Just what is the exact allure of German premium sports sedans that so many aspire to one day own one instead of larger D-segment sedans tha‍‍‍t are more practical? What if a company found the secret to the former and hide it into the body of the latter? To substantiate this, we take Wolfsburg's saloon on a 1,183km journey from Kuala Lumpur to Hat Yai, to and fro, to see what's in store.

he standard sequence sort of works like this. Fresh graduates start with an A-segment car, moves onto a B-segment car in two years, save up for a house, buys a C-segment in anticipation for a small family and then perhaps a D-segment car as the children grows.

But if they were to be able to rise up the ranks faster, many actually aspire to one day own a European premium sports sedan - the largest segment of premium-luxury brands - a segment established by the intense rivalry between the German Trios; the Audi A4, the BMW 3-Series and the Mercedes-Benz C-Klasse. In fact this segment is so important, many other car makers jumped onto

the bandwagon. The Volvo S60, the Lexus IS, the Infiniti Q50, the Alfa Romeo 156, are many that tried to squeeze into this highly competitive but important yardstick with which a brand can be considered premium only if they compete in this sphere as a start.

The allure is real, these cars are well built, they carry the brand cache, all of them has in certain ways, engaging handling dynamics, they're comfortable and practical too. But they all have one common problem:

‍‍‍T

Every one of these premium sports sedans are out of the reach of most car buyers. With a starting price north of RM220,000; these cars are often purchased only by those who has the means to buy, maintain and own one.

This results in many consumers opting to go for the larger, more practical, and more comfortable D-segment saloons from mass market brands instead. Most often, the D-segment cars are priced at about two thirds of a typical premium sports sedan segment. They typically don't drive half as well and sound proofing isn't as good as the premium marques either.

But the arrival of the Passat B8 quickly changed the equilibrium of power play between the D-segments and the premium sports sedan segment. Beautifully designed, authentically crafted with premium materials, the Passat B8 charges head on with the establishment - from both ends of the spectrum.

The Highline pushes more power, packed with more technology than everything else within the RM220,000 mark pricing. Not only so, it outsized and out-NVH its home country rivals from Munich and Stuttgart as well.

But we reckon the most interesting thing about this new establishment is the Passat Trendline. Because Volkswagen Malaysia decided to tread paths where no one has been before, by trying their best to allow those who are buying within the realms of the C-segment top variants to have the chance to have a taste of how it feels like to own and drive a car designed to challenge the premium sports sedan segment.

This means they have to price a car that was supposed to be competing with the RM220,000 cars; yet within a reasonable stretch for those who buy cars around RM135,000. What this means, is the extreme optimisation of specifications for the car. Yet maintaining the performance, handling and ride along with advanced drivetrains to match.

Yes, the 1.8 TSI Trendline is one helluva bargain.

In order to prove this, we plotted out an epic road trip to Hat Yai just to see how the Passat Trendline will strike a point. Yes, that's a total of 1,183kms worth of driving back and forth from Kuala Lumpur. We met up in the wee hours on the morning of a public holiday just to kickstart our journey, and Bobby soon handed the keys to me to inaugurate the expedition.

Before setting off, getting yourself inclined to your most favoured driving position in the driver's lounge plays a very pivotal role. Yes, it lacks electronic seating adjustments but the good old adjustable lever is so precise and straightforward that you don't need to look like a lunatic toggling the buttons slowly to get into position.

A slow drive out from Taman Desa to the Jalan Duta toll alongside NKVE was proven to be effortless. Being quite a sizeable sedan, the Passat manoeuvres with ease through suburban streets. It also soaks up those nasty large speed breakers with ease, one of the few pesky nuisances you need to face daily while residing in this part of the city.

While at the open, climbing up to speeds was an easy affair as well. In order to keep things churning up while passing Sungai Buloh and en-route to Slim River, I've decided to give the Passat a run by throttling it slightly above the legal limit.

Knowing that the 2.0-litre variant drives like a Golf GTi tucked in a tuxedo, the 177bhp 1.8-litre TSi did mill proved me wrong. It performed so well that it even got me by surprised as the speedo has reached 170km/h without even batting an eye.

