By on August 17, 2011


Last Monday’s review of the new 2012 Volkswagen Passat 2.5 SE found the large, value-priced German sedan to be roomy but unpolished. Today: the TDI in SEL Premium trim. In this form the “from $19,995*” new Passat gets a bit far from the segment’s mid-twenties sweet spot, with a list price of $32,965. But perhaps the turbodiesel engine and top-of-the-line interior transform the car?

In SEL Premium trim the new Passat exterior is slightly more attractive, thanks to one-inch-larger, more stylish wheels and an extra helping of chrome accents (as recommended by Maximum Bob). The latter and the car’s conservative shape team especially well with dark colors, including the tested car’s black paint.

Inside the Passat SEL Premium, the SE’s extensive faux metal trim is replaced by equally plentiful faux wood and its leatherette seating surfaces are replaced by a combination of leather and synthetic suede. The budget grade leather is hardly more convincing than the “wood.” I thought it was leatherette until I happened to notice on the window sticker “leather trimmed comfort sport seats” (which, though large and firm, are too lacking in contour to excel at either comfort or sport). It doesn’t help that light beige like that inside the tested car makes all but the best materials look cheap. Though the materials inside a Ford Fusion or Toyota Camry are little if any better, in the mid-thirties you can find some much nicer cabins. A key advantage shared with all 2012 Passats: an exceptional amount of legroom in both rows. Unfortunately, even in the SEL Premium the climate control knobs feel cheap and a storage tray occupies the space where rear air vents should be, so on hot days that expansive rear seat won’t be so comfortable. Another victim of cost-cutting: still no separate front and rear height adjustments on the power front seats, to adjust tilt independently of height, and still no height adjustment for the lumbar bulge.

The 400-watt Fender audio system deserves special mention. The bass was initially so overpowering and muddy that I assumed someone must have set it to 11. Then I tapped my way through the pages of the touchscreen control panel to discover that it was centered. For the first time ever I had to take an audio system’s bass down a few clicks to balance out its sound.

The 2.0-liter turbodiesel is good for 140 horsepower at 4,000 rpm (30 fewer but 1,700 lower, respectively, than the 2.5-liter gas engine) and 236 foot-pounds of torque at 1,500 rpm (59 more and 2,750 lower). As the specs suggest, the diesel feels especially strong off the line and at low speeds. Over 30 miles-per-hour or so the gas engine is quicker, but the diesel remains easily adequate and even at highway speeds does not feel sluggish. The TDI’s sound is clearly that of a diesel, especially when idling, but is much quieter and less clattery than the oil burners of decades past. The six-speed dual-clutch automated manual (DSG in VW parlance) behaves very similarly to the six-speed conventional automatic in the 2.5. Whether creeping along without a foot on the gas or shifting at full throttle it’s smooth. I attempted to trip it up, and failed. The DSG’s shifts are quicker than the conventional automatic’s, but when paired with the inherently slow-revving diesel this is of limited benefit.

When paired with the TDI, the DSG primarily benefits fuel economy by eliminating the fluid coupling of a torque converter. The EPA ratings of 30/40 are quite good for a large sedan. The trip computer reported even better numbers: high 30s in typical suburban driving and low 50s while cruising at 70. My suspicion: it lies.

Compared to the Passat 2.5 SE, the TDI SEL Premium rides more smoothly, handles with less agility, and generally feels like a larger, heavier, and more relaxed car. More competitive in some regards, but also less engaging. Frankly, I was startled by the difference between the two. My initial assumption: the TDI has much more weight in its nose, which can be expected to dull the steering, reduce agility, and settle the front ends tendency to bob a bit in the 2.5. Checking the spec sheet, the TDI does weigh nearly 180 pounds more, and the uplevel trim with its power passenger seat and sunroof probably adds another 70. But even 3,470 pounds isn’t heavy for such a large car. The tires might deserve some of the credit / blame, as the TDI SEL Premium’s wheels are shod with 235/45HR18 Bridgstone Turanza EL400 touring tires instead of the narrower ContiProContacts fitted to all trim levels of the 2.5. The Bridgestones grip the road a little better, but this is probably thanks to their greater width, as their design prioritizes ride over handling. It’s also possible that the TDI has additional sound insulation, to counteract its louder engine.

Still, it seemed unlikely that even all of these factors together could explain the difference in how the two cars felt through the steering wheel. Then, glancing over a photo of the TDI’s window sticker while writing this review I noticed “electric power steering.” Hmmmm…the system in the 2.5 felt too communicative to be electrically-assisted. The system in the TDI, not so much. Pull up the photo of the 2.5’s sticker, and my newfound hypothesis is confirmed: it retains “hydraulic power steering.” So if you were hoping to combine the refreshingly direct steering feel reported in the Passat 2.5 review with the efficiency of the TDI, too bad. Can’t get this combo. And the 280-horsepower V6, which system does it include? Unclear—vw.com says electric in some places, hydraulic in others. Most signs point towards electric. Hopefully they have this sorted out in the Chattanooga assembly plant.

Compared to the Passat’s other two engines, the TDI costs $2,300 more than the 2.5 and $755 less than the V6. Until someone else finally follows through and offers an affordable midsize sedan with a diesel engine in the United States (Honda, Nissan, and Subaru have all announced then canceled such plans), VW has this space to itself. This leaves midsize hybrid sedans as the Passat TDI’s closest competitors. A comparably-equipped 2011 Toyota Camry Hybrid lists for $460 more—but about $1,000 less if you compare the two invoice-to-invoice (Toyota dealers enjoy much fatter margins). Adjusting for feature differences using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool and both shift about $900 in the VW’s favor. So with a feature-adjusted invoice-to-invoice comparison they’re very close. A loaded 2011 Ford Fusion Hybrid lists for about $500 more, but invoice-to-invoice it’s about $1,000 less. The feature adjustment goes $500 in the Ford’s favor. A 2011 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid with Premium Package checks in the lowest: about $1,300 less than the Passat TDI SEL Premium at MSRP and $1,900 less invoice-to-invoice. Feature differences between the two are a wash.

