It’s been a while since I last drove into Malaysia (I can’t even remember when was the last time!). I recently got the chance to, when I was invited for the Volkswagen TDI Media Drive. Essentially, the drive was to let us try the TDI Clean Diesel cars, in particular the CC, Passat, Tiguan, Touareg, Sharan and Touran, and also put us on a little challenge!
Teamed up in pairs – I partnered Jackson Toh of Wheels Asia – we drew lots to decide the order in which we picked the cars. There was a chart prepared for us with the different fuel economies of each model, as the challenge was to clock a fuel economy closest to these manufacturer figures.
Jackson decided to pick the Touareg, which has the highest fuel consumption of the lot. His reasoning was that we may not need to drive it as frugally as one that has a super low fuel economy. The Touareg 3.0 V6 TDI (245bhp at 8,000rpm, 550Nm from 1,750rpm to 2,750rpm) had a combined cycle fuel economy figure of 7.2 litre per 100km. Jackson took the wheel first and once we left the Volkswagen showroom at MacPherson, the challenge was officially started.
In charge of the convoy was Wheels For Fun, an event company that specialises in driving events, which planned the drive and packed it full of good food. Less than an hour upon entering the Causeway, we found ourselves at a ‘bak kut teh’ shop in Kulai.
There was so much pork to go around, along with chicken in sweet Chinese wine (that was pretty potent) and other condiments.
We continued on the journey with a toilet stop where we had to wait five minutes for a particular team. This team (I shan’t reveal who yet!) really made the effort to be frugal with the car and even drove with the windows down despite the blazing heat.
We got to the heart of Malacca in time for lunch at Big Nyonya Restaurant, a famous Peranakan place. There was a grand feast awaiting us as we completed the fuel challenge.
My father is half-Peranakan because his mum is Perakanan, so I guess that makes me a quarter-Peranakan. I seldom eat Nyonya cuisine though, because I’m not good at taking spicy food. I know, I know, it’s a huge pity because Singapore has lots of great spicy food like chilli crab, laksa and all that.
They even had babi pongteh (braised pork with salted bean), a signature Nyonya dish. I was very happy when it came to the desserts though! Look at how colourful and pretty they are, especially the striped pink and white one. I took a risk and bit into the brown folded-pancake-looking-one and had to put it down immediately when I realised it’s durian. I’m not a durian person either. Yes yes, I am missing out a lot in life I know.
After all the feasting, we made our way to the hotel – Casa Del Rio. This Mediterranean-inspired boutique hotel lies right by the Melaka River and is conveniently located right next to the historic city of Malacca with its red buildings.
It only has 66 rooms, each of which is really luxurious with steps in the room and a walk-in closet.
We were given a little time to change into exercise attire because it was time to go cycling! That’s right – we were taken out to the countryside for a late afternoon two-wheel adventure. Coincidentally, some of the bicycles had car brand stickers plastered on them. This one was done up with complete Ferrari livery even.
After picking our bikes, we started a one-hour cycling tour through the dirt roads and tall trees.
We cycled through mud, gravel and undulating slopes, before arriving at a quiet lake. Some took a quick dip but I preferred to stay dry this time.
I thought it was quite meaningful to have the cycling part of our trip. Not only did it help to work off the calories from all the over-eating, it is also a way of promoting eco-friendly transport, as Colin Yong the PR manager of Volkswagen Singapore said.
A quick shower and some pre-dinner cocktails later, we were at Bei Zhan Restaurant for dinner. It is known for being one of the best Chinese restaurants in Malacca. Look at some of the food we had:
It was at this dinner that the winners of the challenge were announced. Sheldon Trollope from EVO Singapore and Joel Tam of Burnpavement.com managed to get 5.3L/100km out of the Passat, which has a stated figure of 5.2L/100km. For their efforts, they were rewarded with a Samsung Galaxy Tab each.
There are many fuel saving techniques out there but eventually it always boils down to one thing – the driver. It’s how you manage between the acceleration and the braking, as well as maintaining the vehicle regularly and making sure it isn’t carrying excess weight around. Such fuel challenges have an element of fun injected into them but it also reminds us to be mindful of our fuel consumption and our driving habits.
Before heading back to Singapore the next day, we had a good meal to fuel up ourselves first. We went to Teo Soon Loong Chan’s Teochew restaurant, which is so understated you might have just walked past it without giving it a second glance.
With a cosy interior that can only sit about six tables, the cooking is done at the entrance where the kitchen is.
We were waiting for our food and someone joked about wireless internet connectivity. The next thing we knew, we were passed the password for the internet and everyone started going online.
If you do visit the restaurant, do try their oyster sauce noodles. Yum.
After we were done with lunch, we took a little walk around the streets of Malacca and even visited a bird house to understand how bird’s nest is made.
Since the challenge was over, we were free to drive any cars we wanted so Jackson and I took the CC.
The Touareg is more powerful and it was very comfortable, while the CC had a sharper drive and a different kind of style. We drove straight on back to Singapore, stopping only once to have Yong Tau Foo.
With the special tax reduction for diesel cars, car makers such as Volkswagen are launching more diesel passenger cars this year. Basically, diesel cars that meet the Euro V emission standard will have the annual Special Diesel Tax reduced to 40 cents per cc. In addition, with the Carbon Emissions-based Vehicle Scheme (CEVS) in place now, tax rebates from $5,000 to $20,000 will be granted for new cars that emit less than 160g of CO2 per kilometre.
Diesel cars typically give out 20 to 30 per cent less carbon dioxide than their petrol equivalents, hence are said to be cleaner. At the same time, there’s also more torque, which is very useful in city traffic if you want to make that overtaking move quickly. We went up to Malacca and back in the Volkswagen TDI models without needing to refuel at all.
Volkswagen Singapore launched a full range of TDI Clean Diesel cars in December. There are 11 models in total - the Polo, Beetle, Scirocco, Touran, Jetta, Tiguan, Passat, Sharan, CC, Touareg and Phaeton. These are being sold alongside their petrol counterparts.
View more photos of the Volkswagen TDI Media Drive here.