves the theory that mere increment is mediocre. Superb diesel is around Rs 3 lakhs more, and doesn't prove an attractive proposition.

VW find that their "poorer" brother (i.e. Skoda Superb) has snatched the coveted big cheese. It tries to stretch the Passat into the Accord segment with the 1.8 TSi, yet the Skoda brushes it aside. The Skoda Superb continues to dominate the 20 lakh rupee segment.

2011 - Family Carve out

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Take a look at the prices (all ex-showroom Delhi). The petrol segment is now the Superb's for the taking. The new Passat takes the diesel segment, or atleast that's the plan. While I await the details of the Trendline, even when compared to the Accord manual, its Rs. 100000 premium is justified by a powerful diesel engine. We have not even begun to talk about the build quality and driving dynamics yet.

This segment accounts for nearly 1,000 cars a month. With the way the VW group has proposed to control this segment, the margins they make might almost be the same as the Ventos produced. However, is there a straw that can break the camel's back? Time can only tell! Service network, fuss-free reliability, superior customer care and strong products are the way forward. Honda is falling back on the last two. But should we be writing Honda off? Looking at hard statistics like power and physical dimensions, Honda should be leading the pack. Well, there is a lot beyond dimensions in this segment. Feel, handling, features and branding play a larger role. The VW group are playing to their strengths over here.

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Last edited by ajmat : 11th April 2011 at 21:38. Reason: Updating Post title
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Old 11th April 2011, 09:13   #3
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Default Volkswagen Passat : Test Drive & Review

Which is VW’s first successful front-engine car? The default answer would be the Golf. Some smarter folks will dare to say the K70. Sorry people, the Golf came 2 years later, and the K70 was really an NSU product which had very limited performance. VW decided that it needed to do something better.

Turning VW back to front (both engine & financial wise) was a radical if necessary step, so they decided to shamelessly grab the Audi 80 platform under development, and slap a fastback body. Hey presto, the Passat of 1970!!

The Passat has over the years evolved from a basic robust family car to something a little more premium when compared to a Ford. It is also significant for VW, as the Santana (Passat saloon) which gave VW a foothold into China, and is probably a key reason for VW surviving the production inefficiencies of the early 90’s. Being a first mover in what is the world's biggest car market is no small feat.

Passat 1

Pretty radical for its time. It took a while and the introduction of the later Golf for the "Volk" to show that VW were back & powered from the front. VW was getting known as a producer of old style rear engine cars (almost like HM!) Picture source :

Driven: The 2011 Volkswagen Passat-vw_passat_b1_v_sst.jpg

Passat 2

Although conservative looking, this car has been the mainstay as the Santana derivative opened the Chinese market for VW. Pic source :

Driven: The 2011 Volkswagen Passat-vw_passat_b2_front_20081007.jpg

Passat 3

Replicating the air cooled front. Call it the Ford Sierra influence. Pic source :

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Passat 4

Really a reworked Passat 3. Nothing radical here. Pic Source :

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Passat 5

Clearly established VW as a more premium mid-ranger. Pic Source :

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Passat 6

Chrome is back home! Pic source :

Driven: The 2011 Volkswagen Passat-newvwpassat2.jpg


Enter the Passat 7. It is not radically different when compared to the Passat 6. Considering it is based on the previous Passat platform and honed especially on the refinement front, you could even consider it as a 6.5. Except for the roof pressings and the glass, all panels are brand new. The biggest change is that its CO2 output is significantly lower with the introduction of Bluemotion technology across the range. The focus is on comfort and carbon reduction.

At first glance, my thoughts were:

"Honey, I shrunk the Phaeton"
"I parked the Jetta in a photocopier"
"A Phaeton rear-ended the Passat which rear ended a new golf"

The front end, though modern, lacks the character of its predecessor:

The Passat has never seeked to be a radical upstart in its segment. The focus is being conservative and classy, and the car does this well. Except for a couple of minor aspects, build quality is first class, with the car feeling solid. There is some discrete scalloping of the lines on the side. I, for one, am a bit disappointed with the rear styling. The previous Passat had interesting LED lights; Compared to those, these look anonymous. If you squint, it even looks like the Skoda Superb at a passing glance.

