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.

2.5 L MPI 5-cylinder R5 engine, 6-speed Auto transmission, 170 hp, 240 Nm at 4600 rpm, 0-100 (claimed) 9 sec Great standard features: ABS, ESP, 6 airbags, Bluetooth, Voice Command, 3-years unlimited mileage warranty

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.

Made in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in the US, the new Passat 2012 instills the 39 year old icon with American virtues – of space, comfort and upfront value! The ThinkBlue philosophy of the factory is reflected in the 13.1km/L claimed by VW.

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.

Seamless body lines not only complement the Passat’s minimalistic design, but also pulls down the drag co-efficient to an impressive .29. The predominant horizontal elements accentuate the Volkswagen character, as you can see in the wide grille merging with the headlamps.

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”.

Those who got used to the Passat’s gadgetry have a lot to look forward to – like the iPad connectivity and an 8-speaker + subwoofer Fender-Panasonic system. However, parking sensors and rear view cameras will have to wait for a few months!

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.

The Passat 2012 is the largest ever – with 4896 mm length, the all-new Passat offers 75 mm more legroom than the one you knew. At 529 L, the boot space is pretty overwhelming. Even long items like a golf club or a wizard’s broom can stick in through the boot access port at the back of the cabin!

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 award-winning 2011 Superbowl commercial for Passat 2012

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!

The sculpted wheel arches give the long profile of this extra-large Passat a masculine appearance that gracefully culminate in the new cut-away rear lamps, that resemble the Audi rather than the earlier Passat.

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

By the sixth-gen Passat was in town, the headlamps of my B5 had becomes almost opaque and dull. But the new Passat features advanced H-7 version of halogens that won’t turn mellow or yellow in the long run.

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

All-new Passat 2012: First Drive Report was last modified: December 27th, 2016 by Sudeep Koshy

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