Exam season is now in full swing. If the new Volkswagen Passat were a new student waiting to be graded, it would surely manage more than just a "pass".
Notably, it will get an A in subjects such as engineering and technology.
The eighth-generation Passat is the latest mid-size car from Volkswagen, which has long been better known for smaller cars such as the Beetle, Golf and Scirocco.
The new sedan is a completely re-engineered car, from styling to chassis and engine. In stylee, it leans more towards conservative than bold, befitting its unassuming but upmarket image.
Its radiator grille joins the headlights in a seamless flow, giving its "face" a sporty wrap-around look similar to what you see on the Golf and Scirocco.
A prominent crease line runs along the side of the car from the front wheel arch through its door handles to the rear lights, creating a distinctive side profile.
The biggest changes lie within the car.
The new car is up to 85kg lighter (about the weight of an adult). While it is 2mm shorter at 4,767mm and 14mm lower at 1,456mm, it is, at 1,832mm, 12mm wider than its predecessor.
Significantly, its wheelbase has grown by 79mm to 2,791mm. This is even longer than the spacious Toyota Camry and Nissan Teana. Rear passengers will immediately feel the increased legroom.
The cabin has a premium feel. A virtual digital instrument cluster - the first in a VW car - peeps through a flat-bottomed steering wheel. Head-up display - also a first in a VW car - projects the car's speed and navigation guidance on the windscreen.
Buttons of the centre console are logically laid out around a new 8-inch touchscreen display, with functions such as smartphone pairing and entertainment controls. The display also gives a bird's eye view of the car using cleverly placed cameras around it. The feature, which is found mostly in high-end cars, is useful for parking in tight spots.
Besides the latest gadgetry, the Passat also impresses with its attention to detail.
For example, the cup holders are lined with soft rubber and the front door pockets with felt to prevent knocking noises. The storage bin below the driver's armrest, however, is a little too small to be practical.
From the driver's seat, it is easy to mistake the new Passat for an Audi if not for the logo on the steering wheel.
Two variants of the car were put through their paces on the long, curvy roads of Sardinia.
One is an entry-level front-wheel- drive sedan powered by a new 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine with an output of 148bhp and 250Nm. This is mated with a six-speed manual gearbox. The car is not likely to make it to Singapore.
The other is a flagship all-wheel-drive estate powered by a 2-litre twin- turbocharged diesel engine with an output of 237bhp and a dizzying 500Nm of torque. It is paired with VW's seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. The car rockets from zero to 100kmh in 6.3 seconds.
Amazingly, the high-performing Euro 6-compliant turbodiesel has a claimed fuel economy of just 5.4 litres per 100km and a CO2 emission of 140g/km. This gives the car an attractive mix of power, fuel-efficiency and green credentials.
While the new Passat is not a hot hatch and should not be driven like one, its steering response is sharp and it goes round tight bends at speed without losing composure.
The car is equipped with MacPherson struts for its front suspension and a multi-link rear suspension. The chassis allows three levels of damping control - comfort, normal and sports. Even in sports mode, occupants will not feel uncomfortable on less-than-perfect roads.
VW's head of technical project management Dirk Nessenius says the new Passat has "many new technologies as never before in a Volkswagen".
He was not exaggerating.
The new Passat comes with an array of safety features, such as radar sensors that detect vehicles in front and behind the car, adaptive cruise control and emergency braking (at up to 65kmh) to avoid collision with other vehicles or pedestrians.
The most useful function for city driving is an update of VW's self-parking program, which allows the car to slot itself into perpendicular parking spaces either head or tail in first. It works flawlessly, with the car prompting you to switch between Drive and Reverse gears.
The new car is expected to be launched in Singapore in the second quarter of next year with 1.8-litre and 2-litre petrol power plants, mated to seven- speed dual-clutch autoboxes. The estate version will also be available.
VW does not rule out bringing turbodiesel variants to Singapore. Should the twin-turbo come to Singapore, it will boost the grade of the new Passat from A to A+.