By on December 20, 2013

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI

Once of the most frequent car advice emails I get is from consumers looking to cut down their fuel bills while still hanging on to a family sedan. Until recently, this question narrowed the field down to a few hybrid sedans and the Volkswagen Passat TDI. Today, there are more hybrid options than ever and soon Mazda’s diesel powered Mazda6 will enter the fray. While we wait for the Mazda’s new SkyActiv diesel to ship, I picked up a Volkswagen Passat TDI to find out if a little diesel could bring some cost reduction to my commute.

 YouTube Preview Image

First off we have to dispense with the fallacy that buying a new commuter car will save you money. Of course we all know that is rarely true, especially if you are simply replacing one family sedan with another. (This disclaimer is just for the readers that may object to the forthcoming cost savings comparisons.) Second you must think about what kind of driving you do before you start looking at technologies to reduce your gas bill. If your commute is highway heavy, then a diesel or amvery efficient conventional vehicle may be the better choice for you. If your commute is balanced between highway and city or city heavy, then many hybrid technologies may be the winner.

Exterior

While other VWs get expressive fascias, VW’s sedan line is pure conservative German design. We have a three-slat horizontal grille up front, a flat character line and little detaining on the side and nothing terribly expressive out back. The adjectives that came to my mind were simple, elegant, and unemotional. No matter how you park it, the Passat never strikes a pose that would offend a conservative mid-size shopper.If you want Euro flair, VW would be happy to sell you a CC which sports more aggressive bumpers, more chrome and sexier tail lamps. However the Passat TDI is competing with the hybrid versions of the Fusion, Camry, Accord, Optima and Sonata, as well as the “we hope its not a mirage” Mazda6 diesel. While some in the press have called the Passat boring, I would posit the sedate lines will help the Passat age more gracefully than some of the competition, most notably the Sonata and Camry, however I think the Fusion and Mazda6 are more attractive and dramatic.

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-012

Interior
Mid-size shoppers demand expansive rather than expensive cabins, and VW took note when they redesigned the sedan for the 2012 model year. Our Euro friends may notice that this doesn’t look quite like the Passat you know in Europe, and that’s because the American Passat isn’t the same car as the Euro Passat anymore. Although both Passats are related, the NMS Passat gets a 4-inch body stretch and a 3.7-inch wheelbase stretch, the beneficiary being the rear seat which goes from cozy in the Euro model to ginormous in the American model. Although the numbers would indicate that the Fusion and Passat’s rear legroom are similar, the devil is in the details of how car makers measure and the Passat is the clear winner here.

Sadly Camcord shoppers place fuel economy, electronic doodads and rear-seat leg room higher on their list than squishy dash bits and VW was happy to oblige. As a result the Passat’s plastics are attractive to look at but just as mainstream to feel as the competition slotting in below the new Accord and well ahead of the aging Korean competition. Speaking of attractive, I find the traditional “single bump” dashboard layout to be a refreshing change from the massive dashboards that are creeping into every mis-sized sedan lately. Front seat comfort proved excellent for long car trips, tying with the Accord and Fusion while the rear seats, although large, weren’t as comfortable as Honda’s sedan.

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-015

Infotainment

Because there is no “S” trim Passat TDI, base diesel lovers get a slight feature bump compared in the infotainment department. The base 6.5-inch touchscreen system is joined by 8-speakers, HD Radio and standard Bluetooth for a decent base package. The systems iDevice and USB integration offers no voice commands like you find in most of the competition, but it is reliable and intuitive. VW offers two different navigation systems depending on how far up the trim ladder you want to walk. SE models with the sunroof can get the “RNS-315″ which uses a 5-inch touchscreen and very basic navigation software.

Jumping up to the SEL model adds a Fender branded speaker package and a 6.5-inch high resolution navigation system with satellite radio and Sirius Travel Link live traffic and information services.  While most of the information is superfluous, the fuel pricing and locations proved handy as locating a diesel station can be tricky. The traffic and Travel Link features require a Sirius subscription and VW tosses in a 6-month trial for free. Sadly VW’s navigation systems predate the 2012 Passat refresh by a decent window and are among the oldest and least feature rich in the mid-size sedan segment barely scoring a win over the ancient system in the Chrysler 200. You won’t find smartphone apps, slick graphics and VW has even reduced the number of voice commands the system can recognize because the hardware was unable to handle it with reasonable performance. With Toyota and Honda recently launching their new infotainment systems and Ford’s MyFordTouch system getting a much needed refresh, this puts VW in next to last place, just in front of the dreadful navigation system lurking in the Mazda6. 

Passat TDI  engine, Picture Courtesy of Volkswagen

Drivetrain & Pricing

Powering the Passat is the same 2.0L turbodiesel found under the hood of every diesel VW in America except the Touareg. The small diesel engine features twin cams, 16 valves, aluminum head, iron block and a variable geometry turbocharger to deliver 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. Funneling the power to the front wheels via a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic, the Passat doesn’t feel as slow as 140 ponies might suggest. The gasoline electric hybrids on the market are peppier, with the Camry delivering 200 ponies, with the Optima and Sonata nearly tying at 199, while we get 188 from the Fusion and 166 from the Accord. Normally, the high torque is a bonus when you compare a TDI to a small gasoline engine. However, modern hybrids deliver diesel-like torque with flat torque curves thanks to their electrification. The Koreans serve up 235 lb-ft and the Accord cranks out 226 with both curves being more advantageous than the TDI. Ford and Toyota do not release official torque numbers, but I suspect they are both in the 220-230 lb-ft range.