Fast it was — but gracefully quiet and refined while we cruise at 120km/h later on as we passed the Ipoh exit and get off the highway via the Taiping turnoff. The morning sun was up but road conditions are wet as it rained the night before in this part of the Perak state.

While getting there with breakfast in mind as we're famished, we've passed by a couple of curvy B-roads. There's no Dynamic Chassis Control, or known as DCC for the proletariat variant. But knowing that it sits on the brilliant MQB platform which is coupled to a set of pliant dampers in traditional manner, it cornered and tackled all bends with poise. Yes, it handles damn bloody well, though a tad roly-poly if you're pushing it a bit too far.

GETTING T‍‍‍HERE

Upon reaching Taiping, we discuss more about it being the perfect mile-muncher. Bobby was so persistent that it's clearly the class-leader, but I cease to agree with him as we have more than 300kms more to complete the journey to sum it up. Stomachs filled and after two rounds of succulent white coffee, we soon hit the highway.

Passing Sungai Perak, Kuala Kangsar and then nearing Juru, we pulled over to fill the Passat's tank to the brim before hitting the border town of Padang Besar. While departing from KL, we've managed to use up only a quarter of fuel out of the tank. Averaging at 8.6L/100km in combined driving over the course of 320km, give and take; this thing is absolutely fuel-efficient enough that it even gave some of its more expensive turbodiesel rivals a run for their money.

Hitting Butterworth and soon into Kedah, traffic was building up and without surprise, we came to a standstill as we near Bukit Kayu Hitam. While waiting for traffic to clear, we pulled aside to get our paperwork sorted out. Bobby and the team ventured off to the nearest insurance office while I waited at a parking lot observing other elements that’s worth pointing out.

Like the Golf Mk7 and the new Tiguan, the interior oozes top-notch built quality with perfect ergonomics. All buttons are simply within reach, and that swooping design facade that incorporates the air-conditioning vents with chrome touches itself gives the Passat a more upmarket feel compared to its competitors.

Besides that, all matters of buttons and knobs are designed in a way to be centralised around the rather smallish media interface. However, operating the 5-inch screen is a breeze as all menus are situated easily while scrolling through. And yes, blessed be for eyes off operation while at the wheel — the Passat also uses traditional rotary knobs for the air-conditioning controls, a feature that is slowly fading off as more manufacturers are now going the buttoned route.

Now with all paperworks sorted, we soon head off the highway and to the border town of Padang Besar. Clearing immigration as we all stepped down to get our visit visas verified, we’re soon coasting along the main road that takes us straight to the town of Hat Yai.

Exchanging the driver’s quarter for the backseat after a tedious 400km journey for some quality rest, it was instantaneously a pleasurable experience as there’s tons of rear legroom and headroom. Not forgetting that the sun shines even brighter in Thailand, and the weather was extremely humid and hot. Lucky for us, the air conditioning system does its job with such conviction.

Passing the road town of Ban Tupkop and then soon reaching the district of Sadao, northbound was the direction we’re heading to on Route 4, basically Asian Highway 2 on the Thai sector. Unlike our roads back home where tar and bitumen is the utmost source used in paving new pathways, Thailand’s infrastructure governance on the other hand, has opted for more durable cement as the main code for getting things connected. Knowingly therefore, it automatically creates more road noise inside the cabin.

It was instantly noticeable as we cruise on the main road compared to the highways we have back in Malaysia, but the Passat still glides over those surfaces with much ease. Reducing excessive road roar from permeating into the cabin.

‍‍‍IN THE LAND OF SMILES

Finishing off the remaining 100km journey from Padang Besar, we finally reached Hat Yai by late afternoon. Like most Thai cities, some roads are definitely quite a squeeze. But with adequate visibility out from the cabin that is coupled with a great turning radius, navigating the Passat through the alleyways of Hat Yai remains a breeze. Nope, we didn’t shed a single sweat while manoeuvring around.

Upon reaching the Centara Hotel, which is situated right smack in the middle of town, the facility did catch us by surprise as the parking bays were unbelievably small. Though the new kid on the block is now roomier on the inside and still retaining the same dimensions from its predecessor, the Park Assist, which comes as standard for the rear and front helped us a lot.

