By on August 15, 2011

Volkswagen intends to become the world’s largest auto maker. Selling far more cars in the United States would accomplish this goal. Euro-spec cars haven’t been doing the trick, as too few Americans have been willing to pay the resulting semi-premium prices. So VW engineered a new Jetta compact sedan and a new Passat midsize sedan specifically for American tastes and budgets. Confident of the latter’s success, they’ve even constructed an all-new factory in Chattanooga, TN, to assemble it. Should the UAW’s latest targets expect to be working overtime? Today’s review evaluates the 2.5-liter five-cylinder gas Passat in SE trim, while Wednesday’s will compare the 2.0-liter turbodiesel in SEL Premium trim.

Apparently VW felt they were biting off enough risk with the new plant and the much higher sales volume needed to justify it, for the new Passat’s exterior styling could not be more safe. From the side the big sedan resembles the first-generation Toyota Avalon, itself tailored to the most conservative slice of the American car market circa 1994. The front end, like that of the new Jetta, does without the sort of overstyled, oversized headlights and grilles that have been fashionable for the past half-decade. But it goes too far in the other direction, giving the otherwise handsome (in dark colors) exterior an overly generic, “value” face not unlike that of the 1997 Camry.

The new Passat’s interior styling is similarly conservative to a fault. The instrument panel upper and parts of the doors are soft to the touch, but because many of the other surfaces and controls are composed of decidedly lower-grade materials the overall ambiance reeks of cost cutting. The climate control knobs, though easy to understand, feel especially chintzy. As in other recent VWs, the beltline (base of the windows) is fashionably high. But the pillars are thin by current standards and the windshield is comfortably raked, so the driving position is good if not commanding. The seats don’t have much in the way of contour, and the typical American posterior will find them short on padding. Compared to recent VW practice, the power seat lacks two adjustments: no tilt and no height adjustment for the lumbar bulge. For some people none of this will matter, for the new Passat’s interior has one literally large competitive advantage: limo-worthy legroom. Headroom is also plentiful. If you’ve been having trouble finding a sufficiently roomy sedan, your search is over—unless you also want your rear passengers to be well-ventilated. Though dual zone automatic climate control is standard in all 2012 Passats, rear air vents aren’t available. There’s plenty of room for your stuff as well, as the truck is large and the rear seat folds to expand it. VW clearly thinks Americans care about quantity more than quality, even as Ford and Chevrolet make a big shift in the opposite direction.

The 200-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four that powered the previous Passat costs too much for the new car’s lower price point. Instead, the 170-horspower five-cylinder engine initially created for the U.S.-market 2005.5 Jetta lurks beneath the hood of the Passat 2.5. While most definitely not the driving enthusiast’s choice (we want whatever Europe gets), the five excels at midrange torque and sounds more substantial than the typical four. Paired with a six-speed automatic it has no trouble getting the car off the line or accelerating up to highway speeds. It helps that the new 191.6-inch-long, 72.2-inch-wide sedan weighs only 3,220 pounds, over 100 fewer than the smaller, 188.2-by-71.7-inch 2006-2010 Passat. The new Audi A6, though only a little larger on the outside and less roomy on the inside, weighs nearly a quarter-ton more.

The trip computer reported mid-twenties in suburban driving and high 30s along a stretch of 70 MPH highway. Both numbers seem optimistic. The EPA ratings for the Passat 2.5 automatic: 22 city, 31 highway, same as the 2010 2.0T.

Stripping the Passat down to fighting weight also pays dividends for handling. The Passat 2.5 feels much smaller than it actually is. The chassis and especially the steering have a direct, honest feel lacking in today’s cars, with their relentless pursuit of Lexus. Feedback is plentiful and nuanced when it’s most needed, in curves. The steering is a little light on center, but progressively firms up as the wheel is turned (many current systems with too much new tech for their own good do the opposite). As a result, though the Passat 2.5’s limits are fairly low courtesy of unaggressive suspension tuning and 215/55HR17 ContiProContact tires, and front end could be better damped in bumpy curves, it’s easy and enjoyable to exploit every bit of the car’s potential.

Then, the flipside. Without the extensive use of budget-busting lightweight steel and aluminum, those missing pounds had to come out of the body structure and sound insulation. Perhaps for this reason, the new Passat sounds and feels insubstantial and unrefined compared to the emerging norm for the class. Mid-turn bumps elicited a clunk from the driver’s door. Even assuming a defect with the tested car, the body structure feels less than rigid across imperfect pavement. Build quality, noise levels, and refinement are those of a mid-pack car from a decade ago. Thought a modestly insulated driving experience was disappearing forever from the midsize sedan segment, for good and not so good? Think again. Slicker, quieter, more solid competitors sound and feel more expensive, a reversal of the situation when the 1998 Passat shook up the industry.