The Passat TDI SEL Premium looks and feels like a more expensive car than the 2.5 SE, but might nevertheless struggle to support its mid-thirties price tag. Even with the upgraded interior many of the cheap bits remain, and the rear seat, though very roomy, doesn’t get its own air vents. The TDI-DSG powertrain performs well and gets exceptional fuel economy given the size of the car. But the ride, though quieter and smoother than that in the SE, is still average at best. Most disappointing: the steering system that made the 2.5 SE fun and engaging on a curvy road isn’t included in the TDI. Instead, the TDI’s electric power steering cuts off communication with the front wheels and makes the car feel much larger and heavier. (In the EPS’s defense, this is partly because the TDI SEL Premium is about 250 pounds heavier.) Bottom line: if you’re seeking a roomy, highly efficient midsize sedan, the Passat TDI compares well against others’ hybrids and is priced similarly. But it’s not the stellar car it could be with a few minor upgrades and alterations.

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

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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97 Comments on “Review: 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL Premium...”


  • avatar
    brettc

    Nice review. Not sure if I’d be a fan of the electric steering either. My current TDIs all have regular hydraulically assisted steering. And my ’89 Jetta TD had manual steering, which really put you in tune with the road!

    I guess I’ll have to test drive a Passat some day and see how it feels.

    Also, I noticed no mention of the urea (or “AdBlue”) that the Passat requires.

    • 0 avatar

      VW says the urea lasts 15,500 miles and is covered by the maintenance program. After that you’re on your own.

    • 0 avatar
      gettysburg

      As far as I know, the only VAG Diesel engine available in U.S. which requires AdBlue is the 3.0L V6 TDI in the Audi Q7.

      The Passat has the same 2.0L TDI engine as Jetta, Jetta SportWagon, and Audi A3 and none of them require AdBlue(Urea)

      • 0 avatar

        According to VW’s blog it does require urea:

        “In addition, Passat TDI models use a special catalyst and urea-injection system that reduces NOx emissions by up to 95 percent. Filled by a 4.9 gallon tank located inside the trunk, the injection system delivers a range of approximately 15,500 miles. Service is handled at your local VW dealership and is covered by the Passat model’s no-charge Carefree Maintenance Program.”

        http://blogs.vw.com/passat/2011/01/10/2012-vw-passat-101/

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        The stuff is very inexpensive at truck stops, as new semi trucks have been using it in the US for a number of years now.

        Definitely don’t buy it at the dealer.

      • 0 avatar
        colin42

        DEF or Adblue has only been used (by the major manufactures) in on road trucks since 2010, sure it’s was available before then but was difficult to come by. Most manufacturers achieved 04 & 07 EPA standard with cooled EGR, except Cat which used almost every technology under the sun and called it Acert, after a very public anti campaign of Cooled EGR. Needless to say Cat exited the on highway class 8 truck market at the end of 2009.

        but you point about DEF being cheap(er than diesel) is true – at least if brought in bulk

      • 0 avatar
        toyotatundra

        We just purchased the 2012 Passat TDI and it does require adBlue. However, I think the service guy told me it lasts about 5,000 miles. Not sure yet, but you get a light on your dash when it’s getting close to time to replace it.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      The urea isn’t a big deal…I see it sold at plenty of places, even at car washes for relatively cheap. More of a pain in the butt than anything else but not a huge deal. Probably more annoying is the fact that less than half the gas stations in the US actually carry diesel so if there’s no real cost advantage to this over a hybrid I’m not sure exactly why one would choose this over a hybrid, except maybe for trunk space since most of the converted hybrid models suffer in that regard. Of course if that’s the only thing holding you back then it’d make sense to wait for the 2012 Camry Hybrid since that supposedly fixes the trunk space issue.

      • 0 avatar
        SuperACG

        Your argument about diesel not widely available is weak. When I drove my Jetta TDI, I knew and memorized which stations had diesel. In the 80s when my mom drove a diesel Mercedes, she did the same.

        Road trip? I drove that Jetta 100,000 miles in 4 years. I had no problem finding a station that carried diesel fuel.

      • 0 avatar
        cdfree

        If one drives a lot of highway miles and wants to maximize mpg, then diesel is the better option, at least over active hybrid. More durable as well?

      • 0 avatar
        toyotatundra

        Well the big deal is the diesel engine. They get much better gas mileage than the hybrid’s, as the hybrids don’t get much better gas mileage than a regular gas model vehicle. I’ve seen about a 3 mpg difference between hybrids and regular vehicles. Plus the diesel engines will last forever and a day.

    • 0 avatar
      M. Rapp

      I have test driven 2012 Passat TDI Sel Premium five times. Yesterday a local dealer allowed me take it on a test business drive for five hours because I was concerned about the drivers seat. I spend a lot of time in my vehicles and comfort is my number one priority. I’m currently driving an Lexus 2010 RX 350 and the gas miles isn’t wonderful especially when you’re using premium gas.

      The VW handled and rode well for a medium size car. It was a more fun to drive than my Lexus, the computer stated that it was averaging 45 miles to the gallon, but the 8 way driver seat was uncomfortable. No matter how I adjusted it, I just could not find a happy setting. I really can’t conceive of anyone inflating the lumbar support more than slight amount on this vehicle. It felt like you’re resting against a beach ball. I have arranged to have my local auto upholsterer take a look a the driver seat so we can determine whether it can be modified. If it can, I consider purchasing the vehicle.

