The 2016 Volkswagen Passat is spacious, and comes with a new infotainment centre with touchscreen interface. Courtesy Volkswagen
The 2016 Volkswagen Passat is spacious, and comes with a new infotainment centre with touchscreen interface. Courtesy Volkswagen

Road test: 2016 Volkswagen Passat



It’s a little bit worrying when the region’s motoring media is being briefed by a car-company executive about the attributes of a new model, and one of the main things he highlights is the design of the rear-view mirror. If having a “frameless” mirror is news, surely it means the rest of the car is going to be a bit of a letdown.

Not so the new Passat. And the reason the now-famous mirror is being made a fuss of is quite simple: this is a car that’s here to make life easier for its owners, and the designers have even gone to the trouble of making sure that grimy fingerprints can quickly and effectively be removed from the glass of its mirror. It isn’t a highlight – it’s simply an example of the lengths Volkswagen has gone to in what, in these parts and the United States at least, is marketed as a bargain model.

Europe gets a completely different Passat, and it’s a rather handsome machine. It won the prestigious European Car of the Year award in 2015, and to be honest, you would be proud to park it outside your office every day – it smacks of premium German engineering, but the one we get, err, doesn’t. What we get is basic transportation dressed up as something nice, manufactured in the US. And you know what? That’s just fine. Because “our” Passat brings a bit of class to the masses, who might otherwise be unable to afford such a large, well-built family car.

It might not be as cutting edge as its European namesake, but it’s actually a larger car, and this “facelift” newbie features some rather enticing details that you would struggle to find elsewhere with an entry price of just Dh87,823. The exterior has been spruced up with new lamps, front and rear, along with some subtly effective new chrome detailing. It isn’t a huge visual departure, but it’s enough. Inside, the developments are less obvious, and the dash architecture is familiar to any Passat owners from a decade ago, but once you start prodding around, you find plenty of evidence of progress.

Aside from that rear-view mirror (which is actually a really good idea), there’s a new steering wheel and a new (standard) infotainment centre with a swipe touchscreen, which perfectly interfaces with an iPhone or ­Android handset. Bluetooth connectivity is also standard. The materials used to trim the cabin are a mix of soft and hard ­plastics, but the overall impression is that this is a car that costs much more than it does – which might be enough to tempt buyers from their default choice of a Toyota Camry.

Seats are cloth-covered in the base “S” model, and the more you spend, the more luxury you get for your dirham, although I’m not sure “leatherette” screams premium these days. That said, there’s a welcome feeling of spaciousness, particularly in the rear quarters, and there’s a cavernous boot that will make family outings and shopping trips much easier to cope with.

Occupant safety was obviously at the top of the agenda when engineering this Passat – there’s a new Automatic Post-­Collision Braking System that, in the event of an accident, assesses the extent of damage, and if the airbags have been deployed (of which there are plenty), immediately cuts the fuel supply and applies the brakes so the car won’t roll away. As for thoughtful features that you might not have previously considered, how about a boot lid that’s impossible to close if you have left the vehicle’s keyfob in with your shopping bags? A nice touch that could potentially save its owner a major headache.

Under the bonnet is where the new Passat shows its age, however. Its 2.5L, five-cylinder engine produces a measly 170hp, teamed up with a six-speed automatic gearbox. This translates into performance that isn’t electrifying, but it’s perfectly adequate for what the car will be used for in the main. On the plus side, it’s quiet and refined, while the transmission goes about its business without you even noticing it. There’s a “Sport” mode, but from what I can tell, the only thing it does is make the engine louder. It certainly doesn’t turn the Passat into a Golf GTI.

The suspension is basic but perfectly damped, with road imperfections smothered away in a manner befitting much more expensive luxury cars. There’s little in the way of body roll when cornering, and the steering feels just the right side of light when on the move, weighting up at pedestrian speeds, but never so that you find it a struggle.

So is the new Passat just some car that’s capable yet unremarkable? In some respects, yes, but it’s greater than the sum of its parts, and offers looks and a feeling of solidity that its Japanese rivals can’t hope to match. I’m tempted to buy one myself as the family runabout – at that price, what could go wrong?

