The West

VW s budget buyers don t miss out
VW Passat. Supplied picture

Unflattering descriptors are often attached to entry models.

The nastiest I've heard is: "Oh, he bought the poverty pack."

But, lately, starter variants have been including all sorts of gizmos and comforts. Certainly looking to be swish is Volkswagen with its new Touareg and Passat entry models.

The Touareg is a big SUV that kicks off at $62,990 with a punchy-yet-frugal 150kW diesel model.

Electric seats, a favourite luxury touch of mine, still rarely find their way into base models, but the Touareg doesn't muck about. The front seats are 12-way adjustable, which means any shaped body should be able to find ideal cossetting.

If wanting to get really snug, the side bolsters on the backrests are also electrically adjustable. All pews come in high-quality leather while the front ones are heated.

Bi-xenon headlights were a revelation to me when I first experienced them. They can turn night into day well ahead, easing the strain of driving and increasing safety.

That's especially so on country roads, where so many deaths occur. Again, the Touareg breaks the mould by making the technology standard.

VW Touareg. Supplied picture
Those same roads are also where many drowsy drivers come to grief. So, rather than put the Driver Fatigue System on the options list, Volkswagen has rated it as essential safety equipment.

It's a clever piece of kit.

The system seeks to spot signs of fatigue by continually evaluating the car's steering behaviour. Aspects such as steering angle, use of pedals and cornering stability are monitored.

If the steering behaviour is identified as suspect, visual and acoustic warnings alert the driver. If the driver does not take a break within the next 15 minutes, the warnings are repeated.

LED daytime driving lights have also been added along with a rear-view camera. Such eyes in the back of the head are now considered a necessity for SUVs, which typically have big blind spots when reversing.

The Touareg's alloys get a kick up to 18 inches and the rear backrest can now be split and folded 60:40 remotely from the cargo area.

These additions are on top of already-strong specs, such as an eight-speed auto, nine airbags, a colour touchscreen, on-screen parking guides, dual-zone air and lots of chrome.

The key omission for me is sat-nav, though that's not the case with the entry Passat. Even the cheapest variant, a $38,990 118kW turbo-petrol, now comes standard with an advanced navigator.

Its features include a high- resolution touch-screen, 16:9 format, voice control, 30GB hard drive, rear-view camera and parking-guidance lines. The sat-nav also provides 2D, topographical and bird's-eye-view map views.

Added too are paddles for making clutchless manual shifts of the seven-speed DSG auto transmission. Now standard on Passat wagons is an automatic opening and closing tailgate, which is a delight to use.

The Passat is also unusual in having an entry car with eight airbags rather six. The extra two could be life-saving for rear occupants in a side collision.

"Bought the luxury model did you?"

That's what many a buyer likes to hear.

The West Australian

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