Jordan has a long stretch of the Dead Sea and a longer stretch of roads that seem to come alive at every bend and every crest. Just the perfect terrain to experience the all-new Passat 2012, a laid-back family sedan that belies its capabilities to live up to challenges, when pushed.
It was in the June of 2002 that I first drove a Volkswagen Passat, then in its 5th generation, with the express purpose of evaluating the sedan. Last weekend, in the thick of a Jordanian June, I found myself behind the wheel of the largest ever mid-size sedan from Volkswagen. The first time, I ended up buying the car. This time around, I ended up buying the idea of an all-new Passat 2012.
Actually, Volkswagen has made buying pretty easy with the new Passat. Even as the Yen is pushing up the prices of popular Asian sedans, Volkswagen Middle East is currently sourcing their inventory from Chattanooga, which focuses as much on cost-efficiency as on fuel-efficiency. Comparing apples to apples, the all-new Passat starting at AED 93,300 can initiate a strategic shakeup in mid-size sedan preferences.
The all-new R5 engine
Clipping down the steep, winding blacktop that dropped us 400 m below sea level, the car held on to the narrow road even at screaming corners, at speeds that blocked my ears with rapid pressure shifts!
Volkswagen (who else?) brings back the glory of five-cylinder firepower with its Multi-point Injection 2.5 L engine developed for the all-new Passat. The 170 hp engine sounds and sustains better than the turbo-charged 4-pot we got used to in recent years. In case you tend to miss the quick gratification of the turbo at times, 240Nm of torque that peaks at 4600 rotations allows you to get over it as quietly and quickly as you tide over mid-range engine speeds in the new Passat. The steering feels more like a Ford rather than a Volkswagen (read American than German) – it feels significantly lighter and easygoing but the new independent suspensions and 70m of laser welding add up to a greater feeling of control.
Pushing the Passat
The way up to Mt. Nebo was punctuated by sharp ascending corners; blind crests that would place the driver precariously on the edge of speculation; and sheer drops that could make even a motoring freak think of his family – and also wonder what he was doing on these roads at breakneck speeds in a ‘family sedan’! But the encounter raised my esteem for the all-new Passat.
While the top of the line variant is termed ‘Sport’, the 18” alloys and the manual mode is the closest that the new Passat gets to ‘sporty’. But apart from overtaking up a hill, or setting aside an oncoming truck on a single carriage way, or negotiating corners when the car complacently overlooks a downshift, the manual mode is of little use as the auto-shifting turns you down when you want to push your point, beyond a point! But then, the all-new Passat has just as much pretension of being a sporty car as any intention of letting go of its claim to the title of “the most sensible, solid, stable and safe mid-size sedan in the market”.
Safety first… because family comes first!
Everything about the Passat – right from the closing ‘thud’ to the grounded drive quality – is supposed to make you feel comfortable as in a safety cage. It now uses thin, thermally treated hard-steel strips that make it lighter yet stronger. Unlike competitors, the Passat comes with a 3-point seatbelt for the mid-seat passenger as well besides providing for 3 ISOFIX seats for hyper-active baby boomers!
ABS and ESP comes as standard just as 6 airbags and an Intelligent Crash Response System that cuts off fuel supply and activates airbags. Not surprisingly, the all-new Passat comes with a 5-star Euro N-CAP rating.
53 million people have watched the charming little Darth Vader in the Passat 2012 commercial on YouTube. Watch it here but don’t get carried away by the ‘remote start’ feature on its fob that is the hero of the commercial besides the young chap. That feature won’t be available yet in our market, just as Parking Assistance isn’t. (America seems to be obsessed with size but unmoved by Parallel Parking concerns for the sheer rarity of such a need back there.)
The essential Passat 2012
Cautious and contended family men will need to do very little to discover a safe and sober partner in the new Passat that cares for your comfort and your family’s safety. However, those of you who wish to explore further need only push your toes an inch deeper, to surface with all the power you need!
UPSIDE: Spacious and premium interiors, best-in-class legroom, Huge boot with stick-through port, new 2.5L five cylinder engine, host of standard comfort and safety features, Great value package
FLIPSIDE: Lacks the initial excitement of the European turbo engine, German purists might object to steering feel, Park Assist not yet available
Variants: Prices and features
S: AED 83,600 (for fleet and corporate sales)
SE: AED 93,300 with 16” Steel rims RCD 510 with touch screen, chrome exhaust and window trims
SEL: AED 102,900 with 17” alloys, leatherette sport seats, fog lamps with static cornering lights, Fender-Panasonic system, Wooden trims, Air quality system
SPORT: AED 116,500 with 18” alloys (Bristol), Vienna leather, folding mirrors
Drive Location: Amman and Dead Sea, Jordan
Picture courtesy: AVME, Sudeep Koshy