Bi-Xenon headlights. Notice the oodles of chrome (Indians love it!). Two sets of lights below - one acts as the fog light while the other......

.....serves as a cornering light (when the headlight and indicators are switched on):

Neat LED's; you don't have to stump up more to get these on an Audi:

Headlight washers are quite powerful. Note the large sensor behind the headlamp; that is for measuring the parking space:

Rear LED lamps - not as interesting as that of its predecessor:

Rear parking camera : VW badge flips, and the camera pops out. The camera though is useless in bright light:

Snazzy 5 spoke alloy wheels:

Although the covers are more for aerodynamics, the engine is well-protected from small flying stones. It also keeps the engine clean. Even after 500 kms, there was hardly any dust in the engine compartment. Suspension has been raised by 15 mm for Indian conditions:

Oodles of Chrome. I wonder how durable the lights are from stone chips:

Folding Mirrors. A must in India:

Big panel gaps around the A pillar:

Battery is located underneath the rear wing. Looks vulnerable during a rear shunt which could immobilise you:

Last edited by ajmat : 11th April 2011 at 21:39. Reason: Frount = Front
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Old 11th April 2011, 09:14   #4
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Default Volkswagen Passat : Test Drive & Review

The interiors are nearly the same as the previous generation. The only exceptions are the analogue clock, switchgear on the central console for some of the gadgets, and the keyless ignition. If you don't want to keep the key in your pocket, there is a slot on the dash to pop it. Black leather interiors are standard on the top-end only. The Comfortline has the beige colour option:

The key can now remain in your pocket:

Driving Position - With a 12 way adjustment (3 way on lesser variants), it is easy to get comfortable. The only issue is that, with so many variables, you need to experiment to get there. The seats are air-conditioned and have circulating fans inside. However, I really did not experience any cooling from these. They are comfortable enough, just don't expect to be "hugged" like in some more sporting cars. The steering adjusts for both, rake and height. Taller drivers may find that instruments are obscured by the wheel. The extremities of the bonnet are not visible (you have parking sensors for that!) but somehow, I had no issues judging the length of the car. The handbrake is an electronic button; it takes time to get used to. Being an on/off activation, no more handbrake turns! Its location is logical for an experienced driver and will be fun when it comes to valet parking. The HVAC controls are a little low, and necessitate taking your eyes off the road to adjust. The switchgear is chunky and feels robust.

One thing to add is that I jumped into the Passat without waiting for any instructions, so that I could experience how intuitive the car is. Except for the park assist system, it was easy to get oriented with the essential controls. Instruments are clear, although it takes a while to keep track of the many warning lights. You are confronted with 3 stalks - indicators (on left), wipers (on right) and cruise control (on lower left). There are two paddle shifters; Left (-) to shift down, Right (+) to shift up. You also have the option to flick the gear selector up and down respectively. The steering controls the radio / phone, MID and settings. A bit busy for the uninitiated, my recommendation is to focus on control (normal driving switchgear) until you are familiar.

The steering is chunky and great to hold. The horn requires a push to operate though. There is a bit of a millisecond lag between push and parp, so one needs to plan ahead when honking. Pedals are well spaced for my size 10 shoes. Of course, a dead pedal is included. There is plenty of wood burr, while the chrome is of a good quality. Except for some minor plastics, which I will discuss later, everything looks durable. Based on the limited information in the press pack, the Trendline variant will not have the Wood burr finish.

An electric sun-blind, as well as pull-up blinds on the rear doors, are provided. These are nicely integrated. Rear seat comfort is good, though not exceptional. Rear passengers seem to sit lower than the driver. As long as the person in front is below 6 ft, space is adequate. I felt quite comfortable, though under-thigh support could be better. Add the dark interior and there is a semblance of a coal face; some may like it, some wont. The rear arm rest has a small stowage compartment inside. Also, the rear seats fold 60:40 to provide more space for awkward / long objects. It can be used for allowing dogs to ride, without messing up the seats too much. There is a ski hatch which enables one to carry long objects, and allows limited access into the boot (to rear passengers).

Highline variants get a colour MID:

The MID system provides data on the:
  • Phone
  • Entertainment controls
  • Convenience features (coming home lights etc.)
  • Lighting (auto dipping etc.)
  • Operations (fuel consumption, times, distance, fuel range etc.)

