Power to the people
Abhishek Benny and Volkswagen India

Power to the people

There is now a Taigun and a Virtus to match every single taste, and choosing your favourite Volkswagen has gotten more interesting

Ever since its entry in the Indian market, Volkswagen’s cars and SUVs have always been the brand of choice for enthusiasts who value an engaging driving experience. Be it cosseting premium sedans such as the Passat, robust and luxurious SUVs such as the Touareg and the Tiguan, or even a peppy little hatchback like the Polo ― each Volkswagen that has been on sale in India has definitely earned credibility amongst automotive enthusiasts.

Volkswagen has not been resting on its laurels however, and with its current model range which includes sedans such as the Virtus and SUVs like the Taigun, the brand has succeeded in getting more buyers into the Volkswagen fold. The Taigun and the Virtus are the new volume drivers for Volkswagen in India and there are multiple reasons for their success in the country. Both are powered by enthusiastic yet reliable TSI engines, they score full five stars in crash safety protection (thanks to the torsional rigidity of the MQB-A0-IN platform), and to top all that off, both the Taigun and the Virtus follow a youthful design language that is being received extremely well in India. And to complement this smashing success, Volkswagen has gone and one-upped its game by introducing new variants of both the Virtus sedan and the Taigun SUV.

Volkswagen had announced its intention to bring new variants and trim levels of the Virtus and the Taigun at the first anniversary celebrations of the latter, and as Volkswagen India brand director Ashish Gupta explained to us, these models are largely based on customer feedback. We got to finally see these models in the flesh at the carmaker’s Annual Brand Conference in Kochi. Ranging from cosmetic updates to enthusiast-centric engine and gearbox combos, Volkswagen’s new variant line-up for the Virtus and Taigun will definitely empower potential buyers, thanks to the freedom of choice.

Virtus GT Plus manual

The 148bhp 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine coupled to a 6-speed manual ‘box is music to our ears!

I suspect that if suggestion boxes were placed at Volkswagen dealerships, these would likely be stuffed with enthusiasts’ constant desires to have the option of buying the Virtus GT with a manual 'box. Earlier, the fully-loaded Virtus GT Plus powered by the 1.5-litre TSI engine could only be had with the 7-speed DSG. And while enthu-cutlets loved the performance of the engine and the way that the Virtus drove, the innate desire of driving a car with three pedals remained. Clearly these prayers were falling on some ears at Volkswagen, and the carmaker has now introduced the Virtus GT variant powered by the 1.5-litre TSI engine and mated to a 6-speed manual. This move will likely make the 1.5 TSI-engined Virtus more affordable to buy as well, and that’s great news for enthu-cutlets and regular buyers alike. Volkswagen will also be introducing a new body colour called Lava Blue, which will be available on both the Virtus and the Taigun, and the striking colour is definitely a welcome addition to the line-up.

Taigun GT Plus manual & Taigun Carbon Steel MattE edition

If you thought a Curcuma yellow Taigun looked awesome, wait until you see this!

Similar to the Virtus sedan, the top-spec variant of the Volkswagen Taigun SUV, which is the GT Plus, can now be had with the option of the 1.5-litre TSI engine mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, unlike earlier when you could just have it only with the 7-speed DSG. Just like the Virtus, the manual transmission-equipped Taigun GT Plus will be more affordable than the DSG-equipped variant, which is definitely a reason to celebrate. We have always maintained that the Volkswagen Taigun is our pick when it comes to delivering on the Thrill of Driving in the mid-size segment, and the option of a manual gearbox on the fully loaded Taigun will only make it a sweeter deal for enthusiasts and value-centric buyers alike.

In addition to this new variant of the Taigun SUV, Volkswagen will also be introducing what it calls the GT Limited Collection. This will basically be a new marquee under which Volkswagen will introduce limited edition models of both the Taigun and Virtus, and the first model to emerge from the GT Limited Collection will be the Taigun Carbon Steel Matte Edition. If you’re wondering why this new colour scheme on the Taigun looks so familiar, let me remind you that a similar paint finish was earlier offered on the limited-run Polo Legend Edition. On an SUV like the Taigun, this matte finish paint scheme looks absolutely superb, with the red accents beautifully contrasting against the stealthy body colour of the Carbon Steel Matte Edition. The matte finish will only be available on the top of the line GT Plus variant of the Taigun which is powered by the 1.5-litre TSI engine that makes 148bhp of power, and this limited edition model will be on sale from July 2023 onwards.

Abhishek Benny and Volkswagen India

Virtus Deep Black Pearl & Taigun Deep Black Pearl

They have merely adopted the dark, but the Virtus and Taigun have no trouble rocking the shade!