The 2012 Passat starts at an attention-getting $19,995—but the mandatory $770 destination charge bumps it well over the magic $20,000 mark. Opt for the $1,100 automatic transmission and the SE package (17-inch alloy wheels, heated leatherette power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel, trip computer, satellite radio, and a few other niceties), and the sticker jumps to $25,595. No longer so attention-getting, but still $2,350 less than the 2010 Passat (there was no 2011). But the 2010 included more stuff, most notably a standard sunroof, foglights, and those no longer available power seat adjustments. Adjust for these using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool and the MSRP difference shrinks to only $750. Compare invoices and the feature-adjusted difference is less than $200—VW has cut dealer margins. So VW isn’t giving much away here. They’ve increased the size of the car, but downgraded materials and removed content, resulting in a wash (at best). Even with its lower price, the 2012 Passat still lists for $3,390 more than a Hyundai Sonata GLS with Popular Equipment Package. Adjusting for feature differences cuts the difference to a still sizable $2,900. The Koreans are admittedly outliers. Other competitors tend to be within $1,500 of the Passat once feature differences are adjusted for.

Don’t care for upscale materials or insulation from the outside world? Just want a roomy car at a competitive price? Then VW has developed a Passat for you. But as much as I like to feel the road, the Passat sacrifices too much refinement in pursuit of a low price and a low curb weight. The best current cars suggest that, with finesse, it is possible to have both driver involvement and passenger comfort. The new Passat needs more such finesse. But, if strong sales of the new Jetta are any indication, it’ll sell well regardless.

Vehicle provided by Dan Kelley, Suburban VW in Farmington Hills, MI, 248-741-7903

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of car reliability and pricing information.

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103 Comments on “Review: 2012 Volkswagen Passat 2.5 SE...”


  • avatar
    vbofw

    So if you’re seeking the “old Jetta” fit and finish you buy a Focus.

    If you’re seeking the “old Passat” fit and finish you buy a ???????

    • 0 avatar

      Buick Regal or Suzuki Kizashi. Or perhaps the next Ford Fusion when it arrives.

      • 0 avatar
        threeer

        Saw my first Kizashi up close on the road this weekend…really looked pretty neat, but having a hard time wrapping my head around an “upscale” Suzuki, never mind the very limited dealer network now. Makes it hard to recommend to somebody for a longterm proposition.
        While we here on TTAC bemoan the deconstruction of the Jetta and Passat, the general buying public seems to be coming around to them. While not selling in Camry/Corolla numbers, they do seem to be on the move. Just wish they had a tad better “solidity” to them to match the driving dynamic.

      • 0 avatar
        Detroit-Iron

        @threeer

        Suzuki makes some top-notch bikes.

    • 0 avatar
      johnhowington

      A MKIV Golf? *picks up the latest plastic piece of adjustment lever to fall off the front seat* :)

    • 0 avatar
      delpiero1980

      The 2013 Upcoming Fusion!!!
      After being a Passat driver for 10 years (B5,B5.5,B6,B6-hi/def) I’m truly disappointed at VW with the new Passat it’s just a VW I can’t recognize. Right now I’m taking a break from VW and shooting for a Mustang GT 2010 (315hp is enough for me) and then I’ll wait for the new CC or the next Fusion. The Fusion is going to be essentially the next Mondeo which I have read is going to be amazing!!
      So If you can’t wait for the Fusion take a look at the Optima which is designed by a former Audi designer!!

  • avatar

    I should note that the Jetta I reviewed earlier also had an odd clunk when pushed through turns, though in the suspension rather than the door/body as was the case here.

    TrueDelta will have an initial reliability stat for the new Jetta later this month (August). We’ll have the same for the Passat a few months after enough owners sign up to help with the survey, so perhaps next February. Perhaps the cars I test drove were unusual. Or perhaps they were indicative.

    To help with the car reliability survey, with just about any car:

    http://www.truedelta.com/reliability.php

  • avatar
    ajla

    This car actually sounds right up my alley. If only it was available with an OHV V6…

    As it is, I’ve driven the 2.5L and it needs another 1.0L of displacement. $25K as tested seems a bit high too.

  • avatar
    MatthewK

    The back seats look very short. Is there really a lot of leg room in the back, or just the illusion of it?

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    Michael, you wrote “the overall ambiance reeks of cost cutting” in your review. If Volkswagen is to meet their sales volume goal, they must bring in customers that never owned a recent Volkswagen. Will those people feel that the interior reeks of cost cutting since they have no VW-specific frame of reference?

    Journalists and enthusiasts screamed bloody murder over the Jetta cost-cutting. It is a sales success; perhaps because most purchasers didn’t have a previous model with which they could compare?

    • 0 avatar

      If these buyers compare a Malibu, Sonata, or Optima, the VW will seem poorly finished and unrefined in comparison. The next Ford Fusion should also be among the leaders. The materials in most Japanese competitors aren’t much better than the Passat’s, but they still seem more solid and refined.