NOTE : It is a bit nannying in that, it will not allow you to make any adjustments while on the move.

Stowage areas are few, but whatever is there is generous in size. The traditional area for the handbrake serves for the armrest (and a console box + power socket within). The centre console has a venetian sliding lid to conceal the cup-holders:

The door pockets are deep and narrow. You might need to dig in deep to hunt for your keys / loose change. A 1 litre water bottle will fit in the fronts easily:

The stereo has 12 speakers and a 6 CD changer. There is an aux port in the glove box. It can also accommodate SD cards. The stereo has good mid-range, but the bass needs to be tighter. It will please most, and for the others, a mere speaker upgrade can be considered:

Radio console turns into a camera when reversing. Not too visible in bright light:

Generous glovebox has a cooling function:

Pull the tag, and you get a holder for the iPod, as well as a USB connection:

I was disappointed by some cheap plastics used in the less visible areas. The roof console housing the map lights, sunroof switch and sunglass holder looked as if it came out of a Corolla!! The one in my Octavia is much better made. The rear console (housing the rear air vents) looks rather fragile too. If you have kids trumping around, it might not survive the test of time:

Driver roof console; note dummy assistance buttons. Red LED's are for ambient lighting. Plastics were disappointing:

Heating and Air-conditioning - It was effective and considering the massive torque of the engine, I did not feel any drag. However, after being parked in 32 degrees centigrade, the HVAC just about coped. I was sitting on the rear seat and it needed to try hard. On discussing with the VW Technical head, I understand that the air-conditioning unit is lifted straight from Europe. If sales volumes increase and there is a case for localisation, then a more robust locally-developed version might come in. Don't forget that quite a few Skodas wore their compressors out!

Seat Controls, including fan switches:

The front seats can accommodate basketball players!

But you cannot take a team of four basketball players:

Nifty rear Sun-blinds which retract into the door. Almost negates need for sunfilm!

Small oddment tray within armrest. Ideal for your teens iPod & headphones, since they will NOT listen to your music . Two cup holders pop out of here:

Rear seat vent. Cheap plastic cover for power outlet:

Rear Map reading lights:

The boot is a cavernous 560 litres:

Seat folds down in a 60:40 ratio. Generous ski hatch can be used by passengers to access items in the boot. Ideal for stowing iPads and cameras away from prying eyes:

Nicely shaped well in rear wing for various oddments:

Classy Boot Hinges:

Seat back is quite hard-wearing:

Neat touch - Holder for floor board while accessing tools. Note the levers for the rear seats, and the hooks to hold those vegetable bags:

Last edited by ajmat : 11th April 2011 at 21:43. Reason: Spacing of new pictures
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Old 11th April 2011, 09:15   #5
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Default Volkswagen Passat : Test Drive & Review

About BlueMotion

Before we go into how the Passat drives, let's talk about Bluemotion. Bluemotion is a sub-branding exercise to send the message that VW is harnessing technology effectively to ensure its cars pollute minimally. The only non-polluting transports are wind-powered boats and your legs BTW.

BlueMotion comprises of various components:

Engine Start / Stop
- Idling is where the engine is at its most inefficient. After all, you are standing in one place and still burning fuel! This concept is not new to VW. The 1981 Passat Formel E had the start-stop function, except that you needed to push a button to stop and start. In the Passat's case, if you stop and activate the handbrake OR select Park, the engine switches off. If you put your foot on the brake pedal, it starts again. While this will inevitably save fuel, it also begs the question : If I go for a high speed run and stop, the engine will potentially halt and thus my turbo will be cooked. VW says that the engine only stops if certain parameters like turbo temperature & inside temperature are within a specific tolerance band. It was a bit unnerving to have the engine cutting out on you, but the second nature of touching the accelerator to restart brings the car back to normal. The stop-start can be switched off if required.

DSG Gearbox - The DSG is programmed to shift optimally as per the torque curve. I found that the car was in sixth at 40 km/h driving very gently!! The quick shift means one does not feel hampered. The 5th and 6th ratios are very high. More on this in the drive post. Again, the '81 Formel E used these principles albeit with a manual gear box.

