Of skills and thrills

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A tough, opulent SUV and a luxurious sedan… quite the milestones on the highway to motoring joy, experienced by Gaurav Nagpal

An old adage goes: “Horses for courses”. Simply put, it advocates the choice of different people for different jobs, believing that you cannot really be equally skilled in more than one field. In the world of luxury motoring, that belief has not held sway for a while, though, because as much as you want a car that is supreme in one field, you also want something that can take what you throw at it, and despatch it with aplomb. That pretty much sums up my experience with two very different luxury vehicles: distinct as can be, yet impressing with how well they do whatever they are called on to do. Sounds like a great day? Read on to find out!

The first vehicle I made my acquaintance with was the Volvo XC60 SUV. Globally the second generation of the model, it has already racked up awards aplenty, among which is the title of ‘World Car of the Year’ at the New York Auto Show 2018. Just a glance at it, and you can understand why! The ‘Thor’s Hammer’ headlamps, a signature of sorts for recent Volvo cars, grab attention immediately with their sharp, classy design. Move along the sides, and you cannot help but admire the pronounced wheel arches housing the large wheels, a sign of its athleticism. The tail lights, flowing into the tailgate, are another Volvo design cue. And, while at the rear, just swing your foot under the boot edge, and it pops open by itself!

Inside, it is the familiar Volvo environment: plush, luxurious and very well put together. Run your fingers over any surface, and you will be impressed. In the centre of the dashboard sits a nineinch touchscreen, a gateway of sorts to access settings for infotainment, climate control and more; the multiplicity of options did leave me scratching my head, though. The seats themselves are very comfortable, crafted for luxury as much as for driving pleasure.


power band. The car picks up speed fast, though with a slight lag during upshifts, not improving much in Dynamic mode. Rough roads are a non-issue – this is an SUV, after all, and it can take the odd off-road jaunt in its stride too; hold off on hardcore off-roading, though.

From high up to down low – an apt way to introduce the next car: the Volkswagen (VW) Passat. Slightly misleading, though, as the Passat does not have that low-set a stance. The signature VW grille occupies pride of place between full-LED headlamps. Loading luggage into the boot is also just a wave of the foot away! Understated elegance could well be a tagline for this car, excellent if you do not wish to stand out in the crowd. The unobtrusive family look does have a shortcoming, though – twice, it was mistaken for its siblings from lower segments!

Get past that, and enter a world of comfort and class. My soft corner for beige interiors aside, the black interior does look good and could well have “quality” written all over. Even the door pockets are lined with soft-touch fabric – feel it and you cannot help but say an “A-ha”! A push of a button, and I was off! This, too, is a diesel-powered car, with excellent sound deadening – the difference when outside and inside the car is relatively surprising. In-gear acceleration is quite good, and it gets even better when I select Sports mode for the transmission and the suspension – upshifts happen in a fraction of a second, with barely any lag. Go pedal-to-metal, and the wave of power is exhilarating, made even better by a lower stance that avoids any body roll. A sportscar it is not, of course, but given the right road and sufficient urgency, you can safely make it to your destination in quick time, when needed. Poorly paved stretches of tarmac cause nary a rumble; you, however, do feel the undulations.

Two distinct takes on luxury motoring, and it all comes down to your priorities. If your car must be in your face, grabbing attention, capable of smoothening anything you throw at it, and safe as a tank, it has to be the Volvo XC60. If standing out in a crowd is not your mantra, but any compromise on speed, luxury, safety or comfort is not in order, you would be pleased with the VW Passat. Either way, you are assured of a wide smile on your face!

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