  • avatar
    Manic

    I’ve been driving new euro-Passat for 3 months now and compared to my colleague’s 2007 version you Americans also got, seems that VW have tried to find savings also here, plastics seems cheaper and some over engineered features like in soft close in-dash credit/other card holder is missing.
    But I like the car, steering feels nice, 1,8 TSI turbo motor is powerful enough, DSG works well and -after a lot of calculations before ordering- most of the equipment I wanted is there.
    Ride is sometimes harsh and it looks really as boring as it gets but alternatives I had on my list (Mazda6, Accord=Acura TSX, Toyota Avensis, Skoda Superb, Subarus, Opel Insignia=Buick in US, Ciroen C5, Peugeot 508 etc.) are much slower to 100 kph with automatic gearboxes in this price range(acceleration was nr. 1 criteria for me) and/or even uglier looking IMO.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    So is that the new corporate face of VW? That front end looks identical to the Jetta. Do they intend to save money with endlessly interchangeable parts across all models?

    I know most manufacturers are doing it to some extend or another, but…

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    Here in the heartland of the US, VW has been out of contention in this market for so long, it needs a little more to be recognized as a contender than this car. They like dull competent sedans here, but why buy a VW when there are so many dull competent sedans already in the market?

    I suppose things are different on the coasts, because the only guys I know with new VWs are fashionable beta males trying too hard to look fashionably different from the rest of us. And failing, btw.

    Hyundai is the new Pontiac, so is VW the new Mercury? Avalon anyone?

  • avatar
    JJ

    Think it’s an interesting car, but probably just because here in Europe it’s not available. It’s a lot like a Skoda with a VW badge.

  • avatar
    Verbal

    So the Camry-ization of the Passat is complete. Less, one would expect, the quality control and durability. This can only end in tears.

  • avatar
    carguy

    There is nothing wrong with a minimalist large sedan for those looking for no frills family motoring. However, given VWs reliability record and dealer reputation I would walk on to the Hyundai or GM dealer to see about a Malibu or Sonata instead.

  • avatar
    redliner

    I find it hard to believe that the same company that brought us the CC is also responsible for this. Its so completely generic. Why didn’t they tweak the CC a little to increase rear room, add a 5th seat and make a diesel available. If the Sonata is any clue, it would have probably done great.

  • avatar
    Advo

    I smell class-action lawsuits against fraudulent, over-optimistic trip computers.

    Seriously, why should the (70 mph) mileage be over 20% more than EPA highway figures?

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Because people can’t do math. I’ve often seen the most ridiculous trip computer figures reported by sloppy reviewers as if they indicated anything other than a company that has no respect for their customers. It has been going on for quite a while. We’ve got a ’94 BMW 325is with a trip computer that is off by no more than 4%. It is close enough that we learned to trust it at some point. A friend has a 2001 BMW 325Ci that has a trip computer which is pure fantasy. It reported a number that was in the high 30s for commuting in San Diego on California’s energy deficient swill. When he moved to DC and took to commuting in beltway gridlock, it ‘averaged’ about 31 mpg while standing still for an hour every day. Quite a trick. Mind you the relationship between the odometer and the gas pump never reflected any of the trip computer’s numbers…The only trip computers that are worse are in Hyundai press cars.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s not a matter of being lazy, but of willingness to spend $60+ to find out the actual fuel economy. My press car this week is a Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec. Based on the trip computer MPG it should have gone another 60 miles or so before the “distance to empty” went to —. I noticed similar optimism in the Elantra. So you might have something WRT Hyundai.

      • 0 avatar
        sastexan

        Good point – I’m tracking the actual fuel usage and mileage in our new Odyssey versus the computer calculated MPG and so far over 2500 miles, it is about 0.5 MPG optimistic on average. Not terrible, but you would think that with the precision of the computer’s fuel delivery it would be simple to translate that into MPG by the engineers. Straight math.

  • avatar
    JMII

    Agree it looks too much like the Jetta, its just so boring. My ’00 1.8T Passat gets 30 mpg in mixed driving with the torque happy turbo requiring premium fuel. However at 93K the interior has more broken, missing, sagging, discolored or scratched bits to name. This weekend yet another power window lift failure – like all Jettas and Passats I assume the cheap plastic window clip has broken meaning I’ll be tearing into the inner door skin and swapping parts… no way I’m paying VW $400 to fix this AGAIN! Should I mention the $2,000 ABS module failure? Or the LCD trip computer display that you can only read on moonless, pitch black nights? So long VW, the wife just scanned the checking account balance and I have the official go-ahead to ditch the VeeDud after 11 years and get something (anything) else.