168 BHP, 350 Nm Engine
- The huge low end torque of 350 Nm @ 1,750 rpm allows tall ratio gears - go read your physics text books. A recipe for economy, 'nuff said.

Regenerative Brakes - This is one of those "why did I never think of this before" ideas. I cannot say that I observed this, unless we had an ammeter on us (what is that, remember your grand Dad's Ambassador?).

Low Resistance Tyres - The Passat was fitted with low resistant Pirelli Cinturato tyres. Tyres do make a difference on drag.

Fuel consumption observed - On narrow Goan roads, while driving like a priest, the MID was showing 12 kpl. Given time and a constant cruising at 80 kph, 15 kpl (or more) is achievable. When the Passat was being pushed hard to understand its capabilities, the lowest figure I saw was 9 kpl.

Last edited by GTO : 11th April 2011 at 10:42. Reason: Torque = 350 Nm
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Old 11th April 2011, 09:15   #6
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Default Volkswagen Passat : Test Drive & Review

The under-bonnet space is pretty good and much more accessible, since the battery is in the boot. This 2.0L common rail diesel engine will be familiar to us all. It appeared 18 months ago in the previous generation Passat and with various states of tune in the Jetta, Laura, Superb and Yeti. However, we only saw the 138 BHP version. VW has upped the ante and given the new Passat 168 horses. This puts it into Mercedes C Class / BMW 3 series territory, and overrides the Audi and top end Skodas. Boy, this is sibling rivalry at its best!

As some people would say, it's not what you have but how it is delivered. The reports that I read about the 168 BHP engine claim it is peaky and that there is lag. As mentioned earlier, the 2.0L diesel is mated to a 6-speed DSG gearbox. Unlike the previous Passat, the top two gears are high for green reasons. Therefore it gives us keen drivers the blues - Blue Technology for you.

There were two reasons for increasing the power. One, to give more perceived value to the customer (although it is really software tweaks) and second, to provide similar-to-138-BHP characteristics, but with higher gearing & efficiency.

The engine starts with a bit of clatter. From the outside, you know it is a diesel. From within, it is a mute grunt. The noise is well insulated. It ain't music to your ears, yet it is no tractor either. I rode in the Passat when it was being driven "Italian" style, high revs et al and the NVH was never overbearing. The engine spins well through the revvs and you don't feel like you have hit a wall. Torque delivery is between 1,750 to 3,500 rpm. With the DSG, you do not feel the thump. VW has not added a diesel particulate filter. Although a DPF is good for the environment, it is bad for the wallet (replacement after 4 years costs in five figures) and would get blocked during our typical stop start conditions. VW claims our diesel fuel quality isn't suited to the DPF.

Our drive was on Goa country roads. Since it was the day after the World Cup, the roads were empty. I first started up the car and drove it in D mode. The gearbox shifted to the highest gear and the car felt "blue". One could detect that it was performing according to fuel economy parameters. When puttering about town, the Passat feels very relaxed. I found that, at 40 kph, the car had shifted into 6th gear. In a normal car, it would feel pretty dull, but the DSG does mitigate what would be a numbing experience. The engine will kick down and perform as and when required. The D is perfectly ok, when you are merely "commuting" from Pt. A to Pt. B.

It was then time to try the "S" mode - That transforms the car. It does nanny the driver in that one cannot over-rev or stall since it will shift gears appropriately to preserve the engine. However, one needs to understand the torque curve to get the best out of it. I found I spent more time in the first four gears to get the maximum enjoyment. Despite the torque, it did not possess the mid-range excitement that a vRS gives. The DSG responds quite well, providing you anticipate situations and make changes appropriately.

The car was easy to place on the roads and one never felt its bulk. The steering is accurate but devoid of feel. Being all electric, a lot of road feel has been dialed out. I drove it hard on some ghat roads and found the need to compensate for understeer bias. This ain't a 5 series or a C class in steering feel or balance, though it will do the job most of the time. On discussion with the VW technical head, he admitted that nothing can beat a hydraulic system for feel. 80% of the time, the car never uses the power steering pump and it creates drag on the engine. The opportunity to integrate anti-yaw systems and ESP means hydraulics are no longer in favour. The benchmarks by which I judge the Passat are the Mondeo 3 and the BMW E60. There is a clear bias towards comfort and "wafting". It does not have the Mondeo's steering tactility nor the BMW's purity.