Because of tightening emissions regulations in California, the Passat now comes with a urea injection system also known as “diesel exhaust fluid” or DEF to reduce NOx emissions. This is a significant difference from Mazda’s new SkyActiv diesel engine which they claim does not require this additive to achieve the same emissions compliance. This is significant not only because owners won’t have to buy DEF every few thousand miles, but also because VW decided to put the DEF filler port in the trunk rather than by the fuel filler on the side of the car (like other manufacturers do.) The result is an inconvenience on the VW side and, according to Mazda, a power bump on the SkyActiv diesel which they expect to come in around 170 ponies (if we get the high-output version) and 300 lb-ft of torque which should put the Mazda neck-and-neck with the hybrids.

The Passat TDI starts at $26,295 for the SE trim and tops out at $32,995 for the loaded SE. This price walk essentially mirrors the Passat V6 and feature for feature is substantially similar to the Camry, Optima, Sonata and Fusion hybrid sedans meaning the TDI doesn’t have a price advantage initially compared to the gas-electric competition. Honda’s Accord Hybrid starts at $29,155 making it the highest base price in this bunch, but the top-level Accord at $34,905 seems reasonable compared to a fully-loaded Fusion Titanium Hybrid at $38,870.

Because the mid-size sedan segment is so competitive, when you calculate the value of standard feature content, most of the pack ends up within a few hundred bucks of one another except for the Optima which undercuts the pack by nearly a grand. The higher top-end pricing on the hybrid competition is largely due to the availability of more features like radar cruise control, self parking, lane departure prevention that you won’t find on the Passat.

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-007Drive

The Americanization of the Passat has had an effect on the way VW’s large sedan drives. The difference is most obvious if you drive the VW CC and the Passat back-to-back. The CC has a more solid and connected feel and the handling limits are higher. That’s not to say the Passat will let down the VW faithful with Camry-levels of grip, but in the pursuit of higher fuel economy narrower tires we required. In the pursuit of rear leg room, the wheelbase and chassis had to get longer making the American sedan drive larger than the European model. The result is a Passat that slots below the Mazda6, Accord Sport and some levels of Fusion in terms of handling, but notably above the Camry and Korean competition  which have less refined suspension manners.

Diesels have never been known for spirited performance despite the modern crop of torque-strong turbocharged designs. Our TDI tester clocked 60 MPH in just over 8 seconds which is on the long end of the green pack with most of the hybrid competition in the low to mid 7 second range. Diesels have a dedicated following largely due to their high fuel economy, high torque numbers and the plateau like horsepower and torque curves. Today’s hybrids however deliver much the same experience thanks to electric motors that deliver their maximum torque at low speeds without the turbo lag experienced in turbo Diesel engines. This negates many of the claims popular in the TDI forums.

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-011

Once upon a time when Toyota’s unique planetary gearset power-splitting hybrid system was the only game in town, many shoppers and reviewers disliked CVT-like feel of the Hybrid Synergy Drive system. Despite the fact that CVTs are more efficient, I’ll admit that there’s something about gear changes that I find satisfying. If that describes you, then there are now hybrid options, like the Sonata and Optima, that combine electric motors with traditional automatics for a more “normal” feel.

This now brings us to fuel economy. During a week and 732 miles, I averaged 36.5 MPG, slightly higher than the EPA number and on a one-way level highway journey I managed 47 MPG on  a 50 mile trip with the cruise control set to 68 and the AC on. The more time you spend in stop and go traffic or on city streets, the lower your number will be. That’s a sharp contrast to most hybrids that excel in city and heavy traffic because they can keep the engine off for most low speed maneuvers. This segment is the poster child of “your mileage may vary.” If your commute is characterized by long highway stretches cruising at 70MPH, the Passat will be the mileage winner. If however you drive in moderate to heavy traffic or find yourself running around town on the city streets, a gasoline hybrid is going to be the mileage champ.

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-009

A few short years ago the Passat TDI was the clear choice for high mileage cruisers that didn’t want a softly sprung Camry hybrid. Unfortunately today’s Passat has some serious competition from the handsome Fusion hybrid which posted similar economy numbers while being faster and costing less to operate. We also have the new Accord hybrid. The Accord may cost $2,850 more than the Passat TDI, but it delivers more feature content in the base model and an incredible (and personally verified) 50 MPG in the city with a combined 47 MPG score and road manners that equal or exceed the Passat. When you factor in the higher cost of diesel and the diesel exhaust fluid the VW requires, the Accord “breaks even” vs the TDI at 60,000 miles. Perhaps the biggest problem for the Passat TDI’s proposition as a thrifty commuter is the Kia Optima delivered the same mileage while drinking cheaper fuel, is less expensive to purchase and has a longer warranty. My experience with the Passat TDI left me wondering if I should really be as excited about the Mazda6 diesel as I am, or should I instead be hoping VW jams the Jetta’s hybrid system into the Passat? The Passat TDI isn’t without its charms, but after a week burning the midnight oil, my heart and my pocket book were dreaming gasoline hybrid dreams.

 

Volkswagen provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for the review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.0 Seconds

0-60: 8.01 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.4 Seconds @84 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 36.5 MPG over 721 miles

Sound level at 50 MPH: 71 dB

 

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91 Comments on “Review: 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI (With Video)...”