  • avatar
    discoholic

    The Passat list for over 3K more than a Hyundai Sonata. And this is what you get:
    - Hertz-grade plastics (even in the smallish pictures, the door trim looks nasty)
    - cost cutting so obvious they might as well have called it the Proletariassat (witness, won’t you, the insubstantial, cheap-arse gooseneck trunklid hinges that wouldn’t look entirely out of place on a Chevy Cavalier)
    - less refinement than in the outgoing model
    - fewer creature comforts than in the outgoing model
    - the same old gas-guzzling 2.5 litre engine as in the outgoing model (hey, some things ARE evidently worth carrying over)
    - styling? what styling? (may as well be one of those Insuracare Anycars in the ads)
    - the knowledge that your European friends are driving an infinitely superior car for not really a lot more money
    - a hand-written thank-you note from Volkswagen’s CEO for boosting VW’s profit margins beyond all previously known limits. Okay, I made that one up.

    VW must be laughing all the way to the bank.

    • 0 avatar

      The 2.5 is new to the Passat, but has been in the Jetta for years. The EPA ratings suggest fuel economy on par with the 2.0T, and the trip computer claimed it was spectacular!

      • 0 avatar
        discoholic

        Michael,
        I drive a Euro-Spec TSI Golf, and while the engine is an absolute marvel (buttery smooth, will pull like an ox from 1,200 rpm and rev to a stratospheric 6,500 without any fuss or noise – man, you Americans are missing out on something here…), the trip computer is laugh-out-loud optimistic. The real mileage is usually between 10 and 20 per cent worse – and the gap gets even wider when you drive it like your hair is on fire.

        (And still, it’ll be my last ever Volkswagen. About half of the miles I put on this admittedly quite lovely car were spent driving to and from the shop for repairs.)

  • avatar
    geozinger

    FWIW, I sat (but did not drive) in one of these at the annual car show this past January. I really didn’t feel it was that bad. Conservative, yes, but not like a Yugo interior. The car really is generic looking, inside and out, but I don’t see anything truly offensive.

    One thing I did notice was the missing cover for the passenger side trunk gooseneck. It makes me wonder about QC in Chattanooga…

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    I guess VW does not really know what Americans want or expect from a car, they’ve done a 180 degree turn from the best selling Camry and the up and coming strong Cruze. Both very quiet cars in their respective class.

    • 0 avatar
      Jimal

      In July I rented a Cruze and one of the new Jettas. The Cruze is so much nicer it was almost like a car version of Freaky Friday; the Cruze felt more like a Volkswagen than the Volkswagen did.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    Strange as it may sound considering the “semi-premium” status of VW’s products up until now, the new Jetta and this new Passat seem to herald a return to VW’s original role as a provider of basic transportation.

    Now, if only the next Beetle were sized, equipped, and priced to compete with the Fiesta/Fit/Sonic/Accent crowd, only cheaper than them all…

  • avatar
    vvk

    The new Passat sounds better and better.

  • avatar
    brettc

    A member on the TDI forums recently posted asking if he should buy a 2012 Passat TDI or a Lexus CT200h. He said he liked the Passat better than the Lexus and that it felt more substantial than the Prius he was currently driving and also more substantial than the CT200h. So it looks like VW might manage to pull some Toyota owners in with the TDI. Maybe even the gas engines will do that. Because it looks like a German Toyota to me. Although if Toyota owners are thinking about buying a TDI, they better have money or mechanical ability to keep them runing. (If they’re buying Toyotas they probably don’t have much mechanical ability to begin with)

    And yes, it has virtually the same front end as the Jetta. The difference? The Passat has a black honeycomb plastic on the bottom of the fascia. The Jetta does not. So there’s how you can tell the difference if you’re close enough!

    And even though the trunk hinges are the same thing as my parent’s ’87 Celebrity and also my ’85 Jetta, the positive thing is that there aren’t any hood struts to worry about replacing. But on the downside it looks really crappy and intrudes into the trunk.

    I’m not a fan of the new Passat because I still think it’s expensive for what you’re getting. Plus TDIs need to use urea, so there’s another fun cost if someone chooses that model. But I can see VW selling a lot of them. Because they’re bland and mostly affordable. It’ll be interesting to see what the take rate on the TDI vs gas engines. I don’t think it’ll be as high as the Jetta wagon, but I can see at least 30% of them being diesel sales.

    Anyway, looking forward to the other review this week.

    • 0 avatar
      Advo

      The small VW TDI engines don’t use urea.

      VW did claim that they didn’t put it on the Tiguan cause it was too heavy and would tax the engine too much so the emissions wouldn’t work properly. I wonder if the new Passat falls in the same weight class as the Tiguan, though.

    • 0 avatar
      TCragg

      I predict the take rate in Canada will be in the 60% range. No one here will purchase the VR6, and most buyers in the Passat class will by-pass the 2.5L lump.