The ride was firm, still tuned towards comfort for India. The truth came during a drive over some hillocks at speed, one could literally feel the rear suspension travel and absorb irregularities. However, if you are a rear passenger with an enthusiastic driver, you will feel queasy. All versions are shod with 215/55 R16 tyres. There was some road noise on rough surfaces, but not intolerable. What was impressive was the stability. In an unfamiliar car and surroundings, I was told I was already at 3 digit speeds. I needed to check myself. The brakes were powerful and had a good feel to them. I could wipe off quite a bit of speed before entering a corner. The key to driving this car fast and well was to use the torque band. Even if the car is driven with violent acceleration and braking in corners, the wheels merely chirp and the ESP wipes up the mess. My co-driver was gunning it all through the route. On the return segment, I instead kept the engine around 3000 rpm to leverage the torque. The Passat took the same time effortlessly, so much so that the earlier driver asked "Did we take the same route?"

All in all, a very surefooted car and an effortless mile-eater. Both, from a driver and a passenger perspective, fatigue never set in.

The Electronic Stability Program (ESP)

I did try a couple of different scenarios:

Test 1: Loose mud and gravel on one side, tarmac on the other. We approached this at 100 kph and braked hard. Nothing, it stopped without drama.

Test 2: Brake too late into a corner. Combination of ESP and ABS kept the car in line

Idiot Moment of Proof
: I experienced this as a passenger. When being driven at speed, the driver went into the curve a little too fast. This curve contained a speed bump before, and crossed a railway track mid-curve. The front end lifted up on the bump but by the time, it touched the ground, the Passat had gained traction and was back in control. If this was a normal car, we would have under-steered onto the tracks.

The Self-Park System

The Self-Park system has its merits when in situations where space is tight. The parking process is simple:

a) Drive up to the parking spot, and press the self-park button once for parallel parking, or twice for 90 degree parking. Switch on the indicator and move slowly. This tells the car to search and measure width. On finding the appropriate width, the car will tell you to slot into reverse. Do that and the experience is ghostly as the car manoeuvres in, spinning the steering wheel automatically. It will stop at times to tell you to shift forward / backwards as required. If you grab the wheel, the system reverts to manual.

It was not mentioned or demonstrated, but I read on int'l forums that self-park can be used to get the car out of tight spaces. Some limitations are that it required 40 cm of clearance on either side to allow it to park; we do miracles when parking in India!! The other aspect is that it cannot detect gutters or low paving. Our test car scrunched its tyres against some garden paving. Don't be surprised if you get ditched when impressing your hot date with this car, literally!

This feature is certainly not a must-have for the experienced driver, though newbies may consider it nice to have.

Attention Assist

We did not get to try this feature out. The "Attention Assist" system monitors the driver's head movement and steering inputs. It maps these over a period of 15 minutes at speeds over 65 km/h. If it detects no movement or no inputs within the expected intervals as mapped out, a warning sound and a warning light (in the form of a coffee cup) start flashing, suggesting you stop for a break. Ideal for those hot summer afternoon drives.

Last edited by GTO : 11th April 2011 at 10:37. Reason: Spacing & spell-check
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Old 11th April 2011, 09:15   #7
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Default Volkswagen Passat : Test Drive & Review

The Passat comes in three variants, all with the same 168 BHP diesel engine. Compared to the Highline that I tested:

Trendline Variant : Sold with a manual gearbox. The features are not finalised at the time of writing this review. Expect no wood trim, regular headlights and manual adjustment on the seats. I am not sure if the stereo could be upgraded, but a Trendline with a stereo upgrade is worth a look if you want to have fun. Be prepared to stir the gears a lot as it might have very tall ratios.