In the past, black cars were not really considered as a popular purchase in the Indian market. However, that trend seems to have been completely reversed in current times. Manufacturers have clearly realised that blacked-out special editions of cars look very desirable as well as badass, and VW have capitalised on the trend by introducing the Virtus Deep Black Pearl and the Taigun Deep Black Pearl. The blacked-out versions of both the Virtus sedan and the Taigun SUV truly live up to the hype, with the glossy, mirror-like paint finish of the Deep Black Pearl editions definitely amping up the glamour quotient on both these Volkswagens. The new paint scheme also makes the Volkswagens look more upmarket, and if you were to pull up to a soirée in either one of them, there’s no doubt that your blacked-out Taigun or Virtus would be a great icebreaker, commanding all the attention.

The Deep Black Pearl editions of the Taigun and the Virtus are a part of Volkswagen’s GT Limited Collection, and this new black paint scheme will be offered exclusively on the GT Plus trims of both the Volkswagen models. The carmaker states that both the Taigun and Virtus GT Limited Collection models will be introduced June 2023 onwards and will be offered with the choice of either the 6-speed manual or the 7-speed DSG mated to the 1.5-litre turbo-petrol engine.

Abhishek Benny and Volkswagen India

Taigun Trail & Taigun Sport concepts

Cannot choose between rough outback or a beautiful black top switchback? The Taigun has you covered either way

In addition to the snazzier Deep Black Pearl models and the stealthier Carbon Steel Matte Edition, Volkswagen showcased two new Taigun concepts as a part of the GT Limited Collection. The white SUV that you see here is what Volkswagen calls the Taigun Trail Concept and it is focussed on the adventurous buyer who would love to take their Taigun off well-paved tarmac and get on with exploring the great outdoors. The details about the Trail Concept have not been revealed in their entirety but we have been told that it is close to being production-ready. Based on the GT MT variant of the Taigun, the Trail will be powered by the 1.5-litre TSI engine and the off-road centric concept gets blacked-out 16-inch alloys wheels. Additional tweaks to make the Trail outdoorsy include the presence of a factory-fitted roof rack, and the Trail will also get body graphics that differentiate it from other Taigun variants.

What will interest those with a more enthusiastic bent of mind however will be the Taigun Sport Concept. This variant promises to be the new entry-level variant for those who want to get themselves the Taigun GT with the DSG transmission. The Taigun Sport Concept will get body graphics to highlight the SUV’s intentions, along with a TSI powered badge on the rear end. The Sport will also get 16-inch alloy wheels as opposed to the top of the line GT Plus DSG which gets 17-inch alloy wheels. The Sport variant might be pared-down in terms of the creature comforts on offer when compared to the Taigun GT Plus, but that said, it will also make the Taigun with the quick-shifting DSG transmission more affordable to buyers. Volkswagen has confirmed that both the Trail and the Sport Concepts are close to production and they will be introduced right in time for the festive season.

Abhishek Benny and Volkswagen India

In conversation with Sirish Chandran

“The GT cult following has developed a love for the drive”

In conversation with Volkswagen India brand director Ashish Gupta on the sidelines of Volkswagen’s Annual Brand Conference in Kochi

On the new variants

“We are looking at introducing three new variants, two on the Taigun and one on the Virtus. All these three variants will hit the market in the month of June. The Lava Blue, which is a brand new colour, will be available across the lineup, including the 1-litre variants and the Performance line from this month itself. Next week, these cars will start hitting our dealerships. Then we will bring the (Taigun) Matte (edition) somewhere in July, followed by the special editions ― the Trail and the Sport somewhere in the festive season.”

Saving the manual

“Right from the day we launched the Virtus DSG Plus, the first thing that I got asked was, why don’t you have a manual on this? I think what the GT badging and the GT cult following has done is to develop the love for the drive, the love to feel the car. And a sedan is the ideal car to give you that feel. Many customers, although they love the DSG, have also said that having control with a six-speed, with a manual is something they would really love to have. That’s the feedback we have taken on board and brought it not only on the Virtus, but we had similar feedback on the Taigun as well, so you now have the manual transmission on the Taigun GT Plus.”

Aiming for performance

“We did that on the Polo with the GT TSI. We did that on the Taigun with the GT and now with the Virtus, and I’m very happy that we are creating these sub-segments which is encouraging others to also bring in products. It definitely adds more excitement, definitely keeps us on our toes to keep on enhancing. And you saw that in the Edge limited edition that we brought in today. I would say that the sedan segment is going to grow hotter. At the same time, it will also bring in a lot of performance-oriented people into sedans.”

Weathering supply chain constraints

“We have a tremendous improvement over last year. Last year, we talked about this, I lost close to around 15,000 to 18,000 cars. I do not see that constraint happening this year. But last year, you had these peaks of production and suddenly (production) bottoming out. Those peaks and troughs have more or less levelled out, but they are still there. On and off, you do keep on having shortages of one or two components, but not at a mass scale that happened last year.”

On Kerala being a key market

“The Taigun outsells its two major competitors in Kerala (in the mid-size SUV segment). The Virtus already has a segment share of close to 25 per cent in Kerala. That’s how much people in Kerala love Volkswagen. Definitely, if I look at my sales share from Kerala compared to all India, I get almost 8 to 10 per cent of my sales from the state of Kerala. So this is one state which knows what it’s talking about.”

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