  • avatar
    Crosley

    If I were in charge of VW, my number one goal would be to make my cars as reliable as Honda or Toyota. At the end of the day, that is what consistently keeps me away from the VW brand. I would much rather have a Passat or CC than a Camry or Accord, but ONLY if I could count on equal quality. Hell, if you could just get the cars to have “average” reliability instead of lemon car status, that would be a milestone.

    Ask the Japanese how they achieved the market share they did. Once you make a quality product, people will pay more and beat the door down to get to it. Find an honest VW owner that’s not a fanboy and ask them if they’ll ever buy another one. That is what VW’s focus should be, not finding ways to cut a thousand bucks off the base price.

    • 0 avatar

      Completely agree. The only time I have owned a VW was when I was young and didn’t do any research as to its reliability. Turns out, being a diesel, it was only a little expensive to keep up instead of super expensive. But compared to our long line of Honda’s it was lacking in so many quality/reliability ways. People aren’t against premium European cars, they are against paying the premium and getting an inferior product that costs them way more to keep up. Seems logical.

      Again and again I have tried to purchase VWs (at least 3 times I’ve been very close), but horror stories have kept me from them. And now I’m even less tempted. Not only have they made no indication of having sorted out significant ongoing issues (DSGs?), they have also asked people to pay for less uniqueness, style, etc.

    • 0 avatar
      steeringwithmyknees

      I couldnt agree more. Every time I need to get a car, a VW would be my choice. However, i drive hundreds of miles each week for work and it is the only car we have right now (family of 3).

      My mom, dad, mother in law, father in law, sister in law, and sister all have 2008 or newer Audis and VW’s, and i was anxious to see how they held up. But not anymore. If they are just going to make Toyotas that aren’t nearly as reliable as Toyotas, what’s the point?

  • avatar
    Oodie

    Having once owned (and liked) an ’02 Passat 1.8T, this car is a little (or a lot, perhaps) disappointing.

    Cost cutting everywhere, including the trunk hinges (gooseneck, unlike the ’02 Passat, if I recall correctly), which, incidentally, appear to be covered on one side and not the other?

    • 0 avatar
      tim850csi

      Still love my 2002 GLS V-6. Yes, the maintenance is expensive even with my amazing VW guy (Brian’s Garage in Needham, MA if anyone is in the area), but I just can’t bring myself to even step foot in the VW showroom right now. I know that my ’02 has more features and a better quality interior than the new crop of veedubs.

      And I still think that the optional Monsoon sound system (at 300 bucks on the original sticker it was hardly optional but more a must have) is so far above and beyond current VW stereos that for that reason alone I’ll keep mine (those long Boston area commutes make a great stereo a must have).

  • avatar
    getacargetacheck

    My concern would revolve around cost-of-ownership. Would owning this Passat cost me an arm and a leg just like every other German car? Or, are we talking more like Accord levels?

    • 0 avatar
      evan

      If you’d like a German car that is great to own on all fronts – especially regarding reliability – may I suggest a mid-90′s Mercedes? I bought a used E420 for my parents many years ago, and it has been absolutely flawless. I mean nothing has gone wrong after 40,000 miles, aside from a lightbulb burning out, etc. I have a 96 SL500 and the same is true: they barely burn any oil, the interiors hold up amazingly well (just keep leather conditioner on the seats) and they even get decent gas mileage. And no assinine timming belts to replace or worry about, unlike Audi’s and VW’s… Find a good one with moderate mileage and you’ll be onto the bargain of the decade.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The cars you mention are wonderful to drive and from the absolute peak of Mercedes desirability in my opinion, BUT they are from the years of soy based biodegradable wiring harness insulation. Many owners of such cars have not enjoyed the good experiences you and your parents have.

  • avatar
    segfault

    “…rear air vents aren’t available…

    But there appears to be a hole in the back of the center console where they would go if they were available.

    VW is really on a race to the bottom. Is the road noise better or worse than an Accord?

  • avatar
    340-4

    Anyone know any statistics on VW repeat customers?

    If this new model is bulletproof reliable compared to the previous incarnations, they might get a bit of a pass. But not from me.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      I agree that they build junk, but it depends on why you bought one in the first place and what you had before. I replaced my one VW with an Audi, which I replaced with another Audi. My Jetta died in a wreck rather than from an engine failure, and I actually liked the thing. It wasn’t until I owned a good car 15 years later that I realized there was anything wrong with knowing all the local marque specialists, or that there were cars that didn’t have cascading failures caused by small parts that were routinely defective and hadn’t been improved after 5 years of production. I only had the first Audi a few months before it too died in a wreck. I was starting to fear the stories that my quattro was an early model with a rare exhaust system that would cost close to what I paid for the car and was rusting through with 38,000 miles on the clock, but it became academic when the car was destroyed. The next Audi sent me to BMW, also sold by the same dealer. They basically threw their hands up when it exhibited ‘normal’ Audi issues and suggested that any repairs would be futile since the failures would repeat.