Comfortline Variant : Differences vis a vis the Highline:

Beige leather upholstery, monochrome MID, 16" Perugia alloy wheels, and a steel spare wheel. Capture from VW website below:

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The Highline offers in addition:
  • Black Nappa upholstery
  • Colour multifunction display
  • 12 Way electrically adjustable front seats
  • Driver seat with 3 position memory
  • Front Climate seats - active air-conditioned front seats
  • Exterior mirrors have auto-dimming on driver's side, with memory
  • Tyre pressure monitoring system
  • Rear View camera
  • Park Assist (self parking system)

Colours : Black, Dark grey, Mocha Brown (our test car), White and Silver - not very exciting. Product manager told me that no one in this segment wants loud colours.

The bottom line is, if you are a competent driver and can get comfortable with the lesser seat permutations, the Comfortline would do fine. 2 lakhs more for the Highline to park itself and cooling your derrière is an individual decision. If you really like the black trim, one lakh of the two saved could remedy that. But consider that the extra amount still gives you a car which has features of far more expensive cars.

Running Costs : VW are attempting to keep running costs down. Service intervals are annually at 15,000 kms, though I would press for an oil change every 7,500. Remember, these engines guzzle oil when new. I would expect bills to be around Rs 15,000 per annum for the first three years. Various services packs are on offer, as also protection packages covering alloy wheel damage and rodent appetites. No indications of costs were given. Period.

The jury remains out on the long term reliability. The ability of the dealer network to handle the complexity also remains to be seen. I have had to resolve niggles in my Skoda by myself since the dealer lacked the basic diagnostic capability. They had the code readers, but not the ability to go beyond and understand possible causes. The fear is that they might merely review fault codes, replace parts and the same thing happens again. VW parts are well made and durable, but they are not cheap.

So what else could a buyer consider in this price band:

Honda Accord
Recent facelift makes the front end look like the last Honda City. It lacks presence, and high speed stability not as good as the Europeans. Rear seat is very comfortable, and air conditioning is a chiller. Oh, and it has rear audio controls! A given is that the car is reliable, fuss-free to own, and if you are located far away from a service point, it is worth a look. So consider an Accord if you are chauffeur driven in town or located in a remote area where reliability is paramount. Apart from that, Honda needs to be radical if it wants success in the next Accord.

Skoda Superb
The Petrol makes a lot of sense price wise. Although a cousin of the Passat, the interiors are more "olde world"; more wood trim compared to the wood chrome of the Passat. The Superb felt lighter, both to drive and in build quality, and the longer wheelbase slows things. As we know, the Superb's strength is in its rear - rear legroom is stupendous and it has a versatile hatch. You know about their service! Improving in parts, but deficient overall.

Audi A4
Why would I spend approximately 5 lakhs more for a smaller car, 30 PS less power, an inferior CVT transmission and less equipment? Well, it looks good, comes in red and the Audi badge. Thats it! Oh, and you don't have to rub shoulders with simple Polo men during service.

Mercedes C Class
A strong if expensive all rounder - Badge, great handling, slightly brighter interiors, but less space inside, big price, big bills and maybe big costs unless the new C Class is actually more reliable than its predecessor.

BMW 3 Series
Only if you are a focused driver and don't need the space. The ride might shake your dentures though. Again this car is due for replacement later this year. The driving dynamics are almost beyond reproach.

Disclaimer : Volkswagen invited Team-BHP for the Passat test-drive. They covered all the expenses for this driving event.

Last edited by ajmat : 11th April 2011 at 21:45. Reason: Adding disclaimer
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Old 11th April 2011, 10:04   #8
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Default Re: VW Passat Test Driven and Reviewed

Wow! Thats one detailed review, ajmat!

VW has done well with the pricing for Trendline. All those looking for the current best-seller (Superb) will definitely consider Passat as well. But IMO, it doesnt look like Passat really has got a USP for itself! Looks to be sandwiched between the VFM Czech's and posh Germans.

That said, VW design philosophy is starting to feel plain and boring. While the same looked stunning in the Scirocco and later even Polo, it looks plain and boring on their bigger cars inlcuding Passat.

Any chance of this engine being introduced in the Superb?

Last edited by CrAzY dRiVeR : 11th April 2011 at 10:08.
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Old 11th April 2011, 10:58   #9
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Default re: Driven: The 2011 Volkswagen Passat

Great review from our resident Euro-car expert! Rating thread a well-deserved 5 stars. Thanks for sharing, Ajmat.