      It’s a a shame that a vehicle that’s designed for business use and long distance drivers did not come equipped with comfortable seats. I would gladly pay two thousand more if they offered this vehicle with the Touareg seats.

      • 0 avatar

        A note on the “8-way drivers seat:” this count includes the lumbar. As noted in the review, unlike in most “8-way” seats the front and rear height are not separately adjustable.

      • 0 avatar
        VWGuy

        Micheal Karesh is the first one to point out the fact that the new Passat only offers an 8-way seat; the previous Passat had a 12-way seat.

        I had the same situation with the Passat TDI SEL. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t find a comfortable seating position. For a $33K car, this really irks me.

        OTOH, I sat in a Passat 2.5 SE with leatherette with the 8-way seat and was able to adjust it to a point where I was happy enough – go figure. For whatever reason, the leatherette seat felt more comfortable to me than the leather.

  • avatar

    I recently test drove a CC with the manual and found it to be less than inspiring (I did just come from driving a GTI though). The interior was nice, but the handling was just competent, and the turbo engine, which felt quick in the GTI, was just OK in the CC. How does this new Passat compare to the CC, do they still share the same platform? It seems like the CC would be the better vehicle, unless you needed to seat 5, especially since VW dropped the turbo engine from the new Passat.

    I wanted to like the CC, I really did, what with its sexy styling, but it didn’t seem like a great step up compared to my ’06 TSX. Also, I kept having doubts about long term reliability on VWs. Some people tell me great things, and others horror stories.

    Lastly, anyone who wants to learn manual would find the GTI or CC to be exceptionally easy to learn on, the clutches were the most forgiving I’ve ever experienced.

    • 0 avatar

      I wish I could more directly compare it to the Passat, but I drove the CC a couple of years ago. That said, I was also underwhelmed when I drove the car. Despite not officially being a victim of cost-cutting, it seemed overly plasticky inside and felt unpolished for a car with a nearly $40,000 price (I drove a VR6). The large accessory wheels were a poor match for the suspension tuning. It didn’t help that I’d just gotten out of a Hyundai Genesis.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        OK, what in tarnations is a CC, is this some other VW model that they have hidden somewhere in the back of the showroom that I’ve never heard of? I looked at the VW website and it didn’t help explain things much which is really sad IMO.

        Are they pulling a GM by offering both the mid-sized Lumina alongside a similar-sized Malibu?

      • 0 avatar
        JJ

        @redmondjp

        It’s the Passat CC, a 4-door coupe model (think budget FWD Mercedes CLS) based on the previous gen Passat and therefore not yet explicitly decontented for the US market.

        VW replaced the ‘previous gen’ Passat that was pretty much the same for the US and European market with an extensively facelifted model of the same car in Europe (so technically it’s not really the previous generation) and the new US-specific Chattanooga Passat for the US market. The ‘Euro-passat based’ CC remains available on both markets however and will shortly acquire a facelift to get it inline with current Veedub styling. Of course compared to the decontented US Passat the CC will now be markedly more expensive I would imagine.

        *EDIT* I just visited vw.com and it’s right there under models. I see VW USA is trying to mitigate the new chunky price difference between the US Passat and the Passat CC by no longer calling it the Passat CC but instead just CC. I assume that will save a few sales people from some awkward questions as to why exactly there is THAT big of a price difference between a regular Passat and a Passat CC…’Yes…well…uhm…yeah see what they did is downgrade all the materials used and some features in the car you’re interested in…while in Europe…uhm…they didn’t’. Almost nobody wants to hear that when buying a new car, even if it’s reflected in the cost.

      • 0 avatar
        redmondjp

        JJ,
        Thanks for clarifying that! I’m sure that more than a few people are confused on this as well. I still own a 1997 Passat TDI (dead in the driveway waiting for IP seal to be replaced) and used to keep up on the various VW/Audi platforms, but have not kept up over the past decade. My interest level in VW went way down after the late 90s for a number of reasons.

  • avatar
    marjanmm

    The SE review said the car is very noisy but this review does not seem to mention it?

    • 0 avatar

      The TDI SEL Premium seemed quieter, if still not quiet. So the noise levels didn’t seem notable in either direction. In either trim the car lacks the sort of silky feel common among luxury cars and increasingly common among affordable ones.

      • 0 avatar
        darrelld

        I have driven the TDI SEL a number of times and believe it offers a more communicative driving experience than my previous tests in the Sonata 2.0 Limited or the Fusion Hybrid.

        The Sonata Limited while offering vents to the rear seats also had more hard plastic and the suspension sends a distinct clunk through the entire chassis at the slightest road imperfection. Add the Sonatas pulling to one side issue so many owners have complained about and I fail to see what the buzz is about.

        The Sonata Hybrid made Car and Drivers 10 worst handling cars list.

        The Fusion handling while better than the Sonata still lacks the road feel of my 2010 Jetta TDI. The Ford also suffers from a distinct lack of head room, I am 6’3″ and with the seat adjusted all the way down my head hits the roof.

        I was able to find a comfortable seating position quickly in the Passat. The latest C&D tests of the VR6 Passat place the track handling numbers on par or better than anything in the class.

        The 2010 Jetta TDI is my first VW so I have no previous generational experience to base an opinion on. So far I am pleased with VW after moving from Lexus. The 2012 Passat TDI is definately on the short list of my future cars.

      • 0 avatar

        Hyundai still has work to do in ride and handling. I’ve noted this in just about every review of one of their cars.

