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‘What’s your favourite car’ is a question I’ve always struggled to answer, changing with the newest, fastest, shiniest set of wheels I’ve just done sampling. My better half though is more pragmatic and doesn’t change cars more often than socks. In many ways she’s a better long-term tester than I, and for the longest time her immediate response to the ‘favourite car’ question was the Volkswagen Passat.
You see we don’t spend weeks and months with sports or supercars. What we have lived with are a series of Passats – the B6-model PD-diesel car that introduced India to the Volkswagen brand, then when Volkswagen ditched PD for TDI, the first DSG, the first petrol, and in the last instance a full year with the B7-model that came with cooled front seats (oh joy!) and TDI/DSG combo (oh what long legs on the highway!). Those were the days of my actively rallying and the Passat was not only my wheels to places not served by airports – Nashik, Chikmagalur, Jodhpur, my village in Kerala – but also to recce the far-from-smooth rally tracks in sweet luxury. My wife came for all those rallies to make sure we didn’t die of hunger or exhaustion, and the Passat’s speed, comfort and ability to hammer down rutted short cuts without ripping apart the underside convinced her it was the best real-world car around.
That was six years ago. The road to Nashik was so bad I never did that drive again. Volkswagen lost focus on the Passat and I forgot how good it was. And that was that, until I had the choice of riding in the back of a speed-governed Innova to report on the Marazzo launch in Nashik or acquaint myself with this magazine’s new long-term test car. My old rally teammate and this magazine’s motorsport editor was cajoled into coming and we said a prayer.
For the first 30km out of Pune you’re in a mess of city folk, village folk, a procession of VWs and Mercs heading to their manufacturing plants in Chakan and criminally-negligent morons U-turning and driving on the wrong side of the highway. Post Chakan the (very slight) reduction in traffic is more than offset by the (very significant) reduction in lanes from four to two; nothing to do but stick it in Comfort, calm the eff down, and trundle along. The Passat does low-speed trundling very comfortably and to keep boredom at bay there’s the Bluesense readout challenging you to up your efficiency score, if you’re so inclined.
The last 100km opens up into a four-lane highway and I remember what I wrote six years ago – nothing in this segment, even a segment higher, rides, handles and masks speeds like the Passat. Holds true even today. Sure the premium Germans are rear-driven and consequently more enthusiastic but none cover distances as quickly or as comfortably as the Volkswagen . The body stays flat over broken roads so there’s no need to slow down; 175bhp is more than enough for quick highway work; and with Apple CarPlay there’s nothing more you’d want of the infotainment. I think a flat-bottomed steering wheel is a bit much but truth also is that the Volkswagen Group make some of the best FWD cars and the Passat is way more enthusiastic round corners than you’d expect of such a car.
We don’t stop till we get to the press conference, drain the phone battery with launch Tweets and posts, grab lunch, and Aniruddha get us back home by sunset. 400km on that Nashik highway without feeling like you’ve been water-boarded? Six years ago only the Passat could do it; six year later, and this side of an E-Class, it’s still only the Volkswagen Passat that can do it. If only we were not such big badge snobs, you’d see many more of these Passats on the road.
Date acquired: August 2018
Total mileage: 8841km
Mileage for the month of September: 1456km
Costs for the month of September: Rs 0
Overall kmpl: 12.7