      Anyway, I know plenty of one time VW customers. I also have known lots of VW owners who dismissed problems as trivial or normal that would have Toyota owners calling their lawyers.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        I know plenty of repeat VW owners who have had minor to no issues. I went from a VW Golf (MK IV) to a SEAT Ibiza and had no issues with either. Treudelta data indicates VW are about average (2006 onwards) , so probably no lawyers need calling!

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      I’d guess it depends on the length of ownership. For the first 3 or 4 years I loved my Passat. Since then I just held onto it because it was paid off, so I switched to making monthly REPAIR payments instead. My brother has owned… scratch that: LEASED two VeeDubs and plans on going for #3 because he loves them so much. But you see, parts don’t fall off in the first two years. And yes multiple parts have fallen off my ’00 Passat: some spring under the seat (height adjustment?), glove box handle (WTF?!?), a headlight (scary at 70 mph) and even the darn radio antenna.

      FYI – the trunk hinges on my model are beautifully engineered… I’m serious, they are amazing, but that doesn’t make up for the broken glove box handle – really pissed about that one!

      • 0 avatar
        Jimal

        I had the big spring fall out from under the passenger seat on my 2003 Jetta TDI. It didn’t seem to affect anything.

      • 0 avatar
        truenorth

        That’s funny.
        Glove box handle broke though hardly used : check
        Radio antenna molding crumbling : check
        Interior trim peeling (even in back, rarely used) : check
        What about the Immobilizer [sic], catalytic converters, and rear springs?

        I still like these cars, but this model now appears to need a charisma transplant.

        It seems good that VWofA at least addresses that there should be a difference between a VW and an Audi (Phaeton and Touareg, anyone?) but they need to work on “If this car is the answer, what was the question.” (With the old Passat there was a plausible answer.)

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    I’m not sure how much to make of the initial sales success of the de-contented Jetta. I would think that, if the cars are not satisfying to own in the long term (for whatever reason), the word will get out and sales will fall. VW has enjoyed a reputation for having nice, but unreliable cars. If they start producing non-nice and unreliable cars, it’s hard to imagine that success will follow.

    Also, there is a segment of the buying public who absolutely refuse to consider any Detroit-branded product. With the improvements in that product, that situation will change; and a decline in the perceived quality (however one measures it) of the foreign product will only help the situation.

  • avatar
    kowsnofskia

    Can’t believe how much they cheaped out on this interior. Does it remind anyone of the Chevy Cobalt’s?

  • avatar
    Flybrian

    So, this is basically the German Impala for those who think they’re too good for a domestic…?

    Give me an OHV V6, 4-speed automatic with freeway gearing, $3k on the hood, and GM gee-gaws like autolamps, info center, chrome wheels, 8-way power seats, and auto-dimming rearviews. No, Virginia, it ain’t your ‘refined German engineering,’ but at least its honest.

  • avatar
    Amendment X

    I’m tired of all the criticism surrounding VW’s new styling direction. I think it’s simple, tasteful, and likely to hold it’s value over time. Aren’t any of you sick and tired of garish, downright GOOFY designs, with bulging headlights and pointless hood creases?

    Kudos, VW.

    • 0 avatar
      SV

      I agree.

      I like flamboyant design (big fan of the styling on the Focus and Elantra for example) but I also think there’s room for subtle and tasteful looks, and both the new Jetta and this Passat fill that spot rather nicely. They remind me of the older Accords and Camrys, back before Toyonda started cheeping out on finishes and details.

      Of course, if this Passat is also as uncompetitive as the new Jetta is (looks notwithstanding), it doesn’t really matter.

    • 0 avatar
      evan

      Indeed. There is nothing so ridiculous as a front-drive commuter car pretending to be a high-powered sport sedan, with the additional afront of styling by Ginsu.

      It says cheap, derivattive, low-class. The alien-esque headlamps and reptillian air inlets are DONE: it was stupid five years ago, now it has the look of desperation.

  • avatar
    genuineleather

    Mr. Karesh, would love to see a review of a loaded VR6 model to see if the extra cash nets you a more substantial interior.

  • avatar
    vbofw

    Michael, outstanding cost analysis versus the 2010, the Koreans, and the dealer margin change. Good illustration of what Truedelta can do.

  • avatar
    changsta

    I believe that one of the main reasons that the previous generation Passat did poorly in sales was styling. The 1998-2005 Passat was very stylish, while the 2006-2010 Passat was bloated. A friend that owned a 2004 Passat V6 GLS 4Motion ruled out a new Passat based on styling alone, even though she loved her car. Making the autoshow circuit this year, she saw the new Passat and remarked on how “cool” it looked. I think this understated styling works for VW and in my eyes as well, it is a HUGE improvement over the previous generation. While bland, it appears expensive. This generation’s styling seems more directly related to the 1998-2005 cars. I think this Passat should sell very well.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    I think a lot of interested buyers will be disappointed. They will go to the VW dealer looking for a $20K Passat, and find that unless you want a manual stripper, you are paying at least $25K, and you still get a cheappo interior.