        At this point the Ford Fusion’s chassis is very old, and while a much better handler than the Sonata and arguably better than the Passat it feels dated and rides more roughly than either the Sonata or the Passat. But there will be an all-new Fusion in the next year or two. The new Passat will have to compete with that car.

  • avatar
    redliner

    So is this new Passat an improvement over the last gen, or are you better off buying a new 2010?

    • 0 avatar

      I haven’t driven the previous Passat recently. I remember it being a smoother, quieter car, but the average (and with it my expectations) has improved quite a bit since 2006. The Passat before that one was more fun than either.

    • 0 avatar
      toyotatundra

      We traded in our 2010 Passat for the 2012 model. I do like the diesel engine in the 2012 and the additional interior space. That said, I like the body styling of the 2010 much better than I do of the new Passat. My wife says it looks like a bigger version of the 2012 Jetta – we have the 2011 TDI Jetta as well.

      Also, the new Passat (diesel version) is not as peppy as the 2010 model and it has less horse power as the 2010. However, the reason we bought it is because of the diesel engine and the gas mileage. The window sticker says it gets 40 on the highway, but we’ve been geting 50 plus. Love it; just wish it had better styling.

  • avatar
    mike978

    Good review, the last sentence says it all. Hopefully VW will make the few minor upgrades/alterations required and turnout a better car for 2013.

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    The feeling of mass is probably due to….mass. Unsprung mass.

    Cars with big wheels and tires tend to feel a bit lead-footed, even if they’re ostensibly wearing performance rubber and the absolute handling numbers are better.

    I’ve seen dramatic examples of this with our Sienna and it’s sixteen-inch rims versus the Venza or Flex, which both wear 20s. The Sienna is by no means a performance vehicle, but it doesn’t feel nearly so heavy. The Passats are probably the same.

    And you can get bet that crossovers and family sedans aren’t equipped with superleggera (super-expensive) wheels.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      Yes, I don’t quite get the idea behind putting 20″ wheels on what is supposedly a family hauler. Even my lowly Pontiac G6 shipped with 17″ wheels. It’s drives well enough, but once those struts get 100-150K on them, those short sidewalls are going to translate a lot of shock to my spine. I’m not looking forward to it…

  • avatar
    segfault

    Is that a prop rod for the hood? Talk about decontenting and cost-cutting…

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      One of the nice things about prop rods is that they seldom fail. Gas struts and springs do.

      Personally, I’d rather see VW spend the money on a decent electrical system than on soft-touch plastics (that peel and crack, by the way) and a gas strut that collapses on someone’s head.

    • 0 avatar

      Prop rods are the norm at this price level.

      • 0 avatar
        segfault

        I guess gas hood struts on less expensive cars was a feature that VW used to use to distinguish themselves from the competition.

      • 0 avatar
        SP

        Rather sad, considering that the car costs over $30,000 and struts cost about $15 each.

      • 0 avatar
        psarhjinian

        That fifteen bucks adds up. If VW sells, say, a hundred thousand per year for four years, that’s six million dollars. Do that a few times for different components and it adds up.

        There’s a good reason to cost cut, as that six million can be spent on things that matter more to most people (like wiring harnesses, or a improved QA).

        There’s nothing really wrong with this, and it’s more than a little hypocritical for TTAC’s commentators to simultaneously call for a return to simplicity and yet decry the cutting of frippery like gas hood struts.

        Now, VW could cost cut the wrong way, and could make their already tenuous reliability worse, or they could be cutting the complexity that has traditionally made them problematic. That remains to be seen.

      • 0 avatar
        tekdemon

        At $32K they better damn well not be the norm when my 8 year old Camry that cost $18K new doesn’t have a prop rod.

      • 0 avatar
        segfault

        psarhjinian,
        I’ve never called for a return to simplicity. I expect meaningful progress in reliability, features, ride/handling balance, safety, technology, and noise levels and refinement. When manufacturers take a step backward by decontenting, it’s only fair to call them out on it. In the case of the Passat, VW has decontented its excellent standard engine (the 2.0T), its classy interior, its sporty seats, its sound deadening, and even the hydraulic struts that held the hood up. This is the opposite of progress.

    • 0 avatar

      My friend’s hood struts failed on his 97 (SAAB) when they left the hood up, and it killed their cat. I think for the amount hoods are opened by consumers these days, a prop rod is just fine. What I’m surprise about, is the fact that no one seems to whine about the loss of struts on trunks, where they actually matter and are useful.

      • 0 avatar
        shaker

        True enough – the only people complaining about prop rods are likely the dealer’s mechanics, who are much more likely to lift the hood of a VW (ZING!)

        A car this expensive should have an 8-way power seat, IMHO.

  • avatar
    VanillaDude

    I’m glad I have read your reviews this week because the car appears so uninteresting as to be nearly invisible. While the CC catches my eye, this vehicle utterly fails. The Passat is running with the herd of boring sedans. While the car shows no visual faults, it shows absolutely no character or personality either.

    Perhaps that is wise. It is expensive to build a car and sell it. Why risk styling it in a way that could turn sales away? It works for McDonalds, Dominoes Pizza, and Toyota. Why make the car look memorable? In tough times, perhaps generic is good enough, right?

    This would make a great getaway car. Once you slam the driver’s door, no one would be able to find you.

    • 0 avatar
      Tosh

      Well, I think it has the understated elegance and lack of fuss not seen since the 04-05 Audi A4, which I feel has a timeless look, simple in every detail (on the outside). Still not buying any Euro trash car while there are quality Japanese cars available.
      Anyway, I real cheapskate like myself would demand a manual with my diesel (and a wagon, obviously).

    • 0 avatar
      Castle

      That’s exactly what many people want, to blend in, be about their business with minimal fanfare. Let’s face it, someone buying a diesel, four door, VW isn’t screaming “look at me!”

