Wolfsburg's Renaissance

Wolfsburg's Renaissance

Not all revolutionary great things today were deemed great from inception. Take Facebook for instance. It was a social media platform meant to rate girls at Harvard university through random selection and have them pitted head to head on an online website. These young ladies were exploited by students through gossip and to a certain extent, publicly humiliated. Eventually, it morphed into a social media profile website, like MySpace. From the program being exclusive to Harvard University only, it made its way to the rest of the world. Even then, it wasn't particularly groundbreaking. It was like Friendster, except you could 'poke' people. It was messy and entertaining, but no different from Friendster and MySpace

Things are very different today as it has evolved profoundly. Facebook is now used to promote businesses and to share information about services that holistically benefit mankind. It is a universal means of communication. It is the news. An undisputed necessity. Each individual's digital identification. A technological revolution. Shockingly, even my 88 year old grandmother has an account. You see, sometimes you may have #goals or even an unshakable vision, but it is only until you are able to execute the first steps in achieving it, that you'll never come across areas for improvement and windows of opportunity. Experience, and only experience, is what leads you towards the path of reinvention.

It is exactly the same principle for cars. Manufacturers hit the drawing boards, set a target, build a car, and roll the funding to sell the product. Throughout the car's lifespan will be minor changes and updates here and there. Midway through the car's product cycle will come a major upgrade to keep the car in tune with the times and to correct design flaws. As expected, not all cars are hits right off the bat. In fact, there are a lot more misses. Take the Volkswagen Passat. When I think of Volkswagen today, it is the fourth model that comes to mind after the Beetle, the Golf, and the Jetta.

With the Kombi aside, it is likely that they are the most popular and iconic cars that the German brand makes, but I can't say that the Passat appeals like the rest. Granted, it's the largest among all the cars I mentioned, and in car language, usually bigger equals boring. It's quite sad, because I've always felt that Volkswagen made everyday cars a bit more exciting. If Volkswagen were a band, The Passat is Kevin from the Backstreet Boys, Michelle from Destiny's Child, and every other Pussycat Doll who isn't Nicole Scherzinger... that is, until now.

The 2016 rendition of the Passat is so great that I am not going to dishonor it by comparing it to any of its predecessors. I'd like to think of the past models as the Dark Ages, and this new one as its Renaissance. 

Volkswagen are really on their zenith. In recent years, all the new models that they've launched have knocked it out of the park. From the Beetle to the Golf, and now to this all-new Passat. All of their cars seemed to have gone on a South Beach diet. They're all lean, athletic, and alert - and the new Passat is no exception. It is just drop dead gorgeous, and it's not even fitted with the wheels that I like. The front fascia looks epic with those adaptive LED headlamps and smooth horizontal lines. In the past, the Passat always somewhat looked like a whale, but not this one. This is a Great White. 

From the side and all the way to the rear, you see remnants of Audi. Lots of long uninterrupted lines that sweep to the back and taper in those exhaust ports. From a design perspective, I would have preferred it to have shorter rear overhangs, but for all the space you get, I'm not complaining. As beautiful as the exterior is, the pièce de résitance of this car is evident as soon as you open the door. It is the gateway to the age of light and art. It is the main course and also the cherry on top. You will not believe that you are looking at a car that is only shy of 3 million pesos. Unbelievable.

"You have a very healthy stable of 220 horses that are dying to light up those front tires, and they do, quite frequently."

There is nothing like it elsewhere. It is a bespoke white tuxedo wrapped in leather and Alcantara suede. Surely, it will be impossible to maintain an interior like this, but that's not the point. It's beautiful, and beauty is never rational. It is a breath of fresh air.

"A lot of times I found myself feathering the throttle so as not to light up the front tires like a young intern stole his boss's car."