    Maybe that flies in the compact category, but not in midsize, where the Sonata, Accord, Fusion, Malibu, Altima and Camry offer a lot more car for the money.

    • 0 avatar

      Good point. I hadn’t considered that expectations might be higher in this segment. The Passat is nicer inside than the Jetta. I noted the padded surfaces in the review. If they could just upgrade a few of the not-so-good parts it would make a big difference. All it take are a few subpar surfaces and switches to drag the whole interior down.

      I have the same problem with the Fusion, and to some extent the Camry. I’ll be checking out the 2012 Camry soon. Ford hasn’t shown the next Fusion yet, but the Focus suggests it’ll be a huge upgrade over the current one.

  • avatar
    tallnikita

    I think the formula here is to make a stylish but bland exterior that fits around circa 2000 VW Golf interior that’s been enlarged to Buick dimensions. I think I see many switches from my old Golf. Maybe their Chinese partners are selling those knock-off controls by containers. I think it’s gonna work for them. 5 years down the road we’ll know whether either these new US-ized VW or the big H(uydai) are quality cars. Till then, the big H wins me over.

  • avatar
    SV

    I sat in the new Passat at the Houston Auto Show back in January and was pretty impressed, actually. Compared to the Golf the soft-touch materials looked and felt the same, though I could tell the hard plastic lower down was a bit harder – and shinier. Still competitive, though. And LOADS of room.

    Honestly, though, I don’t think there was anything wrong with the old Passat versus its rivals, apart from its absurdly high price. It was perhaps on the lower end of the midsize class in terms of size, but I don’t think it would have turned many people off – it was still in the competitive range, space-wise. The problem was that it started at $27,000.

    • 0 avatar

      My initial reaction at NAIAS in January was much the same as yours. Three possibilities:

      1. They used better materials in the pre-production cars.

      2. Indoor vs. outdoor light.

      3. The lower grade materials and switchgear are more obvious when actually driving the car and repeatedly using the controls.

  • avatar
    bikegoesbaa

    I expect that only one trunk gooseneck has a cover because the wiring for the lights in the decklid only runs up the one on the driver’s side. It serves as a cosmetic cover, sort of, but its primary purpose is to protect the wiring underneath.

    If this is the case then the naked passenger-side gooseneck is potentially hokey, but not a “defect” in the sense of “somebody in the factory just forgot to put that part on”.

    Can somebody with access to one of these cars confirm that this is the case? Is there a wire underneath that driver side cover? Power has to get to that license plate bulb somehow…

  • avatar
    vvk

    > I don’t think there was anything wrong with the old Passat
    > versus its rivals, apart from its absurdly high price.

    Except it was unavailable with cloth seats. The vinyl seat bottom cushion was way too long. I only test drove one for a short time and almost could not walk afterwards. The stiff vinyl seat cushion cut all circulation below my knees.

    The new Passat is finally available with cloth seats and also has a proper handbrake. Both are tremendously important for me.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      In the Passat I test drove (with less than 10 miles), the vinyl seats seemed hard; however, in the showroom Passat (which presumably had been sat in more) the vinyl seats seemed much softer. It seems as though the V-Tex has to “break in”.

  • avatar
    kt3486

    Spend less time on your computers and more time driving cars.

    Today I drove the 2012 2.5L Passat SE, 2012 GMC Terrain, 2010 Cadillac CTS, 2011 Toyota Camry, 2011 Toyota Rav 4, and the 2011 Honda Civic. The Passat had the best handling, most cabin space, best suspension, I’ll stop there and just say go test drive this car because pictures don’t do it justice. It’s extremely classy, elegant, comfortable, and the drive is great. the leg room and overall cabin space is like nothing you’ve experienced in any of the passat’s competitors.

  • avatar
    gottacook

    No mention of a wagon version – is a Passat wagon not to be offered in the U.S. any longer? For many years, up through the 2005 models, Passat wagons were useful, spacious for their size, and easy to see out of, as far back as the Dasher and Quantum (as they were called in the U.S.) of the mid-’70s and ’80s. By contrast, the 2006-10 suffered the same bloat as the sedan while becoming a less “honest” wagon in the process, with smaller cargo volume behind the rear seat. I assume the Passat wagon is dead but would like to know if otherwise.

    • 0 avatar
      Ubermensch

      The Passat wagon is dead. Americans don’t value practicality over image so CUVs have replaced wagons in the market.

    • 0 avatar
      SteveMar

      Having owned a 2000 Passat wagon, I agree. It was a great family vehicle — and could be had with a 5 speed stick. Loved that car — never really gave many of the problems others have discussed.

