2012 Volkswagen Passat Review
The biggest Passat ever for the lowest price ever
By Shahzad Sheikh
I need to tell you my verdict on the new VW Passat quickly, before I forget. It’s already a fading memory but recently we had the all-new, just launched Volkswagen Passat in for three days. And during that time I remember having this persistent feeling that I needed to drive the car, as I hadn’t really experienced it enough.
In fact, by the time I returned it, I’d put about 180km on the clock (good thing I zeroed the trip meter when I picked it up, eh?), so I guess I must have driven it.
Now there’s two ways to look at this, depending on your requirements, and your interest in cars. It’s either bad because it’s so utterly devoid of character that it fails to leave any sort of impression at all, or it’s brilliant because it’s so effortless and untaxing that you barely realise you’ve set off for a journey, and you’ve arrived.
Now the first thing you need to know is that this Passat, is not really a Passat at all. At least not the one you and I have grown to not love nor cherish, but grudgingly respect and appreciate as a safe, solid, sensible and sober choice.
No, for this year, the Passat has diverged into two cars, the regular European one facelifted in 2010 and which spends its life looked in an eternal battle with the Ford Mondeo in those markets, and this all-new car (also know as VW New Midsize Sedan – NMS) that has been designed exclusively for America, the far east, and for us.
Although it is based on the same platform as the European car, it’s been stretched by 4 inches, something which you’ll notice as soon as you open one of the rear doors – or reverse it out of the mall car parking. Whereas the Euro-Passat has not much more rear space than the smaller Golf, this NMS version is limo like in its extravagant delivery of rear legroom. The strategy of turning the Passat into a bigger more spacious car, certainly worked in the US market with the VW winning 2012 Motor Trend Car of the Year.
Can’t be that forgettable then! So anyway the… er… what was it again? Oh yes, the Passat, comes with a 2.5-litre 170bhp five-cylinder engine with a six-speed auto driving the front wheels. That’s good for a top speed of 190kph and 0-100kph acceleration in 9.2 seconds.
And truth be told, it acquits itself with reasonable performance, never feeling particularly slow, although of course, never seeming at all fast either – this is a lot of car for 177lb ft to be attempting to haul about. But it never really proved an issue, at least not that I can recall.
And if you want to know about handling, dynamics, steering and braking etc, there’s not much to recall. All I can tell you is that, yes, it certainly did all of those. It behaves just like you’d expect a big saloon to do so, but it’s certainly not wayward or alarming and maintains decent composure at all time.
That’s probably down to the overly firm body control which also leaves the ride feeling a little on the hard side with a bit of bump and thump, although that’s also partly to do with the 18-inch wheels on the range-topping ‘Sport’ trim that we drove – SE comes with 16-inchers and SEL with 17s.
Certainly body control is tight, and again it’s geared well towards rear passengers, as you can’t imagine anyone feeling claustrophobic of woozy in that inviting rear cabin. They certainly won’t be getting car sick from you hurling this thing around – simply because you wouldn’t do that.
So it ably goes, turns, stops and rides, just as you’d expect, but what’s it like inside. Well on first glance it’s typical of Volkswagen’s upmarket look, all very clean, clear and crisp. Focus a little harder and you’ll find some cost cutting with cheaper materials and surfaces where your eye doesn’t naturally fall, or you don’t normally interact with.
It’s essentially a subtle form of cost-cutting, but since the overall ambience is still predictably inviting, there’s no real complaints here. No visual flair of course, but the seats are comfortable – well at any rate I don’t remember them being uncomfortable – and as already mentioned the rear is surprisingly generous in space, and would be a very pleasant space to ride in. Hmm… you almost want a chauffeur to go with this car.
And it’s well equipped of course. Even the base SE comes with those alloy wheels, the full complement of drivers aids and airbags, 8-way adjustable drivers seat (4-way for the passenger), Bluetooth with voice control, climate control, cruise control, and a CD-sound system with SD card readers.
Upgrade to SEL and you get fog lights, electric sunroof, wood-effect trim, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, leather upholstery, keyless entry and a Fender-Panasonic sound system with 400 Watts, subwoofer and 8 speakers.
The Sport gets front electric seats, leather and Alcantara upholstery, memory drivers seat, DVD and 30GB hard drive for the entertainment system.