As we discussed over our airport meeting, the Passat is going to make things very difficult for the Audi A4. Heck, except for RWD enthusiasts, even the 3 series & C Class don't have much going for them, save for the flashy badge. The 20 lakh Germans are giving their 30 lakh rupee counterparts a run for their money. Additionally, the Passat is loaded with kit, including that fab dual-clutch gearbox, rear parking camera, self-park, pure keyless ignition and so on.

It's ironical though, that the Passat's competitor no.1 is its own sibling, the Skoda Superb. Will be fun to watch the battle. VW has intentionally given the Passat's interiors that much more quality, and some unique features, to maintain a premium image over Skoda. However, the previous-gen Passat wasn't really spacious at the back and your pictures seem to indicate that the Superb beats it hollow in rear-legroom.

The Passat will also serve another purpose; that of raising VW's brand value, which will inevitably rub off on the Polo / Vento aspirational draw.

Honda needs to work some magic on the Accord. The lack of a diesel engine option, and it's bare level of kit, is going to make things increasingly difficult in the face of newer competition. About time they bring the 2.2 common-rail diesel to India!

That said, VW design philosophy is starting to feel plain and boring.
Are you kidding? I'll take the Passat's looks any which day over the quirky Superb and it's character-less rear end. I prefer my designs clean & timeless, rather than flashy & disproportionate.

Last edited by GTO : 11th April 2011 at 11:00.
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Old 11th April 2011, 11:03   #10
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Default re: Driven: The 2011 Volkswagen Passat

What a superb detailed review Ajmat.

If VW were so interested in FE and emissions they should have offered 138hp version in the lower variants. This version is considerably more Fuel Efficient and cleaner too. What's the ARAI FE figure for new Passat?

I like the equipment list on offer in this new version, even the lower trim version comes decently loaded. The pricing is even lower than the Superb, i remember they said they will always position VW cars at a premium compared to Skoda cars.

The AC has always been Achilles heel for the Passat, this ACC system makes the matters worse.

Both Skoda and Honda now have a reason to be worried. Honda has lost the pole position and Accord sales were slowly going down, thanks to the VFM package Superb offered, now the new Passat is aiming for a large pie in segment. Let's wait for the sales figures to see who grabs the most.

Last edited by .anshuman : 11th April 2011 at 11:04.
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Old 11th April 2011, 11:13   #11
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Default re: Driven: The 2011 Volkswagen Passat

Lovely review Ajmat - stopped my urgent work to read this before getting back. Surely 5 star. I particularly like the historical perspective to the Passat.

Look forward to the same style when the new Jetta comes along.

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Old 11th April 2011, 11:37   #12
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Default re: Driven: The 2011 Volkswagen Passat

Great review. Two points:
They'd better get air-con right if they plan to succeed in this market segment.
Is the DSG gear box common across all VW platforms?

Last edited by sudev : 11th April 2011 at 11:38. Reason: spellings
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Old 11th April 2011, 11:40   #13
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Default re: Driven: The 2011 Volkswagen Passat

Excellent review with all details regarding bells & whistles.
It looks a really loaded car.
VW group needs to seriously look into the basic requirements of Indian buyers.
The AC unit is one such example. In Laura I always feel the inadequacy of this so called European unit whenever we go for outing in summer.
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Old 11th April 2011, 12:10   #14
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Default re: Driven: The 2011 Volkswagen Passat

Great,detailed review Ajmat.
Good understated looks, loaded to the brim, nice re-tuned engine (thank heavens they did not stick to that boring 140bhp mark ! Audi are you listening ????), and ofcourse that beautiful Double Shift Gearbox ! Complete package.
Yes , the A4,3,C really do have some problems on their hands with the Passat/Superb gate-crashing the party !
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Old 11th April 2011, 12:16   #15
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Default re: Driven: The 2011 Volkswagen Passat

thanks for the great review Ajmat. The historical perspective in the beginning was a good differentiator for the review format.

VW wants to continue the success it has had so far with polo/vento in the D segment as well. However I feel that VW is marketing Passat too much in terms of technology (bluemotion) which doesnt necessarily connect with all the consumers. Sometimes in this market segment something as basic as rear legroom / space /comfort would be a deal clincher or breaker considering lot of these will be chauffeur driven.
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