Words by Aninda Sardar
Photography by Gaurav S Thombre
I get up every day at half past five in the morning, per force. With two children to pack off to school, I don’t really get much of a choice even though I’d like nothing better than to curl back under the covers and nod off for another couple of hours. Yet here I am standing in front of car number 4 at the same hour, waiting impatiently for Gaurav to pack in his kit so we can get moving. It’s less about the fact that we have a flight to catch from Udaipur, about 400km away and more to do with the fact that I am much to eager to get into the seat that matters in the stately German sedan parked in front of me at the ITC Rajputana in Jaipur – the next generation of the Volkswagen Passat.
Well, apart from the engine, which continues to be the tried, tested and now almost expected 2.0 TDI turbo diesel, everything. For starters this is the first VW sedan to come from the Group’s brilliantly versatile MQB platform. It’s wider and sits squatter than before and its wheelbase is longer by over 70mm. So yes, it’s longer than before as well. Yet, in spite of the overall increase in size, this new Passat is a full 55 kilos lighter than before.
But what’s not new is the way it looks. VW will of course have you believe that you’re looking at an all new design. However fact is that the visual DNA of the predecessor runs so deep in the styling of the new car that you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference unless you park the old and the new cars side by side. Visually, the interiors too follow in the path of the predecessor and past owners of the Passat will have no problem moving into the cabin of this VW.
Under the bonnet
It almost seems like VW can think no further than the 2.0 TDI turbo diesel that powers a whole bunch of cars. Peak output from this four-cylinder unit is 175bhp and 350Nm of torque, which are channeled to the front wheels via the excellent 6-speed DSG. For now, and we suspect for the rest of its life cycle, the Passat will get no other engine option. After all, the 2.0 TDI is the only engine option that really makes sense in a market so heavily skewed in favour of diesel.
On the go
What we’re dealing with here is a stable and solid German. It reeks of dependability and efficiency. Everything comes together to create an aura of being solidly built and this translates into the way this big sedan drives as well. Beyond 2500 revs the big sedan picks up pace quite quickly but not suddenly. Gear shifts are lightning rapid and the Passat can cruise comfortably in the high triple digits without problem. While perhaps not class leading, the Passat is certainly not underpowered. As a matter of fact, the nature of the vehicle is such that it masks the sense of actual speed a little too well. While it is extremely predictable under acceleration, it does tend to be devoid of excitement.
Where it does get exciting is in the way the Passat handles turns. We only got a small section of well paved twisties on the approach to Udaipur. It was here that the car begins to show what it’s truly made of. Corner after corner, the Passat clings on to the chosen line like a leach. Not once does it show signs of wanting to break away. Not to mention the balance between ride and handling. I just wish the steering was a hydraulically assisted one with more feel than the electric power assisted unit.
The Passat has been launched at a starting price of Rs 29.99, ex-showroom. That means the Highline trim we are driving should be a fair bit expensive. There is no doubt that this car can take the fight to vehicles from a segment above it. It drives exceedingly well and is packed with a whole bunch of features. As long as you can ignore badge value, that is.