  • avatar
    tedward

    I’m very surprised to hear that Mazda is claiming a power advantage with a passive exhaust system. From what I’ve heard (mostly from talking to a Bosch guy who was working on it) the tuning potential should be better on the urea systems. He claimed the urea systems were more forgiving in regards to exhaust gas temps. and possibly with lower back pressure. This may, however, be a function of where VW locates their emissions equipment relative to the exhaust header etc… I’m definitely not an expert on this so if I can be corrected here I would appreciate it. It also may be that he was more familiar with his own systems and less so with the general state of passive filters.

    Of course the other possibility is that Mazda has, yet again, engineered some unlikely and cool solution that escaped everyone else.

    • 0 avatar
      NOPR

      If they aren’t using Urea/SCR they must be using a NOx trap, which shouldn’t provide a power benefit. I also remember hearing Mazda is using a much lower compression ratio to achieve lower NOx, maybe this is what they are somehow referencing? Though again I don’t see how that would help make more power…

    • 0 avatar
      Swedish

      Bosch is likely just using that as a selling point for their systems integrations

  • avatar
    rmwill

    Great analysis. Get ready for the TDI fanboys to strike back.

    The Truth About Diesels

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      My only negative comment is that Alex said VW provided a tank of gas. That’s a bad idea in a modern TDI. :)

      The Passat TDI has its pros and cons, and these cars are meant for a lot of steady highway mileage. Between the higher cost of diesel, the urea requirement and the horrible service departments of most VW dealers, an Asian hybrid is probably a much better choice for a lot of people.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        The urea thing is a non-issue. It might cost $20 to top it off every 10,000 miles, and you can get the fluid at most auto parts stores these days.

        • 0 avatar
          brettc

          There’s still the issue of filling it, and I suspect some people would not like to be doing that every 10000 miles. Of course VW will do it for you for the first 20000 miles, but after that it’s up to the buyer to keep it replenished and not end up in limp mode. That’s one of the reasons I like my Sportwagen TDI, no urea required. For 2015 all of the TDIs will require it.

        • 0 avatar
          salhany

          Truck stops carry it too.

        • 0 avatar
          rudiger

          What happens if the urea is not replenished? If performance is unaffected, and the only negative is pollution that exceeds EPA requirements, you can bet that more than a few urea-TDI’s won’t be getting the fluid as scheduled.

          • 0 avatar
            Chicago Dude

            You will get warnings that you are running low. If you actually do run out, you get to start the car two times.

            The car will not start a third time.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            That seems a very dangerous game for VW to play in the case of emergency situations.

  • avatar
    Luke

    Anyone know why VW insists on putting the DSG gearbox in their TDI’s vs. a regular torque converter auto?

    My buddy has had a horrible experience with the VW DSG in his diesel Jetta. With less than 80K on the car he’s on his second gearbox, and due to both the very limited supply and shocking expense associated with a replacement he had to ship in a unit from salvaged Jetta all the way out in Washington. Also, the gearbox is balky in the cold (which we have a lot of in MN) and has far more rough shifts that I would think is appropriate for a newish car. He loves the mileage but hates the DSG.

    What’s VW’s idea behind locking people into the DSG?

    • 0 avatar
      jmo

      The Honda hybrid wins me over with its lack of a transmission. It has a generator and a motor like a locomotive of the Queen Mary II.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      At a guess, there is almost no demand for a conventional automatic in a TDI outside the United States, and WV certainly isn’t going to develop one just for us.

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      I think it’s because the DSG is a much better match to the power curve on a TDI equipped car, which results in better economy numbers. My wife has a 2000 Jetta TDI with the 4 speed 01M automatic and the best it has ever done is 40 MPG on a long highway trip. In regular mixed driving it averages about 32-36. And this is the old VE injection pump TDI where people would get in the upper 40s and low 50s on average with a 5 speed.

      Sorry to hear about the problems your friend has had. I’m at 21xxx miles and so far so good. Although the dealer did flash mine recently to fix a low speed shudder but the flash mostly took care of it.

      Speaking of DSG service, that’s another thing for potential buyers to be aware of. A $300 to $400 transmission service every 40000 miles.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        $300-400 if they are informed. Some VW dealers want to charge $700-900.

        If they live by me, I’ll do it for $50 and a case of Bell’s Expedition Stout if they buy the DSG fluid online. I’ve done the DSG change five times now.

      • 0 avatar
        dgcamero

        DSG service is $230ish tax included in Charlotte, NC at the North and South part of town dealerships, not sure about the East dealership. And just sayin’ — all the dealers I’ve been to in my 100k of experience in an ’07 DSG GTI have been on top of their game, except for one. Fortunately, every single person (except one service advisor) that worked in the service department of that dealership (svc manager down to the advisors) went away one week…and they were on top of their game afterwards.

    • 0 avatar
      fredtal

      Even when reliable the DSG is kind of expensive to maintain, at least from what I read on Fourtitude. Still it’s a sweet shifting box.

    • 0 avatar
      Autoboy

      Luke, great points and I totally agree. I wanted to buy the Passat TDI but the DSG transmission sent me looking for another car.

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    Well writen review! Definitely surprising analysis.

    It gets even worse for the VW diesel crowd when you consider you look at the insane warranties that accompany many hybrid powertrains (the batteries).

  • avatar
    stryker1

    My wife has a long, highway commute, and we purchased a TDI back when it was either that, or a prius if you were especially concerned about MPGs. Pretty happy with the competition in this space. Car shopping whenever the current TDI blows up should be interesting.

