Quite Likely These Are The Only 709 Words You’ll Read About The Passat’s Groovy Interior Ambience.

The astonishing illuminations we see on instrument panels provoke rumination on showroom appeal and the Press’ dereliction of duty.

This is a great photo. Those flashes of light on the doors are not reflections. Image: http://www.autoevolution.com/news/2015-volkswagen-passat-hd-wallpapers-90805.html
This is a great photo. Those flashes of light on the doors are not reflections. Image: autoevolution.com

A night time taxi ride last week offered me a chance to experience the festival of lighting, graphics and colours that graces the latest version of Volkswagen’s (VW’s) new Passat, their C-D class saloon. The acoustics of the sound system also left a striking impression. It’s not that I am a big fan of Diana Krall. It is that her brand of lush Martini orchestralism allows the Passat’s music system to demonstrate the staggering illusion of a huge sound stage. The combined effect of the elaborate lights which wove together high tech with cosiness and the richness of the sounds produced a tremendous sense of well-being. The ride quality also impressed.

Nice. Car.

Now in a traditional show room inspection and on a test-drive, two out of three of these characteristics will be readily apparent. You can see why VW (or “Volkswagen”), the well-known, Wolfsburg-based automotive concern went to considerable lengths to create a strong and positive impression here. The test-driver can feel the ride quality and they can hear the hi-fi. That much is apparent during the day when most test drives are undertaken.

The illuminations, on the other hand, are something one really only appreciates at night. In all likelihood the person driving the car at night is already the owner. If VW and, indeed, any of the many firms that are creating such arresting photochromatic confections were more cynical than they were they could quite comfortably not bother to further impress the person who has bought the car. The ride, the paint, the sound system, the easy monthly repayments all worked their wonders. Deal done.

I have been saying for some time (and sometimes at inappropriate times) that the level of creativity of the graphics of many current IPs is something to sit and gaze in astonishment at. My recent experience of the Opel Adam left me with a dramatic impression that the Adam was a much more appealing thing to have compared to the like-priced Corsa whose IP is good but much less Hollywood and Bollywood. When I sit in my 25 year old car, it’s the IP above all that dates it.

From this one is compelled to assume that designers view the IP as a great place for surprise and delight. Even the Ford Fiesta has a nice but pointless glowing strip on the passenger side of the dashboard. The footwells are illuminated for goodness´ sake. And as I was sitting in the back of the Passat, I noticed a pool of light showing the location of the window switch and a strip of light running along the door capping. A thundering question is this: does the Mondeo and does the Insignia do this? Who else is investing in complex wiring looms to throw intriguing splashes of light over surfaces previously lost in night time gloom? Will the 2026 Hyundai Atoz have such a feature?

The 2029 VW Passat IP. Image: valuestockphoto.com
The 2029 VW Passat IP.
Image: valuestockphoto.com

Where will this end? And perhaps I should ask if car reviews should be paying more attention to this kind of thing than they do. Stuff the engine and sod the handling. Nothing I had read about the Passat hinted that VW had gone to the trouble of equipping what is ostensibly a very boring car (so they say) with such elaborate illuminations. And I find them very alluring, very tempting. So are we also to assume that VW is figuring that casual rentals and taxi trips are offering a chance to woo extra buyers as I was so wooed?

If the other brands are not offering these impressive light displays they are losing out.  And since this could matter and since impressions of well-being count as much as horse-power is it not odd that we are not seeing more strenuous efforts on the part of the Third Estate to communicate this revolution in perceived quality?

(Post Script: to be fair, AutoEvolution have raved a little bit about the Passat’s interior but nothing like as much as I have done here.)

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

12 thoughts on “Quite Likely These Are The Only 709 Words You’ll Read About The Passat’s Groovy Interior Ambience.”

  1. I’ve often moaned about the fact that ‘we’ pay out relatively huge amounts of money for cars, often choosing them on their external appearance, whereas we mostly view the inside which, traditionally, is frequently quite dour. At one time Japanese manufacturers seemed particularly keen to play down the interior – even the flagship Honda NSX interior could almost have come from a mid-range Accord. As usual, the motor industry moves in its sluggish way and finally gets round to paying more attention to the bits the punter actually spends his or her time gazing at.

    A nice instrument panel really makes a difference. As mentioned in the piece before this, my Nissan Cube’s display looks smart a first glance, but soon reveals itself as Toytown graphics. The more I see it, the less it pleases me, But a clever or good-looking display can be a cause of constant satisfaction.