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COMPANY PROFILE

Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

Emergency phone numbers in the UAE

Estijaba – 8001717 –  number to call to request coronavirus testing

Ministry of Health and Prevention – 80011111

Dubai Health Authority – 800342 – The number to book a free video or voice consultation with a doctor or connect to a local health centre

Emirates airline – 600555555

Etihad Airways – 600555666

Ambulance – 998

Knowledge and Human Development Authority – 8005432 ext. 4 for Covid-19 queries

Our legal consultant

Name: Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Company Profile

Company name: Big Farm Brothers

Started: September 2020

Founders: Vishal Mahajan and Navneet Kaur

Based: Dubai Investment Park 1

Industry: food and agriculture

Initial investment: $205,000

Current staff: eight to 10

Future plan: to expand to other GCC markets

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

Mercedes-AMG GT 63 S E Performance: the specs

Engine: 4.0-litre twin-turbo V8 plus rear-mounted electric motor

Power: 843hp at N/A rpm

Torque: 1470Nm N/A rpm

Transmission: 9-speed auto

Fuel consumption: 8.6L/100km

On sale: October to December

Price: From Dh875,000+(estimate)

INDIA'S TOP INFLUENCERS

Bhuvan Bam
Instagram followers: 16.1 million
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Kusha Kapila
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Diipa Khosla started out as a social media manager before branching out to become one of India's biggest fashion influencers, with collaborations including MAC Cosmetics.
Komal Pandey
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Komal Pandey is a fashion influencer who has partnered with more than 100 brands, including Olay and smartphone brand Vivo India.
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Nikhil Sharma from Mumbai began his online career through vlogs about his motorcycle trips. He has become a lifestyle influencer and has created his own clothing line.
Source: Hireinfluence, various

EMIRATES'S REVISED A350 DEPLOYMENT SCHEDULE

Edinburgh: November 4 (unchanged)

Bahrain: November 15 (from September 15); second daily service from January 1

Kuwait: November 15 (from September 16)

Mumbai: January 1 (from October 27)

Ahmedabad: January 1 (from October 27)

Colombo: January 2 (from January 1)

Muscat: March 1 (from December 1)

Lyon: March 1 (from December 1)

Bologna: March 1 (from December 1)

Source: Emirates

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

A QUIET PLACE

Starring: Lupita Nyong'o, Joseph Quinn, Djimon Hounsou

Director: Michael Sarnoski

Rating: 4/5

MATCH INFO

Manchester United 1 (Rashford 36')

Liverpool 1 (Lallana 84')

Man of the match: Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Revibe
Started: 2022
Founders: Hamza Iraqui and Abdessamad Ben Zakour
Based: UAE
Industry: Refurbished electronics
Funds raised so far: $10m
Investors: Flat6Labs, Resonance and various others

Profile

Company: Justmop.com

Date started: December 2015

Founders: Kerem Kuyucu and Cagatay Ozcan

Sector: Technology and home services

Based: Jumeirah Lake Towers, Dubai

Size: 55 employees and 100,000 cleaning requests a month

Funding:  The company’s investors include Collective Spark, Faith Capital Holding, Oak Capital, VentureFriends, and 500 Startups. 

Company Profile

Company name: Namara
Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices

FROM THE ASHES

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Rating: 4/5

Company Profile

Name: HyveGeo
Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government

The five new places of worship

Church of South Indian Parish

St Andrew's Church Mussaffah branch

St Andrew's Church Al Ain branch

St John's Baptist Church, Ruwais

Church of the Virgin Mary and St Paul the Apostle, Ruwais

 

The burning issue

The internal combustion engine is facing a watershed moment – major manufacturer Volvo is to stop producing petroleum-powered vehicles by 2021 and countries in Europe, including the UK, have vowed to ban their sale before 2040. The National takes a look at the story of one of the most successful technologies of the last 100 years and how it has impacted life in the UAE. 

Read part four: an affection for classic cars lives on

Read part three: the age of the electric vehicle begins

Read part one: how cars came to the UAE

 

if you go

The flights

Etihad, Emirates and Singapore Airlines fly direct from the UAE to Singapore from Dh2,265 return including taxes. The flight takes about 7 hours.

The hotel

Rooms at the M Social Singapore cost from SG $179 (Dh488) per night including taxes.

The tour

Makan Makan Walking group tours costs from SG $90 (Dh245) per person for about three hours. Tailor-made tours can be arranged. For details go to www.woknstroll.com.sg

What is a calorie?

A food calorie, or kilocalorie, is a measure of nutritional energy generated from what is consumed.

One calorie, is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1°C.

A kilocalorie represents a 1,000 true calories of energy.

Energy density figures are often quoted as calories per serving, with one gram of fat in food containing nine calories, and a gram of protein or carbohydrate providing about four.

Alcohol contains about seven calories a gram. 

Company Profile

Name: Direct Debit System
Started: Sept 2017
Based: UAE with a subsidiary in the UK
Industry: FinTech
Funding: Undisclosed
Investors: Elaine Jones
Number of employees: 8

COMPANY PROFILE

Name: SmartCrowd
Started: 2018
Founder: Siddiq Farid and Musfique Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech / PropTech
Initial investment: $650,000
Current number of staff: 35
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Various institutional investors and notable angel investors (500 MENA, Shurooq, Mada, Seedstar, Tricap)

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

'Ashkal'

Director: Youssef Chebbi

Stars: Fatma Oussaifi and Mohamed Houcine Grayaa

Rating: 4/5