  • avatar
    Detroit-X

    Every time I dream about owning another VW, I add in $2-3k in faulty German Engineering repairs, or for the 100k extended warranty into the purchase price, and the urge to buy disappears.

  • avatar
    slingshot

    Detroit-X, my sentiments exactly. They have always been expensive to fix. I had the very first 1975 Rabbit, a disaster. Anyway in the past 11 years with 270,000 miles of driving, I have had one repair in total with my 2002 Mazda Millenia S and 2008 Honda Accord V-6 (zero with the Accord). I’ll stick with the Japanese.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      I had a 1978 Ford Fiesta that was a reliability nightmare, but I don’t feel compelled to post on a review of a 2013 Ford Fusion about that sorry car nor would I think it would have even the remotest correlation to the Fusion.

      Please go look at the reliability data for this generation of Passat on True Delta. It’s better than average so far. Time will tell if that remains the case.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The Millenia is a special case, and should be judged on Lexus terms, not Mazda terms!

      ENFINI!

  • avatar
    salhany

    What does a car you owned 38 years ago have to do with cars you can buy today?

    If someone had a bad experience with, say, a 2006 Passat, then yes I can see staying away from one in 2013. But 1975? Really?

    As Archie and Edith would say, “Gee our old LaSalle ran great.”

    • 0 avatar
      brettc

      My 5 owner ’85 Jetta diesel had its share of problems mostly because the previous owners didn’t give a $hit about it until I came along and gave it some TLC. But any problem I had with a car from 1985 doesn’t factor into current buying decisions.

      Cars from every manufacturer have improved drastically since 1975. Although some manufacturers still don’t seem to have learned lessons from the 70s on not building future rust buckets. (cough Mazda, Subaru, cough).

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-X

      It’s called learning from your mistakes, and a better lesson is learning from the mistakes of others. Consumer Reports says that VW ranks near the top in “won’t buy again.” And that’s 2013.

      • 0 avatar
        rdchappell

        When taking the brand in aggregate, sure. Which I don’t think is all that useful. Your run-of-the-mill modern Jettas/Golfs/Passats are a different ownership experience than your Touaregs and Eos(es?) when it comes to reliability and all that. Can’t paint with a broad brush, which I know CR likes to do to tell magazines sometimes.

      • 0 avatar
        salhany

        Again, you mentioned 1975 models. Which is irrelevant to the 2014 being discussed here.

    • 0 avatar
      rdchappell

      This also drives me nuts.

      Human beings are imperfect and superstitious and hold grudges. That, and the internet loves to complain.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      OK salhany, my 02 Passat was an undeclared lemon.

      In 3 years, I had 12 unscheduled trips to the dealer. The last one was for them to mutter something about camshaft seals, after the car drank 3 quarts of oil in 3000 miles and threw on the ‘check oil’ light at 30k miles. It had no external leaks, so in reality it was burning the oil though its 30-valve V6 valve guides, and the dealer’s mechanics needed something to do.

      Let’s see, the other issues were: total electrical failure of the left rear door (twice), inaccurate fuel gauge, failed A/C pressure switch, failed crankshaft position sensor @ 5 months old, and total replacement of all four brake rotors after 1 week of ownership. Not to mention a dangerously unresponsive drive-by-wire system that required planning and courage before merging, which the dealer couldn’t fix.

      I traded that dog for an 05 Scion xB which needed a replacement window switch a year after buying it, then nothing for the next 6 years.

      GM’ 1980s diesels gave a bad name to diesels, but VW’s unreliability is limiting the US diesel market – even if their TDI is excellent.

      Mazda may do quite well with their diesel simply because it’s NOT a Volkswagen.

      • 0 avatar
        salhany

        More relevant, but that’s 11 years ago. 11 years is a lifetime in the car industry; look at the cars Hyundai was running out there 11 years ago compared to their lineup today.

        I mean, sure, it’s a personal negative experience with the brand, which is a rational reason you’re feeling antipathy for VW, but I’m pretty sure the cars from 2002 don’t have much in common with the cars being produced now.

      • 0 avatar
        LeeK

        No one denies that VW products in the late 90s/early 2000s were really poor in regards to quality. Total, 100% agree.

        That set of owners, which includes you, are so angry at the brand that they feel compelled to loudly and repeatedly complain about how they were wronged by VW and that it is somehow their moral duty to warn off everyone even contemplating a purchase of a new VW.

        But you know what? VW management heard the same thing, and they set about to improve it. As a brand, VW has been slowly but steadily improving their long term quality ranking from dead last just five years ago to mid-pack, just about even with Hyundai. Audi is in the top ten. Mini, Land Rover, Chysler, and now Ford are taking up the cellar positions. Yet I find it curious that when articles about new vehicles from those manufacturers are posted here, owners of 2002 or God forbid 1975 cars don’t seem to jump on the pile and start regaling us with their tales of how Ford/Mini/Chysler/Land Rover done them wrong the same way VW does.

        What is it about VW that causes so much vitriol? I’m truly trying to understand this phenomenon.

        • 0 avatar
          Dan

          Declaring VW’s reputation as a resolved problem of 10 years ago is some serious sugarcoating.

          The VW page of my April 2013 Consumer Reports is covered with black marks for cars just three or four years old.

          The vitriol is easy. The cars may have finally reached the level of merely as bad as the average Chrysler but the dealership service experience hasn’t.

