The Volkswagen Lamando Marries German Precision with Chinese Practicality
To be completely honest, I had not heard of the Lamando before the test drive unit arrived one Friday evening. I had to do a quick Google search to find out exactly what it was. Volkswagen introduced its compact sedan in 2014 but it first arrived in the Philippines only last year, thanks to the free trade agreement between our country and China.
Yes, despite the explicitly German logo and name tacked onto its front and rear, the Lamando is assembled in China by the joint venture company between Volkswagen and SAIC. Whatever preconceptions you might have about goods manufactured in the Middle Kingdom need to be set aside though. In the one week that I had the Lamando, I found it to be classy, comfortable, and most of all, capable.
Admittedly, I didn’t think there was much to look at judging by the photos of the Lamando at launch last year. But they were benign colors of black and white. The test unit was a deep shade of Misano Red and that instantly kicked things up a notch or three. Which only goes to show that one should never underestimate the power of a good paint job.
In many ways, test driving a new car is a lot like meeting new people—you can tell a lot about them within the first few minutes. In the Lamando’s case, it was the stark simplicity of the interior that I found most significant. Many cars offer useful features that add to the experience of the drive for sure, but often they make operating the car itself tedious and complicated.
With the Lamando, everything looked so effortless and streamlined the minute I slipped into the driver’s seat—supple leather seats, simple and straightforward buttons and a clear, seamless infotainment system. There was none of the hesitations I usually feel when driving a new car; with the Lamando, it instantly felt like I had been driving it for years.
Of course, for some people, that might be a turn-off. Maybe drivers need to feel a bit more unfamiliar with a new set of wheels so they can relish that “newness.” But for everybody else who puts a premium on instantly bonding with their car, the Lamando delivers.
The local VW office lent me the 280 TSI DSG SEL with a four-cylinder, in-line turbocharged and fuel-injected gas engine. Zero to 100 kilometers per hour at 8.5 seconds and a top speed of 215 kph. Of course, those numbers mean little if you’re constantly hitting the brakes in a city that’s constantly in varying states of traffic jams.
So I took it on a leisurely weekend drive out to Tagaytay. The instant rush I got every time I pressed ever so slightly on the accelerator meant a joyous and speedy drive along SLEX and on Tagaytay’s roads. It was easy to imagine it to be my regular drive, casually switching between city and country roads, weekdays and weekends. I’m not sure how it can handle bruised asphalt and off-road as most of our route involved neither, but for regularly paved streets and avenues, in light, moderate or heavy traffic, the Lamando performed near flawlessly. If it weren’t for the annoying sunroof cover, which never fully closed and kept sliding off every so often, I’d have given it top marks.
But my three other friends who were with me in the drive all had good things to say—they complimented the interior space, the air conditioning fans and USB ports to charge their phones in the rear seats, and the trunk space that held our pasalubongs on the way back (we didn’t buy a lot, but all of them said the roomy trunk needed to be cited).
I got to know the Lamando for a week and I’m happy I did. If driving a new car isn’t unlike meeting new people, I wouldn’t mind being friends with this German-Chinese model.