So what you’re asking now is ‘should I get one’.
Er… get what? Oh, yes, I see, this Passat. Well Volkswagen, as it has done last year with the keenly priced Jetta, is boldly going where now VDub has gone before in our region, up against the market leaders.
The Passat for example wants to lock fenders with the Toyota Camry, just as its European cousin does with the Ford Mondeo. And you know, it’s good enough to take it down. Starting at a price a few thousand dirhams under the equivalent Camry SE, this offers more rear room and of course the prestige and cache of telling all your Altima and Sonata-owning neighbours that you’ve bought a German car, which instantly makes you special of course.
Only problem is that I wish I could remember driving it – it just doesn’t leave much of an imprint. And again, for some potential owners, that’s spot on, it’s exactly what they want, and let’s be honest, it’s what the Camry did too. Except that that was the previous Camry. With its sharper new steering and slightly more dynamic handling, believe it or not, it has to be said that the Camry is the more entertaining car to drive.
Nonetheless, the Passat is a great car at a tempting price, and certainly one to go on the shortlist if you’re looking for an undemanding big comfy saloon.
AED91,774 ($24,938) for the SE;
AED102,861 ($27,951) SEL;
AED116,518 ($31,663) Sport
Engine: 2480cc, inline-5, 168bhp @ 5700, 177lb ft @ 4250
Performance: 0-100kph 9.2seconds, 190kph, 7.4L/100km
Transmission: six-speed auto, front-wheel drive
By Fraser Martin
I’ve driven a fair few examples of exotica over the last few months, so it is levelling to drive something that is more run-of-the-mill in terms of affordability, practicality and no-nonsense. The Volkswagen Passat is all of these. It is a medium sized, three-box design, five-seater and is equipped with most of the normal accessories that one would expect in what is, after all, a sensible family car. It is built in America.
However, and I was very surprised to discover this, especially after the weeks of high end superstuff, the new Passat is one of the only cars I have driven this year that actually fitted me from the moment I got into it. I use the word ‘fitted’ advisedly.
I’m not talking about lifestyle here, or the visual you get when passing a glassy supermarket frontage and see your reflection: I mean the car actually seemed to envelop me, almost as if it became an extension of my arms and legs. Or maybe I became an extension of it, (though I would have to admit to reading a bit about atomic transfer lately) to the point that within the first few kilometres, I was totally comfortable in every way. That does not happen to me very often in any car, but the new Passat just seems to cosset you.
The interior is bright and airy in its oatmeal leather and matching carpet, the seating position and its relationship with the steering wheel is absolutely perfect for me, and I genuinely thought I could not have designed the location and positions of the controls any better had I personally engineered this Volkswagen from scratch. I know that’s going to sound like brochure marketing-speak, but I found myself saying out loud, to both myself and to the consternation of fellow motorists around me at the traffic lights, “This is nice, this is very nice indeed.”
Now ‘nice’, has always been a word I have used in reports to damn with faint praise, but in this case, I was genuinely taken with the whole car. The dark Night Blue metallic paint lends a sophistication that would be de rigeur on a larger, more expensive car, and the fit and finish of the materials inside the cabin is as faultless as an Audi, though I don’t suppose that should be a surprise. It is a perfectly well put together motor, and a bit of a sleeper – you just don’t automatically think of the Volkswagen Passat when considering D-segment cars.
The model tested here is the Sport version, so it has a Tiptronic gearbox without paddles, has a fine entertainment system but no navigation, alloy wheels but no silly low-profile tyres, proper seating for three in the back, but with plenty of legroom, a huge boot and all the usual ‘offices’, as they say in the Real Estate business.
The Passat rides well, and quietly. It is no sprinter, but is strong and willing enough to propel you to the legal limits and beyond in a time that will not leave you red-faced, and with the revised engine technology in the 170bhp five-cylinder, returns quite acceptable economy even with the added weight of the six-speed autobox. 0-100kph in 9.2 seconds is not earth-shattering in the grand scheme of things, but do you know what? It’s enough.
If you have a job that calls for you to spend half your day in a car, you could be looking at the best car to suit you right here. The Volkswagen Passat, I think, is a thoroughly complete motor car.