          • 0 avatar
            LeeK

            You have the April issue? Excellent! Please turn to page 16. Check out the reliability rating of Volkswagen as a brand. It’s not a black circle — it’s a white circle (average). Black circles are seen for Mini, Buick, Chrysler, Ford, Lincoln, and Dodge. The overall “Brand Report Card”, which adds in road test scores, ranks VW 16 out of 26.

            Now turn to page 69 for individual model reliability ratings:

            Beetle – worse than average (black dot)
            CC – average (white dot)
            Eos – average (white dot)
            GTI – below average (half black)
            Golf – above average (half red)
            Jetta – average (white dot)
            Jetta Sportwagen – average (white dot)
            Passat – above average (half red)
            Routan – n/a
            Tiguan – average (white dot)
            Touareg – worse than average (black dot)

            The only two potential horror stories according to Consumer Reports is the Beetle and the Touareg, both of which have been completely redesigned in the past two years and will undoubtedly influence the rankings seen in the April 2014 issue.

          • 0 avatar
            Dave M.

            The vitriol is easy, frankly. We spend hard earned money on a product that must serve us in various capacities. I expect my car to be reliable. If Toyota and Honda can do it, everyone can. Put the money into R & D to get there. Not tomorrow, not 2 generations from now…do it now.

            THEN I’d be completely excited about spending money on your vehicle.

            Also, make a reasonably priced smaller minivan like the concept from 2009 That thing rocked and you can use the Passat chassis…

        • 0 avatar
          84Cressida

          The worst car my Grandfather ever bought was a ’77 Audi 100. Car gave him nothing but problems from day 1 (literally, it broke down on the way to a football game after being bought from the dealer). He raved about how smooth a ride that car had, but the car would literally spend more time at the dealer than at the house. He kept it until replacing it with a new 1984 Cressida, a car that would be the precursor to many Toyota purchases yet to come. Toyota should’ve sent VW a gift basket, because that man was responsible for a huge amount of their sales.

          I have to wonder those who whine about people holding “grudges” against certain cars after long periods of time are the same people who will instantly forgive and forget another human being who screws you over, like a cheating spouse.

          • 0 avatar
            LeeK

            Oh come on. Your Grandfather got burned by a car purchased thirty six years ago and is still so mad that he’ll never consider another Audi? Even when Consumer Reports, True Delta, and JD Powers all report Audi as a brand in the top ten of manufacturer reliability? Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds?

            I had a super-duper reliable 1990 Honda Accord that went through three steering racks in the ten years and 110,000 miles I owned it. Does that mean I’ll never, ever consider a Honda again? Of course not, in fact I have bought three more Hondas since then.

            I had a Kenmore dishwasher that was a piece of junk. I replaced it with a Bosch. Do I now harbor a grudge for all Kenmore products, with a burning hate that will follow me to the grave? I don’t think so. When the Bosch gives up the ghost, I’ll consider another Kenmore if it has the right price and feature set I am seeking.

            Comparing machinery that breaks down to a cheating spouse is not a very good analogy, in my opinion. Families don’t break up, children don’t get scarred for life, and financial ruin doesn’t ensue after the divorce when the assets are divided and alimony and child support payments have to be enacted.

            It’s just a car.

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            “Oh come on. Your Grandfather got burned by a car purchased thirty six years ago and is still so mad that he’ll never consider another Audi? Even when Consumer Reports, True Delta, and JD Powers all report Audi as a brand in the top ten of manufacturer reliability? Do you realize how ridiculous that sounds?”

            it’s “84Cressida.” what do you expect?

            and yes, there are plenty of people like that. Not hard to find someone who still will never buy anything from the US automakers because their ’72 Vega was a piece of junk.

          • 0 avatar
            fredtal

            I’ve heard that story a 100 times. They have a terrible experience with a car (insert your favorite brand here) and then go buy a Honda or Toyota and never have a problem again.

          • 0 avatar
            tedward

            Fredtal

            The funny thing is that it clearly goes both ways. I had to put some serious effort into my friend who owns an acura cl with the v6 auto. He didn’t seem to understand that not only is the trans. problem fixed on newer hondas but the parts are so far apart after just a few years that you’d be better served treating each generation chassis as an entirely separate product. Neither the good nor the bad should be assumed when you consider the complexity and the wide range of potential part suppliers.

  • avatar
    Marko

    As I’ve probably mentioned before, my frugal father bought a Passat SE TDI (DSG/sunroof) this past summer. He got it for $25,xxx out the door and has been quite happy with it. His mileage doesn’t stray too far from the EPA ratings, but he does a lot of city driving.

    Why not a hybrid, then? Well, the Camry was too bland and he didn’t want to spend Avalon money. The Fusion doesn’t look that much more expensive on paper, but in real life, it was a much different story. The local Ford dealer had no Fusion Hybrids on the lot, even to test drive, and the ones they were waiting for were all over $30K and equipped with the dreadful MyFordTouch. The Accord Hybrid and Mazda6 diesel didn’t exist yet. I tried to talk him into a cheap Volt lease, but he hated the styling and limited rear seat room.

    The Passat has only had one issue so far *knock on wood* – a misaligned window molding causing excessive noise.

  • avatar

    I didn’t watch the video, but the Youtube still frame shows a car with only 1 fog light on. Interesting feature or a momentous VW fail as they provided Alex with a car that has a foglight burned out? Either way… go Youtube.

