2016 was the year of two Passats. Now, how is that? One was the uplifted design introduced in 2016 and the other, the outgoing model, which again, was a produce of 2016. The best way to tell the difference was to go on a side-by-side ride, especially with people who had just made up their mind between the two models!
THE SPECS of 2016 VW Passat: 2.5 L MPI 5-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic tiptronic transmission, 170 hp, 240 Nm torque, 0 – 100 in 9.0 sec, Test fuel efficiency: 9.25 kmpl
THE BASICS: 16” steel wheels, cruise control, multifunction steering wheel, multi-format audio system with latest Mirrorlink technology, Bluetooth, Voice Control, Front & Rear Park Distance Control
TOP TRIM: 18“ “Chattanooga” alloy wheels, fog lamps with static cornering lights, auto dimming rear view mirror, camera, 400W 8-speaker Fender sound system with subwoofer, LED lights, leather sport seats, navigation system, Boot opening with foot gesture
SAFETY: Electronic Stability Programme including ABS, ASR; Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, Driver and Front Passenger, Curtain airbags front and rear and front side airbags; Rear view camera, Fog lamps with static cornering lights
THE PRICE: AED 87,800 for S to AED 121,000 for Sport. R-line is not available here.
THE UPSIDE: Sleek and premium presence, family friendly features, fuel efficiency
THE FLIPSIDE: Tight steering feel, More pizzazz would make it wow!
Anjana and Navin travelled in the early 2016 Volkswagen Passat they bought and I was driving the new-new Passat. At some point, yes, I did get to drive the former as well, so that I give you a complete story. It was easy to compare as both the cars were ‘Sport’ trim – the misnomer that describes the top of the range Passat!
Anjana had shortlisted two cars from the premium segment as well; she explains what was the deal-sealer for her when she chose the older version of Passat. “The features, value for money, the comfort and the space.” None of that has changed in the new model. “The seating is for a comfortable long drive. It easily fits five people and lots of things in the boot. I found it powerful too!”
German upgrade is quite an irony. It’s not so much about turning in a new Passat as about rendering the current model old. The dimensions are the same, and so are the cabin trims at first glance, but on second look you notice the prominent claw-marks on the domed hood. On the grille, the chrome bars are more spaced out and extra slats frame the top and the bottom. A new chrome strip underlining the rear lamps is a study in understated premium. The newly introduced LED lamps themselves could belong to an Audi, compared with the rounder ones of the earlier model. The character lines – or any line for that matter – are sharper and the surrounding chrome places the new Passat a notch above its segment.
Cabin and controls
The story continues inside. The wooden trims, the chrome, the rubber, the hard plastic on the sides and the console panel: little seems to be new about them until a closer look reveals the subtle difference in the dashboard controls, the polished chrome and the piano black trims. The exiting Passat shows a premium touch of Alcantara on the leather seats and the lean-back while the new-new model is totally leather but a piping along its sides and the headrest adds the ‘touch’.
While the new generation driver assistance packages present in the European model are missing in the American-bred Passat, the new car infotainment system named Discover Media in the manual does offer touchscreens with pinch-zooming or swiping, USB and Bluetooth® connectivity as standard on all 2016 Passat models. ApplePlay and Android Auto are also very much active in the new Passat.
Volkswagen’s family sedan has maintained its winning values. The space inside had already improved by four inches under American craftsmanship in 2012. The cabin rear of this mid-sized car offers full-sized comfort; so does the 480L boot space which is outdone by perhaps only the Chevrolet Impala or the Renault Talisman among flagship models! Cabin storage is cleverly managed among the door bin, the armrest storage in front and rear, the sunglasses holder, the sticky gap in the console fold and the rear bags and bins – Volkswagen knows that families need space.
The front seats are very comfortable, even though the lumbar support still follows a very basic up-down movement. The slightly shorter passengers could have a gripe on long drives, about how the headrest overshoots their neck. The rear mid-seat is flat enough – rare good news for the fifth passenger!
Coming to safety, the Passat still follows last-century ways of letting the rear windows roll down only half-way. But all doors may be unlocked from any of the four doors – this rare thoughtfulness has its advantages, like when your wife opts to wait it out with your sleeping babies in the mall parking lot. Of course, the child safety lock maintains discretion.
The premium features in this 120K family car include keyless entry; voice control that is extended to radio and telephone but not navigation; and the marvellous Fender sound system that is among the best in class. Just like the ‘kick-open-when-hands-are-full’ feature for the boot proved helpful at the IKEA parking, the keyless access proved to be a big boon when I stepped out from the kartdrome, saving me the pain of unzipping my racing suit to reach out for the keys! The features are easy to access and the minor glitches in the navigation can be lived through.
By the way, the horn sounds good. Your toddler should love it too!
If you are smart enough to catch on to the sound that is slightly different from a four cylinder pot, that is because it is a five cylinder engine. The 170 hp and 240 Newton meters of torque from this 2.5 L engine is enough towing power for the 1,480 kg Passat. (The 2016 Camry and the Accord are pretty much similar in weight.) Climbing the steep spirals of Jebel Hafeet was different but all it needed was a shift to the Sport mode. While the top speed is locked at 190 kmph, the 0 to 100 and vice versa (in 170 feet) brought in reassuring figures. The fuel efficiency turned out to be remarkable at 9.25 kms per litre with a slight dip when you get stuck in traffic. The new Passat features a Start-Stop function that cuts off engine automatically at signals.
When I first got behind the steering wheel of the Passat many years ago – a manual shift – it had a heavy, composed sort of drive. While it doesn’t come across as a bundle of exuberance in corners or launch pads, the Passat is still one of the most measured and composed drives in a straight-line in its category. Yes, the steering is slightly detached but only as much as the rest of the family cars of today.
While it is easy on the drive, a few might find the parking maneouvers somewhat tight. One would expect a lighter steering in a car preferred by many moms!
Outward vision of the Passat is also commendable. The slightly dog-eared side view mirrors keeps you on an alert for a couple of days, till you get used to the shoulder check angles! There are front and rear sensors in addition to a rear view camera in the Sport and SEL trims, unlike the departing model, which only had the camera. The lower trim has sensors, too. During my test drive, the oversensitive left sensors often drove me up the wall (in a manner of speaking of course!) but I guess safety accepts no excuse!
While the price is slightly higher than before, obviously no one wants to push the Passat up the price ladder. So, the Tennessee-built Passat doesn’t come fitted with blind spot alerts or forward collision warning. Or the revolutionary new post-collision braking that keeps follow-through collisions in mind: a feature Volkswagen introduced in Europe. However, the extra warranty of 5 years and the well-picked safety and convenience features manage to justify the price.
The essential Volkswagen Passat 2016
Except for the slight tightness of steering, the new Passat sets a great example with its precision and poise, thoughtful safety features and the optimum power expected of a family car. Even so, with a few masterful strokes, the Passat has almost transcended its segment, while continuing to be the choice of discerning folks for its space, storage and convenience.
[Thank you, Navin Chandra and Anjana Nair for joining the drive!]