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Going ‘Beyond the Brochure’ with the Volkswagen Tharu

Taking the crossover on a quick drive to Pampanga

The drive started in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. PHOTO BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

If you just look at the spec sheet of the Volkswagen Tharu, there isn’t much that stands out. It reads like what you’d find in a compact crossover.

However, eyebrows will be raised once you see the prices of P1,808,000 and P1,945,000 for the two variants. Is the car really worth that much?

To get a glimpse, we joined the “Beyond the Brochure” media drive of Volkswagen Philippines, and went on a day trip to Pampanga with the Tharu SEL.

The Tharu has interesting exterior details. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

As a colleague said in his review, the Tharu is classy and understated. The beauty of its design can be found in the little details. The ends of the front and the rear lightbars converge with the Volkswagen logo in the center.

The red accents on the rims break up the monotony, adding a touch of sportiness. And the nameplate at the rear is blacked out instead of the usual chrome. Overall, the exterior is unique without being attention-hungry.

The interior has a decent amount of space and features. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

In place of physical buttons, capacitive touch switches are laid out on the steering wheel and the climate-control panel. Three slots are in the center console beside the shifter, perfect for holding two RFID cards and a moderately sized smartphone. Seeing the red interior accents (present in the Mangan Gray color) made me feel like I was piloting a Gundam rather than driving a crossover.

On the expressway, the 1.5-liter four-cylinder turbo gasoline engine came alive. Overtaking is a breeze with 158hp and 250Nm available on tap. And once you get up to cruising speed, you won’t realize how fast you’re going with the superb NVH performance.

The rain began pouring in Pampanga. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

But expectation opens the door to disappointment. While the Tharu is not a bad car by any stretch of the imagination, I found it to be lacking in certain things considering its price.

The top-of-the-line SEL variant checks the boxes having power seats at the front with leather upholstery, a 12-inch infotainment system, ADAS, and a sunroof. However, the cruise control isn’t adaptive; Apple CarPlay is only wired (and there’s no Android Auto); and the proximity sensors can be too sensitive at times.

The red accents reminded the author of his Gundam models. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Chatting with VW Philippines COO Joshua Altarejos gave me more insight into the brand. The German marque is mass-market on its home turf. It does mean “the people’s car” after all.

But since it has no chance of competing against the likes of Toyota here, going upscale made more sense—premium but not luxury, similar to Peugeot. And unlike Chinese companies, Volkswagen has the pedigree to back it up with “German engineering” being the sales pitch.

Margarita Corpuz is one proud Tharu owner. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Go to the Tharu’s web page and you’ll find the slogan “Drive Different.” During the brief media drive, one Tharu owner joined us and shared her experience. She’s happy with her Volkswagen as it is a car that is capable and unique.

The punchy engine helps her overtake slow-moving trucks; the ride and build quality held up on imperfect provincial roads; and she claimed that it has the best audio among the different cars she owns—all while being a head-turner. The fact that her Tharu is just one of many vehicles is quite telling of her family’s background.

There's no mistaking this Volkswagen for a Chinese crossover. PHOTOS BY LEANDRO MANGUBAT

Synthesizing her experience of the Volkswagen Tharu with mine, I can see that the crossover is a case of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” The looks are stylish yet subtle; the vehicle drives well; and the build quality is nice.

You’ll need to experience the Tharu for yourself to truly appreciate it for what it is. It just so happens that the car isn’t that affordable. The vehicle is good, but whether it is worthy of its price tag will depend on how much you value Volkswagen as a brand.

Leandro Mangubat

Leandro is our staff writer. Although having a background in mechanical engineering, he enjoys photography and writing more.