  2. It is true that delights and nuisances of the interior are much more determining for one’s well-being in a car than the exterior design. And probably even more than ride quality, engine refinement or power. When I think of the cars I own or have owned, it’s exactly this. The delightful sound and feeling of an indicator stalk in the GS. Looking on the flowing shapes of a CX’s dashboard.

    The IP in the C6 is actually a bit dull and dated, and the different light sources (computer screen, digital dashboard, ambient lighting) are poorly adapted to each other. Something is always too bright or too dark, and it’s tedious to adjust it – the buttons are almost out of reach, and some adjustments require to dive into computer menus. It was much easier on the old dasboards with their analogue turning knobs.

    While I appreciate well-made and easily handled dials and controls, I see little sense in light strips and the like. But here I speak as a driver who doesn’t like to be distracted too much. As a passenger, especially in the rear seat where you oversee a larger part of the interior, this might really make a difference.

  3. The Passat made a great impression and, comparatively, combines the look and function much better than the E-Class does. The ensemble is calmer.
    My XM generally nice to be in and it has withstood constant scrutiny on my part for 15 years. It’s the IP that seems to belong to the steam age. You can control the panel’s brightness and that’s it. The buttons were once all illuminated but are blinking out one by one. The bulb is built in so you can’t easily repair them.
    VW need dark rooms to show off the Passat as it appears at night.

  4. VW have learned much from Audi, in that they seek to imbue their products with a Germanic “visual receipt” that lingers beyond the initial dramatic theatre that Harley Earl sought to offer. Certainly their recent products have demonstrated the kind of deep design that rewards repeated viewing, and prodding.

    One of the reasons I regard my 2008 FK/FN Civic fondly is because the dashboard looks like the cockpit from an insane 1980s Japanese Gundam robot. The characterful split level architecture, red LEDs and illuminated graphic design always pleases from behind the wheel, and never fails to draw favourable comments from passengers, giving another fillip to me as the owner. In that regard I can almost forgive the torsion beam rear suspension and rampant cost cutting that Honda embarked upon elsewhere to make that dashboard happen. Almost, but not quite.

  5. As you say Richard, a nice photo. It suggests that romantic thrill of solo night driving when you’re there with just the glow of instruments to keep you company. It recalled the UK Golf ad of a few years back to the voiceover of Richard Burton’s reading of Under Milk Wood.

  6. Looking closer at the photo, I like the constellations of light up switches scattered around, and I’m a sucker for a glowing blue display (is it blue in reality Richard?). However, I notice the analogue clock at the top of the fascia. Why is it there? Its position suggests that it is a primary instrument, one requiring the least deviation of your eyes from the road ahead. But that should be the LCD display that sits below it, out of eye line. Also, why analogue?

    For wristwatches, I like analogue, You can see the time coming. But for cars, I find them inappropriate. Digital is better because it’s quicker to read. Thirty years ago it was the other way round, but nowadays, the only reason designers put analogue clocks into cars is to suggest they are special – a little bit classy. I don’t find that – i find analogue clocks in cars a little bit pretentious. Whenever I see an analogue car clock I think of the dreadful, tacky self-styled-iconic clocks of De Tomaso era Maseratis.

  7. Between chris and his loathing of the Mondeo oval clock and sean’s fastidious contempt for Maserati’s timepiece we have here a clique of rabid modernists.
    The main problem -if it is one -is that the VW clock is hard to read. It needs to be twice the diameter.
    This interior is the antithesis of Saab’s black-out option. It would be nice if the Passat’s lights could be switched off.

    1. I remember that TWBCM always mentioned the ‘classic’ Maserati clock in every review of a De Tomaso era car, whilst never condemning it. I should have realised then how depleted that magazine’s collected aesthetic faculties had become. Look at any real classic Maserati and you won’t find a vagina-shaped timepiece glued to the dashboard. I imagine Berlusconi loved ’em.

    2. My modernism is reasonably schizophrenic in fact. To illustrate it, this is my chosen wristwatch.

      The pick of Casio’s mid-range, it is suitably minimal but keeps perfect (‘atomic’) time, has alarms, solar power, etc. All for £99.99 (I think – I’ve had it for several years). They do one with a metal wristband, but I far prefer the plastic.

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