  • avatar
    psarhjinian

    I’m also surprised at the electric steering. Usually that shows up in hybrids (where a hydraulic pump would force the engine to run) and in higher-power/smaller-displacement cars that need to eke out efficiency gains (like the Civic Si, where the load of the pump would tax the engine).

    This car is neither of those things. If anything, I’d expect the EPS on the 2.5L gas car and the hydraulic rack here. Is it perhaps part of an options package (eg, like BMW’s Dynamic Whatamacallit)?

    • 0 avatar

      I suspect it’s there to enable the diesel to earn 30/40 EPA ratings. With a hydraulic system those would likely be a much less impressive 29/39.

      EPS is worth about 0.7 MPG and will ultimately be much cheaper to produce given its lesser complexity, so it’s going to spread to just about everything. Right now it’s still more expensive, which probably explains why it’s not in the 2.5.

  • avatar
    Sparty21

    Hi Michael, nice review. I drove the Passat TDI and I liked it overall. I have a long commute and like the idea of the fuel economy. There is one car on my list that I haven’t been able to drive before I make a decision. That is the Kia Optima EX Turbo. How do you think it compares to the new Passat?

    My choice seems to be narrowed down to one of these two.

  • avatar
    Robbie

    Is this car a “US market only” thing, or are these cars fresh from Wolfsburg with only US adjusted lights?

  • avatar
    Chicago Dude

    Michael, how is the outward visibility in the Passat? It looks like it should be good compared to most modern cars. How would it compare to a current-generation Camry?

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  • avatar
    Advo

    Do the EPA figures actually understate diesel’s real-world mileage?

    That’s the impression I get from casually reading about diesel cars on the web and in magazines.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      The diesel enthusiasts tend to look at the ownership experience with rose colored glasses, which may account for some of the optimistic MPG estimates… The TDI that used to be in my family would consistently get 47 MPG highway, and was rated 49. We were happy with that. We weren’t happy with the dealer service issues.

    • 0 avatar
      Rada

      In the US, do not buy a diesel for the financial incentive of “fuel savings”. It is just not there.

      • 0 avatar
        SuperACG

        Fuel savings and rose colored glasses? Less time at the pump means more time driving. When driving across the country alone on a very tight schedule, you minimize your stops.

        I woke up in Clinton, OK at 6AM and drove to the Missouri border where I filled up. I then drove nonstop to Dayton, OH arriving at 12AM. Loved that TDI…

    • 0 avatar
      darrelld

      EPA estimates always underestimate real world diesel mileage. My 2010 Jetta TDI is rated at 30 city and I usually average 36mpg. Highway ratings are 40 but a recent 500 mile trip at 75+ netted 45mpg.

      When my Lexus was in the shop for one of its numerous visits I always requested Lexus hybrid loaners. I was in the process of choosing something more fuel efficent than my Lexus IS350 for my next car. What I found in the real world of driving the hybrids through extreme heat and cold like we see in Texas actual numbers were far below EPA estimates.

      My Jetta TDI through these same extreme hot/cold conditions always exceeds EPA estimates. T

  • avatar
    Bryce

    My 13 year old Citroen gets 50mpg this is tech wise another generation diesel it should easily get 50+ mpg at highway speeds

    • 0 avatar
      colin42

      Citroen? I assume your based in the UK where the gallon = 4.56 ltr rather than the us where a gallon only buys you 3.8 ltrs
      therefore 50mpg imperial ~41.6 mpg US

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I think I’d get bored with the looks of this car very quickly. It’s not much different from the 98 B5 Passat or my former 02 B5.5 Passat. Yawn.

    Maybe we’ll finally stop hearing how wonderful VW’s interiors are, now that decontenting is under way. But when will VW start making more reliable cars?

  • avatar
    ajla

    I really like the diesel/DSG combo, but the $30K+ price tag and $400 DSG maintenance appointments every 40K are major downers.

    I still kind of dig the 2.5 SE though.

  • avatar
    potatobreath

    Do US VWs follow Ford’s trim level naming scheme? I like the Canadian ‘Trendline’, ‘Comfortline’ and ‘Highline’ better.

  • avatar
    Jerome10

    DSG buttery smooth and couldn’t trip up? Is this a new DSG different from my 2008 GTI?

    I like it fine enough, but often lower (under 2500 RPM) downshifts with paddles result in bad rev-matched shifts with a noticeable jerk. Also seems to get caught off-guard sometimes. I’ve probably just gotten used to the tranny by now, but it sure doesn’t seem as smooth or quick-shifting as it did when I first got the car. 30K miles on it.

    Its fine enough. I got it because it was impressive and I have always detested the pedal travel in VW clutches, but honestly, I’ve decided that the new GM or BMW (prob same units?) 6 speed conventional automatics are almost as fast to shift, just as responsive to the go pedal, but wayyyyyyyyy smoother shifting.

    • 0 avatar

      The shifts felt slow and less firm than those I’ve experienced in the GTI. I chalked this up to the diesel’s heavier internals, which might also include a heavier flywheel. But perhaps the DSG as fitted to the TDI also has a more relaxed calibration that puts a higher priority on shift smoothness. VW might also have learned a thing or two in the last four years. Some combination of these factors likely explains the difference.

  • avatar
    SuperACG

    Any plans for VW to make this car into a wagon? YES, I HAVE A DIESEL WAGON FETISH, DON’T JUDGE!

  • avatar

    Michael, I’m curious: since VW seems to have missed the mark the ride quality/handling (and to some extent road noise) quotient of the car (something that they seemed to be good at before), what family sedan does best in this category at the moment? The answer also doesn’t seem to be the Hyundai Sonata/Optima twins either.

