That really was what the car seemed to look like at first. Having assumed that the SAIC-built Lamando was Volkswagen’s successor to the Passat in the country, I considered this thing as the German brand’s contender for the admittedly niche market that midsize sedans seem to occupy these days. The existence of the compact Lavida and the retail price of P1.703 million for this loaded SEL variant appear to suggest that the Lamando is to go into battle with the likes of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
The styling of the Lamando does give it midsize sedan credentials. The fastback-esque profile makes it look a lot sleeker than the more upright Lavida. The headlamp and taillamp units appear to be inspired by those on the North American and European-spec Passats, respectively. Even the design of the rear quarter window is Passat-ish. Out in the sun, the overall design does work well with the test unit’s Misano Red paint job. Shame the wheels are just 17 inches with tall sidewall tires – 18s would’ve looked a lot better.
Even the interior has enough toys that would rival a well-equipped Camry or Accord. Seat trim is black leather with contrasting white piping. The driver’s and front passenger’s perches are equipped with seat heaters. The dashboard has a subtle, squared off look with tasteful lashings of silver and carbon fiber-look trim. The instrument panel ditches traditional gauges in lieu of a configurable digital display. To keep occupants busy in traffic, the Lamando SEL has a sunroof and a massive 9.2-inch screen for the infotainment system that is very responsive to the touch – almost smartphone-like.
Although the Lamando’s 1.4-liter turbocharged direct-injected lump is quite small and a bit lacking at the top end with just 148hp, the meaty 250Nm of torque accessible from as low as 1,750rpm more than makes up for it. It’s more than enough for city and highway use. And thanks to the dual-clutch seven-speed DSG, power losses are minimal. The gas mileage in the city is a respectable 7.9km/L. Not bad for something with a turbo.
So the Volkswagen Lamando is pretty impressive for what it is given its price. However, there are certain things with the vehicle that make me question whether I’d part with my P1.703 million.
The test unit had a couple of issues. The left-hand DRL strip was a lot dimmer compared to the right. Speaking of the lights, I drove the Lamando through a mix of wet and dry weather and both headlamps appear to have moisture inside. In addition, the sunroof cover slides itself ajar each time I go near the throttle. Given the vehicle’s mileage of around 4,000km, these things concerned me.
The steering is unnaturally light. Like most power steering systems, I expected the steering feel to become heavier as the car goes faster. But at expressway speed limits, I felt it was easy for any road imperfection to yank the tiller. The body felt solid, yes. But the steering is just a tad too light for my liking especially during high-speed driving.
But the biggest bombshell came after I had already driven the car and was writing this review. I wanted to say how much longer the Lamando is compared to its smaller sibling, the Lavida. It turns out that the former is actually shorter than the latter by 7mm. That doesn’t sound right considering the Lamando’s P532,000 premium over the Lavida. Even more so when the car is a whopping 287mm shorter than a Toyota Camry. The Volkswagen Lamando, then, turns out to be a compact car with a midsize price tag.
And that’s hard to justify, especially when pitted against the Lavida. Apart from the half million-peso price difference, engine performance isn’t too far off as well. The Lamando only has a 20hp and a 25Nm advantage over its brother. For most buyers, they won’t even notice the difference particularly in city driving. The Lavida also has leather seats, a sunroof, and a suite of electronic driver aids, which makes the Lamando an even more difficult proposition as far as cost of acquisition is concerned.
So, the Volkswagen Lamando 280 TSI SEL is in a weird place. It’s just as big as the Lavida, and not much more powerful. But the existence of its less expensive sibling means that its likely going for a slice of the midsize sedan pie. And while the Lamando’s price tag does undercut most midsize sedans in the country, I fear that the vehicle’s dimensions might make it hard to sell.
VOLKSWAGEN LAMANDO 280 TSI SEL
|Engine||1.4-liter four-cylinder turbo gasoline|
|Power||148hp @ 5,000rpm|
|Torque||250Nm @ 1,750-3,000rpm|
|Dimensions||4,598mm x 1,826mm x 1,425mm|
|Upside||Fastback profile and long list of standard equipment.|
|Downside||Midsize sedan price and compact car dimensions.|