A GTI for grown men
Text by Alex, eat. fly. drive.
Photos by eat. fly. drive. team.
If you threw a stone in any direction on a busy road in Singapore, it'll probably bounce off the top of a few family sedans before settling on the asphalt … only to be driven over by countless more within a minute. While junior executive sedans are aplenty on our roads, there is very little variety apart from the usual suspects; of the popular German marques, the 3 Series, C Class, and A4 are as commonplace as a dress shirt in the CBD.
Earlier in the year, I reviewed the 1.8 TSI Highline, which nudged the Passat into reckoning alongside its counterparts offered by BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Audi. This 2.0 TSI R-Line variant, however, is like the executive who works out in the gym and participates in Spartan races and Urbanathlons. Possessing the same drivetrain as the Golf GTI, this Passat is for someone who desires comfort and stature, but also enjoys a spirited cruise when in the mood.
The chassis - which is the same as the 1.8's - is more than capable of accommodating the increased power. Unlike some sedans of a similar size, which can feel like a barge when you're at the wheel, the Passat's handling is confident, and betrays little body roll around tight turns; its wheels always feel planted when navigating fast corners and sweeping bends.
The engine and exhaust notes are slightly muted, in line with the car's more composed character, but are nonetheless smooth and eager to provide a meaty shove when the right foot becomes impatient. Where the 1.8 might seem a little lethargic during hard acceleration, the 2.0's power delivery is more linear and immediate. A 0-100 km/h sprint of 6.7 seconds is by no means slow, given it's a thoroughly refined stately four-door sedan that is well-insulated from wind and tyre noises.
Further proof of the car's refinement is the unobtrusiveness of the auto start stop system. The passenger compartment hardly registers a stir when the engine restarts; you only notice it based on the faint sound caused by the ignition.
Adding further polish to the R-Line variant is the availability of Volkswagen's Active Info Display, which uses a digital screen to show all of the standard information in the driver's dashboard, as well as other customisable content like built-in street maps. It's very similar to Audi's virtual cockpit, which first appeared in its latest TT and TTS sports cars. The execution is great, and my only gripe is that Apple CarPlay's features didn't seem to be integrated into the Active Info Display (Apple Maps would only display on the Discover Pro touchscreen on the centre console).
In addition to an uprated drivetrain and new technology, the Passat is fitted with an array of R-Line paraphernalia: bumpers; a distinctive front grille; chrome-plated trapezoid tail pipe trim panels; side sill extensions; and a black gloss diffuser. Steering wheel paddle shifters also come as standard for this variant.
The press car came in Crimson Red Metallic, a colour that looks like purple to the naked eye, and which reminded me of bubur pulut hitam. Admittedly, I wasn't a fan of the colour when I first collected the car for this review, but it has since grown on me. After all, why buy a less common car, only to pick a common colour for it?
That brings me back to my point about being part of the mainstream. In high school, most of us were happy to just blend in and be accepted in our social circles. As we grew up, many of us began to feel more comfortable letting our individuality show.
The Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TSI R-Line dares you to step out from the line of conformity, regardless of whether you contemplate it with your head or heart. At the time of writing, the Passat R-Line can be had for S$176,900. To put things into perspective, the only two other sedans from Volkswagen's German rivals within the same price bracket are the Audi A4 1.4 TSFI S-tronic Design (S$178,250) and BMW 318i Sport (S$174,800). The Passat trumps the A4 and monsters the 318i with its power and acceleration. While its drivetrain may not be unique to the Passat, it's difficult to argue that is a bad thing when it's lifted from an iconic award-winning hot hatch within the company's stable.
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