I remember when driving a 2003 Passat 1.8T I used to own. This car was equipped with “ASR”, or anti-slip regulation. Practically speaking, this meant that when the front wheels started slipping, a light on the dash would start blinking frantically, the engine would cut power to near zero and a whole bunch of noise would come from the front end. It was not a comforting system and it didn’t do a great job of keeping the car moving forward.
Enter 2013, ten years later, and these systems are nothing a like. In 2003 the world was still using StarTAK flip phones from Motorola – color screen? Please. Today, smartphones and tablets can get access fast, reliable internet nearly anywhere. Similarly, electronic stability systems are much improved.
During the first real snowfall of this year I had the opportunity to take the 2013 Passat our for some winter-weather testing. This model was equipped with 17″ wheels with all-season tires (Hancook brand…I know). I wasn’t expecting great performance.
I was wrong.
First and foremost, this modern ESP is much less “trigger-happy” than systems of old. Perhaps it enables itself first without explicitly letting you know, but the car allows you to slip for a few seconds before the dash light lets you know the system is working. Speaking of the light, rather than a frantic flash, the ESP icon turns on, then off, in a much calmer manner.
As for noise, there is none. No banging and bumping and thunking. Nothing.
The most important part though is how well it works. Merging onto a main road involving climbing a very steep grade and stopping at the stop sign at the top of the hill. Being an intersection, the sides were piled high with lose snow from earlier plowing. Typically this merge would involve rolling back down the hill, getting some speed and hoping that momentum pushes you through the pile and into the road. With the wheels on the lose snow I began letting out the clutch, and expectedly the wheels started sliding. But then, I started moving forward. After a few moments the ESP light turned on for a brief moment and before it went off I was on the main road. How easy was that!?
We are really loving this new Passat, and we’re working on more review articles soon, but for now we are enchanted by the current-generation ESP systems, something we certainly didn’t expect.