You'll find a lot of polished piano black and brushed aluminium trim tapered around the cabin. Typically, I do not like brushed aluminium trim, but on this car and with this color combination, it's just lovely. The aircon vents seem hidden in this horizontal retro bar that swims for miles across the dashboard. It's a beautiful touch that again, makes it look absolutely bespoke. Also, there's an analog clock. It's not a digital instrument that tells time, but a gorgeous timepiece. I've never been one to check the time, but in this car I'd spend minutes staring at the clock.

Now before you start thinking that all the Passat is, is a superficial automobile, you could not possibly be farther from the truth. For starters, the it is equipped with loads of tech. This Business Edition spec car has what Volkswagen like to call an Active Info display. This means that instead of traditional dials on the instrument panel, you get a 12-inch high resolution display. There are a million ways to set what kind of information you'd like to see on the screen, but the major ones would be for fuel economy, entertainment, vehicle status and navigation.

It's one of the best high resolution displays I've seen as far as execution and features are concerned. Also, as beautifully integrated as the navigation map is, I think that most people are still going to be using Google Maps and Waze on their devices. On the center stack, you'll find another screen with touch capability. Here, you can access everything related to the car including what it ate for breakfast. The integration of Apple CarPlay is sensational in this car, and it has something for the candy-crazed Android users too.

Being that this is a modern Volkswagen, you have different modes made available to you as to how you'd like to drive your car. For the most part, I just left my settings in 'Normal', which is the default setting and sometimes I'd set to 'Comfort'. I did try going on 'Sport', but it was like making Bruce Jenner do a 500 meter dash as Caitlyn. You see, the engine in this car is the exact same power plant that you'd find in the Golf GTI and the Porsche Macan. So you have a very healthy stable of 220 horses that are dying to light up those front tires, and they do, quite frequently. 

"From an ugly duckling with a black heart into a perfect 10 with a heart of gold."

The engine wouldn't be out of character if it were fitted with grippier tires and some very needed paddle-shifters to rein in those angry horses. A lot of times I found myself feathering the throttle so as not to light up the front tires like a young intern stole his boss's car. When the car's settings are dialled down, the car feels good. The shocks and the dampers are a bit on the firm side, but it's expected from a German saloon like this one. As usual, everything is good. The audio system, the NVH ratings, the seats, and the steering. Oh speaking of the steering, you can customize your whole driving experience through an 'Individual' setting. I basically chose 'Normal' for everything, but chose 'Sport' for steering, which made me feel like I was driving a classic German bruiser. 

I am baffled that it's priced at sub 3 million pesos, when for the same amount of dough, you get a taxi with a BMW badge on it. I have seats that massaged me all the way, and with the way Volkswagen has been surprising me, I wouldn't have been shocked if it came with a happy ending. You get the best of both worlds. The engine has an element of madness for those days when you feel like being a child again, and it has all the tech gizmos to hack into Silicon Valley.

Surely, you could argue that many cars ride better than this and some have better driving dynamics, but at less than 3 million pesos, there is no argument at all. Volkswagen deserve a night of debauchery for the astounding achievement of transforming an ugly duckling with a black heart into a perfect 10 with a heart of gold. It can outrun Usain Bolt on a sprint, yet also force Garry Kasparov into a checkmate. What kind of sorcery is this? Only Wolfsburg's best.

Welcome to the Renaissance. meet your pound for pound King.

2016 Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TSI Business Edition

Engine: 1,984 cc, DOHC 16V, Inline-4, Turbocharged, TSI
Fuel: Gasoline
Power: 220 bhp @ 4,500-6,200 rpm
Torque: 350 Nm @ 1,500-4,400 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed Dual Clutch (DSG), FWD
0-100 km/h: 6.8 seconds
Top Speed: 246 km/h
Fuel Economy: 7.2 km/L Overall
Price: PHP2,759,000
+: Price, power, tech, luxury
-: Could use grippier tires, no paddleshifters
Verdict: Possibly the car with the most bang for the buck at the moment. Sensational!
Rating: 9.5/10

Ex-Automotive Executive

Instagram: @enzoteodoro