Volkswagen has been on a bit of a roll. Its production numbers are finally matching demand in India. What’s more, this has come on the back of the growing popularity of its Vento compact sedan, and a clutch of award wins, including the NDTV Car of the Year for its Polo premium hatchback. So now, in an effort to keep riding the wave in India, VW has launched its latest generation Passat. This car comes with BlueMotion technology, something VW is using as the main marketing plank for the car.
So what is BlueMotion? The name comes from the colour in VW’s logo, and motion implies mobility. What it really means is the use of existing technologies to improve efficiency, reduce emission and enhance overall environment-friendliness. So it is an improvement on standard engines, if you will. VW group family members also use the same technologies, but while Skoda calls it Greenline, Seat calls its EcoMotive—expect a Greenline Skoda Superb very soon in India.
New look: The Passat has daytime running LED lights.
BlueMotion engines are tuned afresh and use an oxidizing catalytic converter and diesel particulate filter to enhance fuel consumption and reduce emission. The Passat’s common rail diesel has this too, and there’s also a stop/start system which switches the engine off when you come to a halt, say, at a traffic signal. Similar to the technology used by many car makers, but not as sophisticated as the one that, say, Jaguar is introducing soon in its cars. Besides this there are longer gear ratios, and the Passat also has brake energy regeneration, which means that when you hit the brakes, the kinetic energy is used to charge the car’s battery.
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But this doesn’t mean there is much difference in the way the car drives. And besides the stop/start system, you don’t really feel anything different that tells you this car is BlueMotion-enabled. But this engine block is a familiar one for me and so it also has the familiar niggling issue of the turbo-lag. The car drives smoothly though, and the automatic DSG—VW’s dual-clutch gearbox—is as delightful as always. This is standard on the mid- and top-trim levels. The base trendline trim has a manual gearbox, mated to the same engine, and here the car’s instruments have a display that tells you to shift gears up or down, to maintain optimal consumption.
The car’s German, so the handling is pretty good, as one would expect. The steering is fairly precise and the ride is stiff yet plush. The car is a step up from the previous Passat in that unlike the old car, which felt very much like the Skoda Superb—especially when you sat at the rear—the new Passat has a mature character.
The car is being called the seventh generation by the way, but let’s be clear that this Passat is actually an adaptation of the outgoing sixth generation. This means that it uses a derivative of the same platform, but has all-new body panels and interiors. Remember the outgoing car had also been relegated to being a 1.8 petrol manual-only model in India, so it’s good to get diesel and DSG back.
Prices are not steep, though not a steal either at Rs 20.80-25.65 lakh, ex-Delhi. The Skoda Superb still looks like the better deal. But the new VW Passat, with its new looks and daytime running LED lights, will appeal when compared with the Honda Accord and the like. This is also true since the car’s interiors are well appointed, and well-built. Having said that, it is all very familiar VW group territory. The seats are comfortable and the front seats, in fact, are 12-way electrically adjustable. But the car’s touch-screen infotainment system, cruise control, switches and dials are all very typically VW—almost too akin to what you get on other cars from the group fold—i.e. the Jetta, Skoda Superb/Laura/Yeti and even the outgoing Passat itself. What is new though are the pull-up sun screens for rear passengers, laminated windscreens to cut outside noise, and a new driver-fatigue detection system that tracks erratic driving and warns the driver to take a break.
The top-end trim also has park assist, so the Passat can detect a free parking space as you drive by it, and then steer itself into it. All you need to do is accelerate/brake and change gears. It is a bit sensitive, so it needs ideal parking conditions to work effectively—and we all know Indian parking conditions are far from optimal or organized. So my advice would be to simply do it yourself. The car’s parking sensors and reverse camera surely do come in handy though.
So a few issues apart, the new Passat is an impressive package. The ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL) is the big launch pad for this car, with a car parked just outside the boundary ropes of each match. Many of the people considering the Passat will sit in the rear, so the turbo-lag won’t bother them. The equipment list, German finish and comfortable ride, on the other hand, will be likely to impress.
The Honda Accord was recently given a slight makeover, and one is expected soon on the Skoda Superb too. The segment then is likely to stay competitive, since the Audi A4, BMW 3 Series and Mercedes C Class remain compelling buys too in this space.
Siddharth Vinayak Patankar is Editor (Auto),NDTV.
Write to Siddharth at firstname.lastname@example.org