4. Driving Experience
The Downsizing demonstrator met Mahle’s fuel-economy and acceleration targets but how does it perform in the real world? In short, very well.
Once underway the car pulls quite strongly up top. The engine is in the meat of its powerband from roughly 1,200 rpm on up. Once the reciprocating bits are moving at a decent clip and the turbo is fully spooled, the car pulls about like a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder. Think of a new Ford Focus and you’ll have a good idea of what it’s like, totally livable and very economical.
One area where it fell short though was in low-end torque. The engine was quite soft just off idle, which made taking off a bit of a challenge. Getting underway required more revs on the clock than typically necessary in most vehicles with a manual transmission. This is something that would almost definitely have a detrimental effect on clutch life, especially if it were driven in hilly terrain or dense stop-and-go traffic.
The car’s transmission is a standard-issue six-speed manual that came in the Passat; it hasn’t been modified in any way. It could probably be made to perform even better if the ratios were optimized to the engine. Additionally the powertrain-control computer’s tuning was not quite 100 percent yet. More work could be done to improve performance with an optimized program.