    P.S. On second look, the lead picture in the article features a broken light too.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      Note the slight right turn position of the wheels. This activates the fog lamps on the side bring turned to when the headlights are on for added visibility at night. That is not a burned out or malfunctioning light. It’s actually a pretty neat feature and many VWs have it now, even the ones with adaptive headlights that swivel when turning.

    • 0 avatar
      bk_moto

      As they say, “it’s not a bug, it’s a feature!”

      A lot of the current VWs have the ability to use the front fog lights as cornering lights. My GTI did not come with this feature enabled but I was able to enable it through software coding of the body control module – i.e. the feature was there but was turned off in software for the U.S. market for whatever reason.

      The front fog lights wrap around a bit to the side which makes this work pretty well (at least on the GTI).

      The way it works is, if the headlights are turned on AND the vehicle is below a certain speed AND:

      1) the steering wheel is turned beyond 90 degrees from center in either direction

      OR

      2) the left or right turn signal is activated

      then the front fog light on the appropriate side will illuminate to act as a cornering light. The light will then automatically fade out after the steering wheel is returned to center or the turn signal is cancelled. Pretty neat.

  • avatar
    Mike N.

    I’ve had 4 VW’s, including B3, B4, and B5 generation Passats and a MkV GTI. I love VW’s, maybe irrationally given how VWs have treated me in the past. I contemplated buying a Touareg TDI, but after a while I figured if I was paying German car prices for maintenance, etc. I might as well buy a nicer german car, and bought a loaded one year old BMW X5d for less than the Touareg. It’s a better SUV in every way that matters to me, and the dealership maintenance experience is better by far.

  • avatar
    Dan

    The TDI sticker “starts” at $26,300 but include destination and the automatic transmission and you’re up to $29,100. That’s not any kind of value buy, you’d have to actually want it. Who wants this?

    Greenbeans aren’t happy with 35 manbearpig points when a hybrid scores 45.

    Internet europhiles will say they’d buy the Golf instead because hatchback, and then not buy a new car at all because cheapskate.

    For everybody else, it’s $4,000 more than the comparable Camcord for a slow car with vinyl seats, an awkward transmission, and a track record of frequently breaking.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I want to like this car, just as I want to like all VWs, but there is one thing I hate.

    Vinyl seats.

    Give me cloth or give me leather.

    Vinyl seats are just fake boobs for cars. MB tex/etc fanboys say they hold up better, don’t sag, their wife loves it, etc.Try to rationialize it as much as you can, but deep inside every man is attracted to a voluptuous pair of big natural leather buckets.

    • 0 avatar
      LeeK

      Oh please. Today’s “leather seats” in automobiles have practically no leather in them at all. The side and rear panels are vinyl to reduce cost and prevent the cracking seen under side loads. Only the surfaces that touch your butt and back are actual leather. The German manufacturers all are going to vinyl seats as standard because the vinyl offers the same look as leather with the same miserable qualities: freezing cold in winter and scalding hot in summer.

      I don’t understand why vinyl is considered “fake”. Cars in the 60s came with vinyl as the standard option, with cloth or the very rare leather option on the highest trim levels as an extra-cost option. Vinyl is better now, is much more easily maintained, particularly if you have young children, and nobody can really tell. When I tried to sell a 328i with “Boston leather” to CarMax, their evaluator missed the seats and listed them as leatherette. I had to argue with them and only when I produced rather original bill of sale did they begrudgingly believe me.

    • 0 avatar
      fredtal

      I know the interiors of both the Jetta and Passat are “cheaper” then before but from the pictures they look a lot better than anything else in this segment. It is also my personal opinion that they it’s that way to not only meet a price point forced on VW by Japanese and Korean makers but also to distinguish them more from Audi.

    • 0 avatar
      z9

      The black vinyl seats in my Jetta TDI are one of the few things I actually like about the car. They have withstood years of wet dogs and/or surfers full of beach sand quite admirably. For an abused family car the material is a good choice. By contrast, the textured hard plastic used for the door panels and other interior surfaces scratches easily and the scratches look terrible. But yeah, voluptuous pair of buckets for the manhood vehicle every time.

  • avatar
    rdchappell

    Damn, I was hoping to get here before the anecdotes about how someone’s 1985 VW was a piece of shit and how they’re never buying a VW ever again in the 21st century and beyond blah blah blah.

    At least that’s what every VW review on the internet turns into.

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Similar fuel economy I got in my Verano 2.0T 6MT with cruise control set at 70 mph the whole way. Driving 1,000 miles across hilly PA-80 in elevations of over 2,000(highest point on I-80 east of Mississippi) in 25-35F temperatures going up to 45F at the end. I’ll keep the Trifecta Tuned 300+ hp and 350trq for some time it looks like.

  • avatar
    fred420170

    I also got away from VW products after owning a 98′ Golf (ECU fried at 5k and needed a new trans at 10k), 01′ GTI VR6 (everything went wrong w/ that car), and a 03′ A4 (needed two engines before 30k due to oil sludge). They were always in the shop at least twice a month and once the warranty went out the repairs were roughly 1k a month.. So I left the VW group and picked up a KIA, great car never broke down but when it came to buy another car I wanted another GTI. My current car a 12′ GTI has been nothing but reliable for me. The car has never been in the shop for anything other than scheduled maintenance. I kinda regret buying the extended warranty at this point because it’s been that good.. However, now I probably jinxed myself and it will have a bad coil or something tomorrow lol…

  • avatar
    suspekt

    All hail the Accord Hybrid.
    One of the first cars to come along in a very long time that has me considering buying new.

