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February 13, 2009

Passat in Review

Now that I've had my new VW Passat for a few months I've noticed a few things in direct comparison with my old Accord, especially since I was driving them interchangeably for more than a month. In general, it seems like the VW has more options and configurability than the Honda, to the point that it becomes more difficult to do things. Sometimes having these options is beneficial and useful, other times you'd rather just have them pick one and set it permanently like the Honda did. I've found I've had to look things up in the VW manual quite frequently. The manual is actually very difficult to read and doesn't provide a lot of information. It seems to be written to be used on any version of the car worldwide and thus it can be quite difficult to figure out what features your car might or might not have and how it is supposed to operate. On the other hand, the handling of the VW is a welcome improvement over the Accord and I was just shocked at how much better the tires on the VW performed compared to the old worn ones on the Accord in the snow and ice. Even when new the tires on the Accord weren't as good.

I'm rather annoyed by the windshield wipers hiding under hood, you need to "park" them on the windshield in order to flip them up. It's also much more difficult to clean snow and ice out of the little recessed area under the hood. The side view mirrors on the VW are quite tiny and recessed just enough into the mirror body that they collect snows and ice much more readily and are more difficult to clean. The mirrors on the Accord rarely ever collected snow. One of my common complaints was that airflow often collected any snow left on the vehicle on the rear window, the Passat doesn't suffer from this, it does however collect everything on the back of the trunk and bumper.

The central locking of the Passat is quite transparent, locking and unlocking automatically without any need for attention. The indicators however only indicate the locked position and I'm quite annoyed that I cannot lock the car manually from the driver's door, only the key fob can really be used for this.

One of the minor things I dislike, exhaust outputs on the left and gas filler on the right. I prefer the opposites, for exhaust fog and filling convenience reasons, probably a remnant of being designed as a right hand drive vehicle.

The radio in the VW doesn't quite sound as good, I often feel the need to tweak the sound, I don't seem to like the sound systems with separate tweeters. On the plus side, the radio is stocked with a factory CD changer which is MP3 capable and Sirius radio is installed. I'm still debating activating that. The radio/antenna combination is just a little bit weaker than the Accord, so one more remote station I liked to listen too is just too weak now. The radio features and nature of the car's CAN bus system allows for more variety and robustness in the aftermarket accessories. I've since added an iPod adapter which is fully controlled and monitored via the in cluster display system and I've also tied in a hands free Bluetooth system which the car is preconfigured for.

I've already encountered two faults with the car. Some kind of malfunctioning valve in the overall air system of the car caused an intermittent idle issue, covered by warranty, which I hope is fixed now. Also, one of the rear windows broke its power actuator when I accidentally hit the button with my gloves in the cold. Will be fixed on warranty when they get the parts.

I'm still getting used to some of the advanced features. The combination of the headlights that turn into corners in conjunction with the stability control can really play tricks on the mind as you turn around corners at night. The HID lights provide a very well defined illumination pattern, the edge is very obvious, which can be good and bad. The color illumination of the HIDs can play tricks on what you see. Driving along the highway, it's not always clear if you are seeing dead grass or snow in the ditch for example. The built in multi-function display in the gauge cluster of the VW provides tons of information. There are 3 trip odometers, all of which can range up to 9999km, the Accord had two which were limited to 999km. On the VW one of those trip odometers resets every time the car is parked for more than 2 hours. Along with the odometer the logging function tracks travel time, average fuel economy, average speed, etc. The 2nd trip odometer tracks the same features and is manually reset. The 3rd one is just an odometer. There is quite a bit of more information you can get out of the display. One of the oddities is the single function speedometer which only reads km/h (or mp/h for US cars). You can flip the measurement system for everything else but that using the displays' configuration. There is a secondary digital speed display that you can make appear in another format if necessary.

I've really been missing the large storage bin the Accord had. The VW has many more storage locations, but they are mostly small. I find many of the compartments just won't fit anything I'd like to put in them so I have ended up with a large collection of stuff in the center armest bin.

I had need to obtain a scan tool to install the Bluetooth adapter and its interesting all the information you can pull out of the computers on the CAN bus and all the additional configurations and options you can set in the background. It's a much more modern design. One of the other things I've noticed is all the little things they've decontented on the Canadian version of the car. I supposed this is to try to adjust the price downward, but it's sometimes hard to figure how removing a few cents or dollars worth of parts is really worth the potential alienation to customers. Seeing the internals of the computers and some of the foreign options and discussions in online forums, its clear that even the US car is quite decontented from European equivalents.

I'm quite pleased with the car but it's also reinforced how pleased I was with the Accord.

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