Most modern vehicles are designed to transport you from point A to point B safely, quietly, comfortably, and efficiently. There are some vehicles that can transport you the same way but with more luxury, more verve, or more passion. And then, there are vehicles that can transport you back in time. These are the ones that can bring the zing back and revitalize your love for driving.
In 1988, I just graduated from college and was preparing to take the Mechanical Engineering Licensure Board Exams. One cold afternoon, I drove my yellow 1977 Volkswagen Brasilia 1600 to my favorite mountain spot overlooking Metro Manila to recharge my spirits after a long day of studying. At the time, I was a 23-year-old hot shoe who looked for any excuse to go out and enjoy a fast drive. Driving up the mountain roads in my VW was my idea of fun.
Fun Takes A Backseat
For a while, that yellow Brasilia meant everything to me. It was more than just a car. It represented my newfound freedom and mobility, my personal space, my inner sanctum. It may not be as sporty as I’d like it to be but it was reliable, economical, and surprisingly quick. I enjoyed tinkering with it as much as I enjoyed driving it. I took a lot of trips and made a lot of good memories with it. I really loved that yellow car.
Of course, we all grow up, leave our youthful ideals behind, and eventually, become responsible adults. I quickly went up the corporate ladder, got brand-new cars, and eventually sold my beloved VW. Responsibilities started taking over passion. Driving eventually became more of a chore and less of a treat, especially during traffic gridlock. I was just glad to go from point A to point B, accomplish my tasks, and drive safely back home.
My job as a motoring journalist afforded me drives of countless vehicles over the years. Most new vehicles are soft to the touch – thickly-padded leather-wrapped steering wheels, soft leather seats, pushbutton controls, plush carpeting, and reduced noise, harshness and vibration (NVH). Some vehicles inspire passion and spirited driving while others can lull you to sleep – not because they’re boring – but because they’re so very comfortable and luxurious.
When I stepped into the 2020 Volkswagen Santana GTS, it felt like it was going against the norm. The steering wheel was solid not soft while the seats were comfortable but firm. There were rotary control knobs for the climate control system instead of touchscreen automation, and there was a slot to insert and turn the ignition key instead of an engine start/stop push button. There was the requisite touchscreen infotainment system (Blaupunkt Philadelphia 865) but the Santana GTS felt more analog than digital. I loved it! I suddenly felt young again!
Similar But Not The Same
The exterior of the GTS was not unlike my old VW – it was angular, a bit conservative, but purposeful. The VW logo prominently placed in the middle of the front grille signifies that it’s built with German engineering even though, like my Brasilia, it was built outside of Germany. Like my yellow VW, it has a lift-up rear hatch but that’s where the similarities end. My old car was a 3-door square back based on the same flat floor pan as the old air-cooled Beetle while the GTS is a 5-door wagon built on a modern and robust monocoque chassis.
Mounted in the front is a 109-horsepower liquid-cooled 1.5-liter inline 4-cylinder gasoline engine with Multi Point Fuel Injection (MPI) and Volkswagen’s proprietary BlueMotion Technology. Power is transferred to the front wheels through a 6-speed automatic transmission that pushes the GTS from zero to 100 km/h in 12.6 seconds and a top speed of 185 km/h. It may not be the fastest compact wagon in the market today but with 150 Newton-meters of torque, it can outrun my old 60-hp Brasilia quite handily.
The Drive Just Got Better
More than quick acceleration times and top speeds, Volkswagens are about Fahrvergnügen or the driving enjoyment, and the Santana GTS is no exemption. It is a joy to drive. The electronic power steering provides the driver with assistance during slow maneuverings but also provides weight and accurate feedback during cornering. The front McPherson struts and the rear composite torsion beam suspension system provide a supple but controlled ride while the 15-inch alloy wheels shod in 185/60R15 tires provide just the right amount of grip and compliance.
Like my old VW, the Santana GTS is equipped with front ventilated disc brakes and rear drum brakes. However, my old car didn’t have an alphabet of safety features such as Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Stabilization Program (ESP) and Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR) that work in tandem with the SRS airbags, 3-point seatbelts and ISOFIX anchorage points to create a protective cocoon around its occupants. It seems that Volkswagen’s brand promise of “Your drive just got better” indeed got better, and safer, over the years.
Rekindling The Passion
Whoever said that business and pleasure can never mix obviously hasn’t driven a Santana GTS. It can provide fun not only for the driver but for the passengers as well. The rear 60/40 folding seats can be folded to increase the loading space from 372 liters to up to 1,255 liters so you can carry more stuff. Driven with civility, its 55-liter fuel tank can take you more than 550 kilometers before a refill so you can go farther. Its conservative styling will allow you to go about your business, or your leisure, in quiet anonymity.
And then, it hit me: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” I realized that while the modern Santana GTS is far removed from my antiquated Brasilia, one thing remains constant. Both Volkswagens brought out the passion that was hidden inside me. Driving the Brasilia as a young man made me passionate about life and the pursuit of professional success. Driving the Santana GTS as an older man made me more passionate about life and the pursuit of personal successes.
A week into the test drive and the Santana GTS was beginning to rub off on me. It’s more than just a car. It represents mobility, space, and, dare I say, an inner sanctum. It may not be sporty but it is reliable, economical, quick, and safe. I don’t even have to tinker with it. I can just hop in and drive off with my family, take a lot of trips, and make a lot of good memories. It was like reliving my youthful wanderlust with my old VW, except this time, I enjoyed the drive in the more comfortable and safer confines of a modern Volkswagen. Fahrvergnügen? Indeed!
Price: P998,000 (P1,029,000.00 with Blaupunkt infotainment system)
Classification: 5-door compact wagon
Engine type: Liquid-cooled inline-4 Multi Point Fuel Injection gas engine with BlueMotion Technology
Capacity: 1498 cc
Maximum power: 109hp (110 PS) @ 6000 rpm
Maximum torque: 150 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Transmission 6-speed Automatic
Length: 4282 mm
Width: 1706 mm
Height: 1489 mm
Wheelbase: 2603 mm
Curb weight: 1635 kg
Ground clearance: 116 mm
Turning radius: 11.61 m
Fuel tank capacity: 55 liters
Acceleration: 12.6 seconds
Maximum speed: 185 km/h
Load space behind rear seats: 372 liters
Load space behind front sat: 1255 liters
Bonifacio One Technology Tower, 3030 Rizal Drive,
Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City, 1502 Metro Manila
Phone: (+632) 8459 4555