    I still must add; my 2008 Prius delivers 55mpg rather easily and has been a wonderful commuter/family car for me, my wife, and 2 young ones.

    Paid $12,000 tax in with 50,000 miles on the ODO.

  • avatar
    bluetick

    Halloween night 2013, my wife negotiated a pretty good deal on a new 2013 Passat TDI. Fourteen months and 30,000 miles later, it has proven to be a very comfortable and capable highway car – not to mention completely reliable. Fuel mileage on the interstate all day at 75-80 mph is usually around 45 mpg. She has managed over 50 mpg a few times between fill-ups (as high as 53 mpg on one tank). There is also some value to us in being able to drive for ten hours or more before having to stop for fuel.

    If you cover a lot of highway miles, our experience suggests the Passat TDI is worth a look.

  • avatar
    Beerboy12

    Nice review, some gripes though. I think including hybrids as competition is a little misleading. While hybrids have improved impressively and the range of vehicles for sale has increased they are still heavy and complex. That has to factor into the decision choices. I think a buyer chooses their tech first then goes shopping. If they choose Hybrid, they have a world of choices, that already skews favor to the hybrid. If the buyer chooses diesel… Unless they are willing to wait for the Mazda, there really is no cross shopping to be done yet. Comparing the Passat to the Mazda is not 100% right as it is not on the market yet. In my world there is nothing to compare the Passat to. A hand full of Merc’s, BMW’s and Audi’s perhaps but they are at a way different price point.
    Also, considering VW seems successfully to be working on reliability, they can build on that, the next generation of Passat most likley will improve on the weakness. Who knows what issues (hopefully not many) Mazda will have bringing their first diesel to the US market?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      I’m not sure you can really call hybrids that comnplex. The Toyota hybird design uses far fewer parts than a vehicle with a 6-peed transmission. While you do have a battery and DC-DC controller, the mechanical part of the vehicle is much simpler with 2 motors and one planetary gear set. There isn’t even a “reverse gear” as the car just spins the motor backward to reverse.

      The Honda setup is perhaps even more simple with a fixed generator and a fixed motor connected via a wet clutch. Because the clutch only engages over 45 you don’t get the same kind of wear that you get in a wet DSG.

      On the modern TDI side you have the robotic 6-speed transmission with more moving parts and you have the urea injection system with a pump, injectors, etc.

      Depending on your tastes you may think the hybrids are more reliable because of the reduction in mechanical bits or you may say the electronics are prone to fail so you prefer a diesel. If the Prius has shown us anything however, the solid state parts seem to win the battle.

  • avatar
    Buckshot

    I feel sorry for you mericans that don´t have many choices when it comes to affordable dieselcars. The VWs has (among other problems) a dsg gearbox that is not bulletproof. Maybe the best choice on your market is the Cruze D?

  • avatar
    ash78

    We’re still trucking along with ’98 and ‘01.5 Passats (V6) that have been, well, interesting. A few issues in the past couple of weeks due to latent design flaws that have left a bad taste in the wife’s mouth, despite my pragmatic arguments. They’ve probably been more reliable than most owners’ experiences, but I’m pretty anal with my servicing — mostly careful DIY except for major suspension work and timing belts. So I appreciate the notion that today’s VWs are decidedly different and better than those from 10-15 years ago.

    But then I remember my parents’ ’08 2.0t (Ward’s ten best engines, same powerplant put into 80% of VW’s worldwide offering, yadda yadda).

    That mofo left them stranded twice with various fuel injection clogs (high-pressure FSI system). The third time, the engine caught on fire.

    VW dangled some cash in front of my old man and now they’re in a brand new Audi Q5…with the newest 2.0t. Didn’t Einstein (a German) say something about the definition of insanity?

    Our next car may likely be a VW Routan, but only because I know VW wasn’t involved in any of the really important bits. :P

  • avatar
    lencap

    I own a 2013 TDI and my experience is very different from that of the reviewer. I’ve owned many cars over the years including several diesels. I like a diesel engine because it fits well with my driving pattern, and I think most other people. In the city there are many short starts/stops between lights. The diesel gives lots of torque at low RPM – an ideal combination for city driving. For longer trips the diesel gets very strong gas mileage and usually cruises at/near the torque peak for the car’s engine. Again, a good match for most people – good mileage and adequate power to going up a hill or passing without changing gears.

    And that’s another point. For me the ideal transmission for a diesel is a manual. You pick the gear you want, don’t have any power loss through the transmission and can get far better mileage. I tested the VW DSG transmission extensively, and FAR preferred the manual. All the complaints noted in the above reviews don’t apply to the manual transmission – and there is no $400 service needed every 40,000 miles. The need to add diesel additive every 10,000 miles is a non event – no big deal at all.

    Now the comparison. I’ve owned two Prius cars and a Nissan Leaf. Yep, I’m “green”, but the difference in the driving experience among these cars is immense. The Leaf gives you the torque as soon as you start – a good thing, but has far too many compromises including the range issues and, frankly, overly cheap feel of the car, especially the interior. If you’re tempted to try one I strongly suggest leasing. The Prius is a fine machine – but not a fun ride. It’s more of an intellectual approach to driving, not an enthusiasts car at all.