      I find the overall review of the new Passat pretty depressing. Ten or twelve years ago, the Passat offered a unique combo of style, performance and economy in a midsized package. It was a baby Audi for those of us who wanted the German car experience w/o the full on cost. This new direction may make VW money, but it’s a long way from the days of Fahrvernugen (or however one spells it).

    • 0 avatar
      TCragg

      I have owned Passat wagons from three different generations. The roomiest by far was the 1996, with the 2004 and the 2010 declining in size with each suceeding generation (my perception). I am happy that VW is going back to normal keys and a proper handbrake on the new Passat. The push-button start and dash-mounted electric parking brake on my 2010 wagon are annoying. The absence of a wagon on the 2012, however, is very disappointing. Just when I thought I would be able to buy a true replacement for my 1996 TDI wagon (manual, diesel, proper handbrake), VW axes the wagon. Bastards!

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    VW was the turbocharged direct injection early adopter. Now they’re dialing back the number of models with high compression turbos. What have they learned that Ford, Hyundai, and GM still need to?

    • 0 avatar
      Manic

      They are not dialing back, if you want gas engine in Passat in Europe, you can choose only between direct injected, (turbo-) charged engines, excl. DI non-turbo 300 hp V6 version no-one will buy in Europe.
      I don’t know why they push this 2,5 in US, probably price question.
      Also I do understand that “there is no replacement for displacement” still is something Americans believe in, even if new-tech smaller displacement DI turbo motors are better compared to this 2,5.

    • 0 avatar
      marjanmm

      Take a look at the engine lineup in UK, not a single non turbo, be it diesel or petrol:

      http://www.volkswagen.co.uk/#/new/passat-vii/which-model/engines/overview/

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      I guess the question you are just asking backwards is why can’t honda and toyota afford to develop such technology (or apply it profitably) so something must be wrong with everyone else?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        The irony being that VW is replacing two generations of turbocharged small displacement Passat engines with an I5 that has a hard time stacking up against Honda or Toyota engines of the ’90s.

      • 0 avatar
        mike978

        CJ – your question was answer, VW are using turbo diesel engines. Also answered are you snide comments about the I5 – cost and driving style. Satisfied?

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        This 2.5 isn’t a turbo, isn’t a diesel, and it has filled the slot once occupied by the 1.8T and 2.0 DI-T. The upgrade gas engine is also naturally aspirated and stone aged.

  • avatar
    Brock_Landers

    European ja US markets are so different… If new passat would have been offered in Europe with 2.5 NA 170hp petrol engine the press would have ripped VW a new one and sales would have been zero cars with this engine.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Ouch! I forget how good we have it when I don’t look at midsize car engine lineups starting at 105 hp and going no higher than 210. 105 hp? Maybe in a beginner’s motorcycle.

      http://www.volkswagen.co.uk/#/new/passat-vii/which-model/engines/acceleration/

      • 0 avatar
        Manic

        I actually like thinking behind VW’s UK decisions. Finally they have understood that every car can’t be everything to everyone.
        It goes like this probably: “You need more than 210 hp? Go buy sporty Audi, boring Passat is not meant to be this sporty”. Good, no more W8 silliness and dreams of making family car a premium car beater. That’s not Passat’s business and it is right decision.
        Btw. even if Brits can’t buy 300 hp normal Passat like Germans can, they still could buy 300 hp V6 in Passat CC (just CC in N/A) which seemingly is VW’s answer to that sporty Audi.

      • 0 avatar
        th009

        Actually Passat CC in Canada, too. Only the US market loses the “Passat” bit (just like only the US has a Jetta wagon, everywhere else it’s a Golf wagon/estate/variant/etc).

      • 0 avatar
        Robert.Walter

        Was talking to a neighbor and his 2-year old Focus has a 75 hp engine, he says it sometimes gets a little difficult when he drives uphill (here in the Alps.)

  • avatar
    Jimal

    I think I’ll stick with my ’07 Passat wagon thankyouverymuch. If the new Jetta is any indication my “old” Passat is a nicer car. It also doesn’t hurt that my wife is balking at the idea of replacing it with a Mazda5.

  • avatar

    It is unbelievable that a company like Volkswagon that made their reputation on inexpensive, but reliable vehicles has deteriorated into one of the worst reliable economy vehicle manufacturers on the road today. Not only are they unreliable, but they charge a premium for it. Makes the rest of the Germans look pretty damn good.

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  • avatar
    Marko

    Test drove a 2.5 SE – excellent ride/handling balance, reasonable power with an interesting exhaust note, plenty of room front and rear. The V-Tex seats in the car I drove felt hard, but those in the showroom were much more comfortable, leading me to believe that the material has to “break in” over time.

    The only glaring omissions I saw were rear air vents and a ski pass-through (Jettas have the latter and Golfs have both – go figure).


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