20+ years experience, 3 previous cars, the last one being a VW B6 Passat for 9 years.
Performance and Handling
Coming from the B6 Passat, the Sharan feels very familiar.
The acceleration is more than sufficient, especially when overtaking. 350Nm definitely moves this heavy beast. Off the line, the factory-fit Continental tyres are less than sufficient to tame the engine, often resulting in wheelspin when enthusiastic acceleration is called upon. The pull all the way past legal speeds is invigorating, as is the guttoral engine note at WOT - I now know why the GTI is the most popular car in the VW range.
The 6-speed DSG in "normal" auto mode feels like a standard automatic gearbox. Even when using the paddles, it does not have the snappy gearchange I expected. But knock the lever to the left, and then the DSG shows it's true mettle; changing gears faster than humanly possible (I used to speedshift my stickshifts and this is something else).
The steering feel is very remote, almost vague...and although the light weight feel of the flat-bottomed wheel hides feedbaclk from the tyres, there is a distinct response to inputs that allows one to get the vehicle sorted out in most situations. I haven't had the chance to drive in anger around a fast sweeping bend, nor attempted to hurl around a tight corner, but I can get the inside wheels squealing on occasion, and never does the car feel like it is losing it (I have definitely felt out of sorts in the Passat over the years, even fishtailing on the rare occasion).
Braking is sufficient, with decent feel after the initial vagueness. It does not bite hard, but is it is pretty progressive, without any distinct fade even after repeated stops from unmentionable speeds...and I dare say that left-foot trail braking into a fast corner does not seem to upset it; it invokes confidence to a large extent.
The large size of the car is pretty daunting, especially when I park at home in my small narrow driveway. But around on the roads, I no longer find myself guessing about the placement of the tyres, and can almost feel the car start to shrink around me. It is still a heavy car with a high-riding centre of gravity, and you can feel it when correcting in the midst of a corner. Fortunately, the ride is setup well, and only the hardest of braking causes the car to dive quite a bit, but it never overwhelms the front.
Interior and Comfort
For an MPV without a massive Boxy shape, this is probably the most comfortable sub-5metre people mover. The front seats are the most plush, and feel like they come straight from the Passat, and with alcantara (just like my B6 Passat), with electronic adjustments to allow my wife and I to select our favourite positions; but the biggest (and most notable) gripe about the car is the lack of memory seats. My 9 year older Passat had 3 memory positions, which automatically moved the seat and side mirrors to the right position for each driver (even the turn-down position for parking).
The back 2 rows of seats are enough for all to feel like they are not rubbing shoulders and with adjustments to move forward and back, with a little play on lean angles. Seatbelt detection for all 7 seats means the driver (and passengers) will be made aware if anyone unbuckles while the vehicle is in motion (with an audible "ding").
With 4 (yes this is NOT a typo) 12V points, including the cigarette lighter, I have been able to add more than 10 USB charging points for my family's devices, as well as the car devices (GPS, dashcam...) I do wish the position of the 12V was not so weird (3 are in between the front seats, and the last one is behind the 3rd row)
Each row of seats is large enough for the average Singaporean to fit in without dreading a long ride. I am confident we can make it to Penang without my teenage son complaining. Ingress for rear passengers is also more than sufficient. I do admit that the sliding doors protrude more than I expected and I can no longer park just next to a wall that is next to my C pillar, having to leave almost a foot of gap to allow for the door to fully open.
The 2 side seats of the middle row even comes with a built in booster chair, so I no longer need to carry a car seat for my youngest child. It is so easy to use, he pushes it into place and happily buckles up each time he gets into the car.
The individual aircon vents for all passengers and 3-zone climate control are a godsent,; my 4 kids can sit and not fight over where the vents are pointing. Aircon is also circulated at the floor level through a myriad of vents in the front 2 rows.
Even with all 7 seats occupied, I could easily fit a whole trolley of groceries into the "boot", and that was with my usual "car barang barang" in place. As my kids no longer use a stroller, my previous worry of having to fit food and pram at the same time is no longer an issue, but I am pretty sure with some origami, all would have fit into place.
With the last row folded, the Sharan becomes like a large station wagon, with all the usual amenities provided (removable cover, cargo nets, special divider to prevent animals and other loose items from smashing into the passengers). The rear seats easily fold flat without having to access from the middle row, and can be pushed back into place with a little more finesse required.
The panoramic roof extends all the way back above the 2nd row, so passengers have a good view of everything in front and above. It is a liberating experience driving under the landing airplanes along the PIE towards the airport, and see huge wings, engines and the lowered gear of the aircraft from beneath.
Then we can talk about sound insulation... and how quiet the car is on the road. Similar to when I first got my Passat, this car is so quiet and cruising on highways so insulated that I didn't realise I was speeding most of the time... until the letter from the TP arrived. Unless provoked with a heavy right foot, road, tyre and engine noises are practically mute, as are the traffic sounds from vehicles around. I am pretty sure that even at autobahn speeds, I could have a conversation with my passengers without having to raise my voice.
Gadgets and Stuff
The latest "facelifted" car is still from the previous generation of VWs, so the usual instrument gauges with central multi-function display is less stunning than the latest full LED screen of the B8 Passat. You can use the steering mounted buttons to change the media, settings and even access the phone connected to the car. But it does take a bit of time to get used to the 8 or 9 buttons on each side of the steering wheel.
The infotainment system provided, although the lowest of the current range of VW units, is more than capable of connecting to a phone via Bluetooth, and even has Android Auto for those with such phones. The full range of VW Android Apps is not available in the Singapore Google Play Store, and I don't see that happening any time soon. But I am more than happy to have Spotify blasting through the factory fitted speakers, which can be tuned based on the position of the listener. The bass is less than stellar, but the rest of the range of sounds are decently balanced for something so "cheap". I do wish the difference between Bluetooth volume and Radio volume was not so great, as I end up with blasting loud radio after switching from my phone media.
The autohold feature which I got so used to in the Passat is not only present in the Sharan, but turns on by default when the car is started (in the Passat, I had to activate it each time I got into the car). The auto-start-stop is a little intrusive, but a lot better than the Audi version I sampled years earlier, with about 1 second lag from prodding the throttle to actual movement. For those who don't like the hesitation, it can be easily deactivated on the central console. I simply lightly touch the throttle to start the engine moments before the light turns green to avoid hesitation.
The DSC seems to be more intrusive, often activating when I am driving on lightly undulating surfaces (carpark imperfections or even junction crossings with a rise in the middle). Similarly, the system kicks in when accelerating hard while turning... but I suppose that is a good thing.
The built in tyre-pressure system is also a wonderful standard item to have, and I no longer have to keep checking.
I do wish the car came with Blindspot indicators, rear crossing video feeds, lane departure warnings and other safety features, along with memory seats (at least for the driver). A remote engine start would also be appreciated, and a better android auto GPS app too.
But this is a "basic", large, comfortable, flexible family car and I should be happy with what it already comes with....especially that GTI engine and gearbox.
This is now my 4th car, and throughout the progression, I have not only bought an increasingly larger car, but I am happy that I managed to get a faster and more powerful engine each and every time.