    I ask because I’ve always found that the Accord (last gen) did a pretty good job with this balance, while the Camry slanted more towards softness and was better at noise suppresion. Who gets it right? 6? Altima? Malibu? Fusion (although above comments indicate not)? 200 (giggle)?

    • 0 avatar

      Buick Regal. Steering could be better, but for ride/handling balance the suspension tuning is spot-on. And the body structure feels rock solid. The downside: it weighs far more and isn’t nearly as roomy as the Passat.

  • avatar
    th009

    @Michael, instead of just suspecting that a trip computer lies, wouldn’t it make sense to just calculate the fuel economy for the test drive, and compare it to the trip computer reading? As standard practice, even?

    • 0 avatar

      I didn’t have the cars for long enough to make this calculation. A measurement based on only 10-20 mile of driving would be inaccurate. In those cases where I have a car for a week, there’s not $30+ in the budget for each review to put gas in the tank. If you guys want to convince Ed that he should require this and bump what reviews pay accordingly…

  • avatar
    n777ua

    I love reading your guy’s stuff, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that these reviews were both bad, for lack of a better term. I felt like they had a clear perception going into the review before the car was even tested (“oh, this is one of those new ‘Americanized’ VWs”). Rather, there were just a lot of constant complaining, even when having to “forfeit” and admit positive attributes – on full display in talking about the Fender audio system – every single review of the system has called it the de facto best system in any midsized car, and any car south of $40,000 for that matter). But of course, the review didn’t give Passat credit for offering a premium audio system when other competitors (accord) don’t even offer one – it was described right away as “muddy-sounding”. it’s funny that’s the first time i’ve ever seen it described as such… one blatant example is not even mentioning, for one time, that passat is the only vehicle in this segment to come equipped with standard dual-zone climate control and standard automatic “coming home” lights (also bluetooth). It also gave Passat no points for offering the segments ONLY dual-clutch gearbox. No points for Passat to offer one of the segments only direct injection V6 (VR6). The segments only standard integrated turn signal mirrors…No points for passat being the only vehicle in it’s class to offer a laser-welded (v. spot welded) spaceframe body structure, resulting in the SEGMENTS BEST body tolerances (instead insulting it for not being made of aluminum). No points for offering the segments only RAIN SENSING WIPERS, the segments only static corning lamps. No points for tiptronic being STANDARD on the 6speed auto vehicles (with sport mode). Funny how this doesn’t come up in the Accord review, which has no manual control? … As a result, I think you guys compared it too much to the car that used to be priced from $27-38K instead of the new car. VW is somehow held to higher standards by the automotive press in N. America – they have to be “more” than the comparable Japanese car in every way simply given their heritage. So when VW actually starts competing for US sales, by slighting downgrading their products to levels that still make them arguably best in class in many respects – the press goes insane, and starts using oveblown hyperbole to describe products, and not actual unbias, impartial judgement. I find the same to be true in many of the Jetta reviews, which will blast the interior one second, then boast about how “quality made” the interiors of the comparable Mazda 3/Civic is.

    A lot of things about both reviews I found to be highly suspect, as if the reviewer has less than the necessary amount of experience with other mid-sized vehicles to know exactly how to compare for comparisons sake. For example, he harps on the interior of the Passat – Well, with a lot of experience with a b5.5 gen Passat in the past, I don’t find the interior to be that much of a downgrade. The writer here, unfortunately is not specific enough in his complains about the “cheapness” of the interior. I don’t find any part in the interior to reek of “cheapness” by any means – Rather, I (and most other reviewers mind you), find it to be a nice, well made, pleasant, and understated place to spend time in and in no way was “cheap”, especially compared to cars like the Camry and Fusion. The “cheap” climatronic controls the writer doesn’t like don’t feel the slightest bit “cheap” to me, and are standard fare from any vw w/ Climatronic post-2006. The writer is entirely factually in accurate and best, and completely disingenuous at worst when he writes that the new Passat’s interior ambience and quality is somehow at “only parity” with the Camry and Fusion – the reality is that it’s much more upscale and well made than both. Comparing it to Accord nets similar results – the Accord/Camry/Fusions interiors all have exposed screwheads in the hard plastic shell over the gauges – the Passat doesn’t. The passat has electronic control for the trunk – those car’s use manual releases. The competitors lack attention to detail, and while the passat may not have the outstanding attention to detail that made the interior every bit as good as an Audi in the past (lit ac controls, rubber cubby lining, felt glovebox), it’s damn good still, and likely best in class. But you wouldn’t know that reading these two reviews…Now would they give VW points for it’s polished overhead pannel, with two red LEDs that shower the cabin in warm red hues at night, complete with fully backlit lamp and one touch sunroof dial control – not even a Lexus IS goes this far to attention to detail. Nor does any other car in it’s class have vw/audi’s electronic door lock with no physical low-rent switch. And who else does overhead visors like VW – the right, “costly” way of having a sliding cover…certainly not it’s competitors! And what other car in it’s class offers ambient lighting, with full footwell lighting? Does the Camry or Accord have wireless start? What other competitors on-screen nav system is as smooth and quick to render 3-D as the Passats? Can I walk up to the car and raise and lower the windows with a capacitive door handle? Which other car in the segment has a standard gauge cluster MFI display that displays navigation directions, and infotainment information? Which other car has ILLUMINATED steering wheel controls at night? Certainly not a Camry or Sonata! Again, wouldn’t know from reading this review…

    Nor would you know that the passat is actually a very capable and refined driving machine. handles better than the older B5 era passats, and has ride/handling trade off that clearly reeks from it’s ties to VW Group, who is far more experienced here than Hyundai, for example. The Passat simply drives better than Accord and Camry, especially the new Sonata, and is more refined than mazda6. I am truly in shock that your writer so flagrantly denounced the Passat’s refinement, which arguably is best in class. It arguably has the segments best handling (with mazda 6), pretty good (not great) feedback from both hydraulic and electric power steering (which is used in both diesel and VR), and another aspect not even mentioned – some of the best brake feel and action in the segment. The brakes on my 8th gen Accord are disastrous compared to the passats. Then he hits on it for not having aluminium weight saving construction, and then associates wind noise to less insulation? I found the new Passat to be quieter than my old B5.5 Passat, and far quieter than the loud noisebox my 8th gen Accord is on the highway! Again, i find this remark disingenuous, and out of the mainstream with most other reviews.