    Comparing the Prius/Leaf to the TDI manual transmission, for me, it’s no contest. I prefer the TDI engine over the alternatives by a large margin. Also worth considering is the vast mileage difference between the manual and auto versions of the TDI. On the highway, at the same speed as the reviewer noted, with the manual transmission and standard cruise control, I get nearly 50 MPG highway. Around town, with an EPA 31 City MPG rating I easily get 35. My experience isn’t unique – check the VW forums for more confirmation if you like.

    By the way, another thing to consider is your climate. In cold weather either a hybrid or a full battery powered car will get lower mileage. The batteries are less efficient in cold weather. On the Prius the difference is 3-4 MPG less mileage in winter than summer (based on 40K miles in my two Prius cars). The Leaf also gets affected by cold weather, dropping range about 5-10 miles. What’s also an issue to consider is the car’s heater. The Prius engine turns off whenever it can. In cold weather it takes some time to heat up the interior. I strongly recommend electric seat heaters. The Leaf is even worse – no engine to heat up. The heat exchanger is essentially a heat pump – it works pretty well, but isn’t as fast to warm as a diesel engine.

    Finally, the door openings for the Passat are large (especially the rear), wide and provide lots of access. If you are elderly, or just a larger person, you’ll appreciate that the doors open very widely and make getting in/out very easy. I often drive elderly parents in my car and they really appreciate the easy access. Not only that the truck is huge and I can put walkers and other things in the trunk very easily. The trunk is well shaped and stores an enormous amount of things. The Passat trunk also has a very inexpensive option for adding extra storage bins/compartments. They attach to the the rear section’s rug with velcro – very easy to move and keeps everything in the trunk where you want it. I’ve read lots of Passat reviews and few, if any, reviewers note this. It’s a very nice extra feature, not found on any of the other cars noted in the review.

    Summary: If you are an enthusiast driver the TDI with manual transmission is for you. If you’re a “hyper-miler” the hybrids may be a better match. Reading reviews is helpful, but it’s your money – get a test drive and check out the owner’s forums before spending your money. For me the TDI is the clear winner, but you may disagree.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    It looks like there are 6 or more button blanks around the gearshift. That’s a very poor design of the empty space there. I also dislike the stitch patterns on VW seats – they look old/dated to me. The interior is not luxurious enough for this price, and (IMO) adding the easier resale of the Accord Hybrid down the line, I think it’s a clear winner over this blob.

  • avatar
    Autoboy

    I agree with Luke on an earlier post. I wanted to buy the Passat TDI but the DSG transmission sent me packing. First was my test drive at the VW dealer. I live in NYC and much of my mileage there is stop and go.

    On the test drive, the DSG was awful in stop and go driving. Yes, I’m sure there’s a learning curve, but I’m not willing to take that chance. The drive in-town was so jerky. I then researched the DSG and was scared-off by all of the reliability issues and potential expense. I just don’t want to spend $5,000-$8,000 on a transmission repair.

    I am also wary of any engine with a turbo. Another major expense down the road. I tend to keep my cars 7-10 years, and I’m just not comfortable in owning a turbo-DSG car. I really wanted the TDI though.

    Then I considered the Passat V6, but it again has the DSG. No sale.

    Now I am considering a 2013 Certified or new 2014 Passat SE with Sunroof. It has the tried-and-true VW 2.5 litre inline 5 with a solid Aisan Japanese-made 6-speed automatic. The 2.5 isn’t very sophisticated or silky-smooth, but it has some get-up-and-go. It’s nicely mated to their 6-speed slushbox. From Fuelly and Passat forums, it gets about 34 mpg on the highway and 23 city. I’m fine with that.

    Given that diesel is up to 70-cents higher, the difference between the TDI and 2.5 starts to even out.

    Michael had mentioned that the Fusion had a more usable rear seat than the Passat, even though the Passat has more leg room. I tend to agree…somewhat. The Passat seat is a little low, but certainly comfortable. But that extra legroom in the Passat is incredible. As a side note, I looked at the Fusion Titanium and really like it…but was scared-off by the Ecoboot 2.0 turbo’s questionable reliability.

    But I agree Luke…if VW made the TDI mated to their 6-speed slushbox, I’d buy it in a split-second!

  • avatar
    K Kray

    Before even thinking about buying a Passat TDI please take a look at this thread http://forums.tdiclub.com/showthread.php?t=360617 .I had a 2013 Passat TDI SEL. It broke down at 19000mi. Came to find out they pretty much ALL DO! Car was gone 3 weeks! VW simply replaced the broken turbo with the same part insuring another break down after another 19Kmi. VW would not acknowledge a design defect. I could not tolerate the situation and dumped car loosing a lot of money. My new Honda Accord makes me happy now! Goodbye VW!

    • 0 avatar
      Zauzous

      K Kray
      I challenge that story: the warranty would cover anything with that age and miles. And all Passat TDI’s certainly don’t have problems. Mine has 29,000 on it, and the only problem was when I refilled the washer fluid with the wrong color one and threw off the sensor, during extreme cold weather. Resolved itself with warmer weather. There has been one recall on that unit: if you have an elephant sit on the hood, you may loosen a headlight bulb. VW solution: dampening kit to rebuild the whole assembly done under warranty. Worried about the turbocharger? They extended the warranty on them to 120,000/10 years after — some reported malfunctions. So how did anyone lose any money on a warranty repair? And where were they getting this fixed that supposedly took 3 weeks? There are a lot of troll reviews that float around on the web, and I have seen a few aimed at the Passat TDI because — hey — no one has anything like them. I get 45+ highway miles with mine, 30+ around town.


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