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Making a reliable choice
If you want to know how to assess your next car properly, you could do worse than to ask an engineer.
Mr Mohamed Ameerul Ashraf started with something most people might overlook.
“As a driver, the first thing that I test is that the entertainment system and other controls to operate the car are easily accessible,” he says.
That is not because he is a music junkie or control freak, but because as a keen driver, Mr Ameerul knows that sometimes the little things make all the difference.
“No issues there,” says Mr Ameerul of his car, a Volkswagen Passat. “The infotainment system itself is clear and user-friendly, as well.”
Good, clear controls do not happen by accident — in a well designed car, the infotainment systems are designed to be perfectly intuitive — they are there to mitigate distraction and let the driver focus on driving.
That is especially important for Mr Ameerul because besides the daily commute, he takes extended driving trips up to Malaysia, with his family in tow.
“I’ve taken my Passat up to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and it isn’t a problem at high speeds at all. It’s very stable, you won’t feel the car swerving or floating,” he says.
It should be no surprise that in those conditions, the car is in its element. After all, the Passat was engineered for the high-speed demands of the German autobahn system, just like all Volkswagens are.
And what are the characteristics for autobahn driving that translate to superior performance on highways here and in Malaysia? Powerful turbocharged engines give strong acceleration and decisive overtaking, for starters. Brakes designed to deliver smooth, straight stops from high speed deliver maximum safety, as well. Even the aerodynamics of a car play a part, and a well-sorted chassis is carefully sculpted to reduce the wind resistance that would otherwise add to fuel consumption, and more importantly, make the car stable at speed.
Those are ways that Volkswagens are specifically designed to deliver a safe, dependable journey, but some measures go the extra mile.
The progressive steering rack is another example of a subtle but important piece of engineering: it is set up to be less direct (or responsive) when the wheel is in the straight-ahead position, but becomes more direct as the driver turns the wheel more. That helps to make Volkswagens feel agile on a winding road but also extremely stable on the highway, something Mr Ameerul appreciates in his Passat.
Add carefully tuned suspension — also designed for high speeds — and you have the perfect companion on long journeys.
“It also feels quite comfortable because of the size of the car — you don’t feel any bumpiness even at higher speeds, so you don’t get fatigued when driving long distances,” says Mr Ameerul. “It’s definitely set up to give a smooth driving experience.”
Comfort and convenience
Ergonomics and comfort are things that automotive engineers take very seriously, after all, no matter whether they are working on the smallest hatchback or largest limousine.
Those attributes may form a huge reason for Mr Ameerul’s affection for his Passat, but perhaps the biggest comfort to a driver comes from having peace of mind, and that is where a dependable car with a dependable dealer can make all the difference. For that, it is not engineering expertise but experience that served Mr Ameerul.
“Before this I was driving a Jetta, which I had for more than five years,” he says. “My Jetta was reliable in the time I had it.”
A great ownership experience comes not just from utter reliability, however, but from the convenience of having a dealer that is committed to excellent service.
“Volkswagen aftersales has been great, too,” says Mr Ameerul. “They have an easy drop-off option for servicing that allows me to drop off the keys and car before their work hours, and you can fill up a form to highlight any issues with the car and they will act on it.”
His example shows how fulfilling it is to find a car that is not just well-engineered, but stress-free to own.
“It’s the entire experience I get from a VW that led me to own another one,” says Mr Ameerul.
Enjoying road trips with the family may be a good reason to choose a Volkswagen, but reliability and great aftersales service are the reasons to stay with one.