    So here you have a good product. It doesn’t have the tasteless swoopy cyborge styling of the new Hyundai’s, instead has a tasteful, elegant, and clean design that will actually age well with time. The same is true of the Jetta. Reviewers get so caught up in the glitz and the glam – the “lights and toys, the pomp and the circumstance””, that they forget that the Passat is a quality car, from the GROUND UP. While other competitors cars have chintzy sounding doors (camry accord sonata), cheap, hollow bodies (camry sonata accord), and bad paint (accord), vw consistently delivers on that German promise of bank vault rigid solidity of the unibody. The doors close with the authority of any Audi, the door hinges are strong and rigid, the paint impeccable, and the body tolerances are second to none – again, you wouldn’t know that by reading this review (and to be fare, most reviews by the N. American press). All you would know is that the Sonata has “more lights”, has “rear-heated seats”, and “like has so many more HP than everybody”. They forget that the Sonata, on a whole, as a package, still showcases Hyundai’s humble inexperience in suspension setup/tuning, timeless styling, body rigidity/sheet metal quality, and interior quality. The Camry is a full blown disaster in all 5 of those aspects, and the Accord isn’t much better. The passat has the fundamentals down pat – a quality car, with quality build quality, advanced construction processes (laser welding), advanced power train and transmission technologies (FSI, TDI, DSG, narrow-angle VR6, hill auto-hold electronic braking system), proven German road manners a step above other competing vehicles, and a sophistication in execution and attention to small details that is hard to match. If this car turns out to be as reliable as the current Golf, new jetta, and CC, VW has a sales hit on it’s hands

    • 0 avatar
      Rada

      You almost made me believe VW makes cars that are not sh**.

    • 0 avatar

      If anything, I expected to positively review the Passat before driving it. My impression from the auto show was more positive than most. My review of the new Jetta is also about the most positive you’ll find.

      I don’t think anyone who reviews cars here has recently praised the Accord or Camry. The latter is about to be redesigned, and the next Accord isn’t far off. The Ford chassis is even more ancient, and I’ve criticized it and the related MKZ for ride quality in the past. I’ve also personally criticized the Sonata’s suspension tuning.

      I did praise the Passat 2.5 SE for its steering and handling. I was less pleased with the TDI in this area, though I noted that its ride was more settled.

      At the moment, my basis for comparison must–oddly enough–come from smaller cars like the Ford Focus, Chevrolet Cruze, and Suzuki Kizashi. The Buick Regal also has a higher quality interior and much more solid body structure, though I’ll grant that it’s also more expensive. The new Passat will have to compete with the next-generation Ford Fusion and Chevrolet Malibu, and I expect them to be at least as solid and refined as the Focus and Cruze.

      As for going through the features list, the domestics used to tout differences like these, and I didn’t see them as valid compensations for more fundamental shortcomings then, either. You take an especially cheap shot by noting that the Accord doesn’t offer a premium sound system, as nearly every other competitor does.

      Your own bias comes through by acting as if I criticized the Passat for not making extensive use of aluminum. I don’t care if it uses aluminum or not. I’m just making a simple deduction. In contrast to other VAG products, the new Passat is very light for a car of its size. As it doesn’t use premium materials to achieve this low weight, structural rigidity and/or sound insulation were likely compromised. You claim that the new Passat is a very rigid car, but I didn’t feel that, not even close. The overall noise level wasn’t so much an issue as all of the little noises, vibrations, and quivers that were evident in the Passat but not in more refined cars.

  • avatar
    n777ua

    Also, something tells me that if THIS passat came here, our n. American Passat glitzed with LED daytime lights and Bi-xenon, and LED taillamps, the “acceptance” of this passat would be entirely different. This would be the “revolutionary, class-changing” Passat. Funny how LEDs seem to change everything about a car.

    http://www.passatchina.com/

  • avatar
    shaker

    Seems to me that the upcoming 2013 Malibu is going to be a nicer car than this, albeit with a more conventional drivetrain. And it will probably be 8,000 cheaper with a 4-banger.

    Edit: The reason that I write this is because VW seems to be moving slightly “down-market” while Chevy is moving slightly “up-market”; the lines are beginning to cross.

  • avatar
    Junebug

    I have a 2008 GTI, DSG transmission too. It has 51K miles on it now. Problems? 1 – had the PCV valve replaced under warranty at 49K miles. Now, the DSG has never gave me any trouble. VW sent me a letter stating there had been issues and was giving me an additional warranty on it – 100K miles. Then, I got another letter stating they would replace a part in it as part of a recall. This was around the 40K mile mark, so the dealer did the 40K fluid change as part of the recall and all I paid for was the filter. My dealer has been great, can’t complain at all about them or the car. I’ve heard the horror stories and sometimes feel like I might ought to trade it, but, it’s a fun car, gets 28-30 mpg, and I’d like to one day quit working for the car companies (that is – no more car payments). I’d add that I change the oil/filter myself – every 5K miles with Mobil 1, 0w40. I have not done any mods to it, and although I’m 52 years old – I still get down on it from time to time!