The following day, Bobby has decided that we should pay the scenic Songkhla lake a visit, which is situated about 35km away from Hat Yai. Shooting off straight after breakfast, we took Route 407 that bypasses Yanyong, which ends up at the intersection that takes you to Route 408 that crosses over the aforementioned lake.

While traversing, we soon drove across the Songkhla Lake, where the bridge connects to the tiny island of Ko Yo. The surroundings were majestic where the main town of Songkhla serves as the backdrop from the eastern direction, and the groundbreaking Government Office building in Tinsulanon Park on the southern side. Lunch was served while we took a break within the environs, and then it’s time to head back south for home.

In order to beat holiday goers over the public holiday weekend, we drove straight back to the border crossing of Bukit Kayu Hitam. Tough luck, traffic was building up way before the checkpoint. Knowing this as expected, it took us close to two hours to clear both immigration and customs. But joy oh joy it was as soon we were welcomed warmly back to Malaysia.

Moving forward after passing Slim River as the North-South Highway opened up to three lanes from two — this time with minimal traffic around — we’ve decided to put the Passat through a dynamic test which involves roadholding capabilities and handling at highway speeds along the curvy sections that passes Tanjung Malim until Sungai Buloh.

Having experienced pretty much the same feel at the wheel while heading up a day ago, the Passat tackle those high-speed bends with much poise and precision. Let alone the Passat is relatively easy to drive on a regular basis, it also compensates by shedding off some kerb weight over the older model in favour for better agility while cornering. Powering through those long curves at 120km/h has never been so effortless.

While banking through the curvy sections, the Passat did also maintain a great body control as well. With that, it rewards by reducing passenger movement while seated. How about grip and traction? Sure it ticks the checklist with its communicativ‍‍‍e steering wheel and well-engineered dampers.

HOMEBOUND

As we near home, we discussed about how much of a doddle it was travelling with the Passat. Sure, it lacks some necessary niceties that you can find in the Comfortline or Highline, but it was more than enough. It also makes up to those shortcomings by being gifted with the largest boot in its class — measuring in at 585 litres with the rear seats still up and available for rear passengers.

It also held quite a number of clutters within the cabin. Oddly, the passenger front side door does come with a bigger side pocket, but both stowage areas are huge enough to accommodate a 1-litre bottle easily.

But the best of all, the Passat managed to reach back home without emptying its tank out since we last filled it up at Juru while heading northbound. For a fact, there’s still a quarter amount of fuel left. That counts in going to Songkhla from Hat Yai, moving through stop-start traffic at the border, and completing a 410km final leg back home. Now that’s BlueMotion technology for you.

So if you’re in the market for a D-segment saloon, I do — wholeheartedly — suggest you to give this contender from Wolfsburg a shot. Worried about DSG issues? Fret not as it’s a reworked unit that does not only correct its past foibles, but tuned to give you the best in driving performance and efficiency. You do the judgement, and see it for yourself in all honesty. I am sold on this.

VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT 1.8 TSi TRENDLINE
Engine Inline-4, 1798cc, turbocharged
Power 177bhp at 5,100 - 6,200rpm
Torque 250Nm at 1,250 - 5,000rpm
0-100km/h 7.9sec
Transmission Seven-speed dual-clutch
Top speed 200km/h (tested)
Weight 1405kg
Price RM163,641.40
Evo Rating ★★★★

SITREP

words by KEEGAN DORAI

"...you will soon find yourself piloting one of the best D-segment saloons out there on sale at this very moment"

"this thing is absolutely fuel-efficient enough that it even gave some of its more expensive tu‍‍‍rbodiesel rivals a run for their money."

"The surroundings were majestic where the main town of Songkhla serves as the backdrop from the eastern direction..."

"Powering through those long curves at 120km/h has never been so effortless..."

"So if you’re in the market for a D-segment saloon, I do — wholeheartedly — suggest you to give this contender from Wolfsburg a shot."

STATELY‍‍‍

is the new

GLITZ