  • avatar
    PennSt8

    I came across one of these in the flesh, and I have to say I do like the rear end and sort of dig the side profile. It sort of reminds me of the Lexus LS (in a good way). The rest of the car does nothing for me.

    What I cannot understand is why anyone would go run out and buy one?

  • avatar
    gglockster

    I drove the 05 Passat TDi wagon in Germany. Except for autobahn BMW envy, I loved the car. When I got back to the states I looked into buying the TDi sedan Passat. Utter cheap garbage. With the larger leg room in the back and much worse visibility from the back, the Passat was NOT worth the extra money over the TDi Jetta. As with everything VW, the sound system sucks to include not being able to play random CD’s (some brand new and all of which play in other car CD players). VW sales and service sucks (VW free included service includes a service department that cannot successfully change the oil in a Jetta: forgot to install oil pan crush washer, two cases of forgetting to put the dipstick back in, and one case of not being able to service a recall notice).

    Both the diesel Passat and Jetta are noisy cars, more from poor aerodynamics than from musical tap of the engine. Its a shame that VW is the only company that a decently priced diesel. If they had better competition then the dealerships might not treat their customers with such contempt.

  • avatar
    Spartan

    Long live the Passat W8 4Motion 6MT with FULL LEATHER SEATING!!! They don’t make premium VWs anymore. That space belongs to Audi. So the premium Jettas and Passats we’ve enjoyed in the past are long gone. Sad day indeed.

    • 0 avatar
      Forty2

      Almost bought a 2003 B5.5 W8 4mo 6MT sedan new. I could have gotten it for only a little more than a V6 5MT but ended up with a 1.8T 5MT fairly well-optioned. The W8 model had fantastic performance but seemed awfully complex and buggy. Glad I passed it up knowing what I know now about that car.

      VW seem determined to engineer all the Farhvergnugen out of their current crop of cars. The B5.5 Passat was a gorgeous solid car and I never had any trouble with mine besides the usual then-VW problem of windows falling into the doors. I miss it.

  • avatar
    tonycd

    Wonder if this car shares the reportedly crappy heater of the Jetta TDI.

    FWD is pretty useless if it’s on a car that’s useless in the winter.

  • avatar

    49 mpg a lie. Nope.

    I just got back from Germany where I drove a BMW 320d sedan for a week. I saw a legit 49 mpg, in a combination of Autobahn driving (saw 225 kph) and slow roads.

    The BMW diesel is not cheap, but done right, a diesel can get great mileage, which is why most cars in Germany now are 2-3 liter turbodiesels. I paid $10 per gallon (the dollar sucks, diesel ran 1.30 to 1.55 Euro per liter).

    At this price point, diesels make great sense. Since our gas is half that price or less, not as much. Germans pay more for their cars than we do, and don’t go for gas anymore. That five series, or E class ? a turbodiesel. The 335i, or the S4 ? Sent to America. V8 powered cars or SUV ? Definitely sent to America.

    Pity, as there are a LOT of great diesel cars over there.

  • avatar
    seddleman

    I’m very disappointed with the body shape on this car. It looks like a Altima my sister had 10 years ago. The German version of this car is much sharper looking, this N.A. version really doesn’t turn any heads, the German version will turn a few. If nothing else, it looks like it was made this century.

    I was going to buy it as soon as I was able to test drive it, now, I think I will pass. Any suggestions?

    If I could choose, I’d want the German exterior and the N.A. interior. Any chance anyone at Volkswagen is reading this?

    S

  • avatar
    Someone

    Bridgestone?

    The demo SEL TDIs all come with Hankooks and they’re noisy and vibrate. I suspect the cars being sold to buyers will also not come with Bridgestones.

    VW appears to be doing things to give reviewers a better impression. One reviewer said their SEL came with 17″ wheels. Now I’m reading about Bridgestone tires that made the TDI have a better ride. That’s certainly the opposite of the way the Hankook 18s performed and I tried two different SEL TDI demo units.

  • avatar
    randallhsmith

    I bought a 2012 Golf TDI recently. After reading this article, I filled up my tank, checked the trip odometer, and calculated the mpg by hand. My calculation matched the average fuel economy meter on the car within 0.1 miles. Assuming that VW uses the same hardware for measuring fuel economy for all of its vehicles, it is entirely plausible that the MPG numbers that the 2012 Passat is reporting to you are entirely correct.

  • avatar
    andyadviser

    Choices: 2010 Audi a4 premium with 2.0 l Quattro with 44,000 miles for $22,000 or new passat tdi sel? Married with two very young children. Thoughts?

  • avatar
    donerightray

    I think VW is currently making some poor decisions on top of good ones. Diesel are good decisions but trying to fake their way into luxury segment like this article hints at is wrong. You buy diesels to commute, commute or run cheap. Yes they run cheap. The Jetta DSG diesel is super …consistently 44+ combined mileage over 100,000 mile experience. I know. The best thing for a commuter is to avoid the extra stops on the way to work during the week to fill it up. How about close to 600 miles per tank..top that! So VW ..if want to make a luxury car do it and stop faking it! Otherwise give me a cost sensitive solid engineering which you can!!!

    • 0 avatar
      randallhsmith

      The mistake Volkswagen is making is not certifying this for America:

      http://jalopnik.com/362724/2009-audi-q7-v12-tdi-revealed-with-unbelievably-powerful-diesel-engine

      VW is planning to release the Porsche Cayenne with the standard V6 diesel. The Cayenne is the perfect platform for this V12 diesel. This move would open the door for multiple applications for diesel and make the diesel a more commonplace option for automobiles in America.


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