The Truth About Cars » Passat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:00:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Passat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Junkyard Find: 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/junkyard-find-1980-volkswagen-dasher-diesel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/junkyard-find-1980-volkswagen-dasher-diesel/#comments Fri, 09 May 2014 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=817145 24 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe original Volkswagen Passat, which was essentially an Audi 80, was sold in the United States as the Dasher. We saw this two-door diesel Dasher at a Northern California wrecking yard last year, then this first-cousin gasoline-burning ’75 Audi Fox a couple months back, and now we’re heading back to California for a super-rare four-door diesel Dasher.
02 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car was slow even by generous 1980 standards, but diesel fuel economy must have made diesel VW buyers feel smart. I took my driver-training classes in a Rabbit Diesel, and I’m pretty sure the top speed of that car was about 52 mph.
13 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car appears to have been driven down from Alaska, judging from the body rust, moss growing on the trim, and these parking stickers.
14 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior is packed with damp Alaska Airlines aircraft shop manuals, probably a couple hundred pounds of them.
15 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’m sure I could have picked up a Boeing manual for cheap or even free, but I decided that I’d be able to live without it.
09 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWas it still running when it got scrapped? Who can say?
16 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s hard to use up a car this thoroughly.

01 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Hammer Time: The Automotive Extremist http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hammer-time-the-automotive-extremist/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hammer-time-the-automotive-extremist/#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 13:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=726490 amazon

Life is sometimes about extremes, and with the extreme life of buying and selling cars comes two cars, recently purchased by me, which easily represent the polar opposites of all things automotive.


Last week, as many of you know, I bought an 03 VW Passat with about 157k and the completely unloved W8 engine.

w81

This Passat was easily the dowdiest looking of all the German V8 cars from that era according to our august founder Robert Farago. Plain jane 10 year old VW exterior. The same cheap interior panels as a $25k Passat. It consumes gas like a 15 year old minivan and yet… the damn thing has a beautiful ride.

w83

 

Strong, stable, commanding, all the things that you find with the top dollar German luxury machinery back then with a pretty wicked four-wheel drive. But it would also be one nasty bastard to maintain if you kept it.

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This Monday I bought this Passat’s alter ego.

corolla1

 

A 2007 Corolla CE with the 5-speed, roll-up windows, power mirrors and locks, 145k miles, and a CD player. How Toyota came up with the idea of offering power everything but windows I can’t say, but this car is pretty much the most easy to drive car I have ever owned. Well, the other 30 or so Corollas I’ve bought are pretty much from the same ilk.

corolla3

 

I’m sure it would return 35 miles per gallon and then some if you did plenty of highway and country driving. The only problem with it is the interior is like dwelling in some remote corner of a Tupperware party.

corolla4

You have to keep one car for the next five years, and suicide is not an option. Which one would you chose?

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Hammer Time: What Hath Thou Wrought? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hammer-time-what-hath-thou-wrought/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/hammer-time-what-hath-thou-wrought/#comments Wed, 22 Jan 2014 17:07:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=705314 07dts1

98 dealers are busy looking at 89 vehicles. Check engine lights are being scanned. The hoods are opened, engines are revved, and Bluetooth is the technology of the moment. Wholesalers, along with professional car buyers like me, are busy making arrangements with those dealers and individuals who want to buy an auction vehicle on the cheap.

There’s only one problem with all this. We’re on the eve of tax season. A time where everyone short on dough files a tax return on the expectation of a nice four-figured refund in early February. Millions of those refunds will eventually be used towards one of three purposes: paying down debt, purchasing electronics, or putting a down payment towards a nice used car that will likely be financed to the hilt.

The prices at this specific auction are always high. But today, they were in outer space.

94Mark1

It all started with #9. A rolling museum piece with only 56,812 miles. Yes, that

This 1994 Lincoln Mark VIII was the cleanest vehicle I have found of it’s ilk in nearly six years. The leather seats were pristine. The body was as smooth as can be with none of the bumper ridden scuff marks that are all too common in the last of the great Lincoln coupes. I was so enamored with it, that I posted the vehicle on Facebook for my fellow Lincoln enthusiasts to admire. One of which apparently goes by the name of Doctor V8.

It’s rare for me to find an old car at the auctions that was a showhorse instead of a workhorse. So naturally, like every other old vehicle I find, I try to get it out to the enthusiasts among us. After a short drive, I am at the auction at the crack of dawn downloading pictures to the doctor, in a climate that I can only describe as the Atlanta arctic.

mark81

mark83 mark82

Yes, that is ice forming on the hood. Atlanta is now nearly as cold as the rest of the east coast.

I told the doctor that I thought the price would go for a round $3300 on the block. Lo and behold, I got up to $3400 and of course, someone else out there outbid me at $3500. If this had been an LSC model of a 96′ vintage, I would have kept going. But a $3500 bid plus a $165 auction fee, plus my fee of $300 for inspect, appraising and buying the car (I gave him a discount) would have resulted in a 20 year old car with $4000 invested. That $4000 is before any unforeseen reconditioning costs, or the cost of shipping it out to Texas. It was obviously time to cut bait. An act that I was bound to repeat with several more cars that day including this one…

03rover80k1

this one…

00Maxima1

and this one… 02SantaFe

 

I just couldn’t get a break, and then of course, it happened.

There are cars that I will sometimes buy just for the learning curve that can come from actually getting it ready for sale. Sounds silly on the surface. But a lot of my early fortunes came from fixing unique problems on vehicles that don’t require as much of an investment as people think.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Administering the Gibbons method on the transmissions of 2000 to 2007 Volvos that have the number 60,70, or 80 in their name.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Replacing the resistors on the instrument clusters of Buick Centurys and Regals that no longer show their odometers.

These types of vehicles, and many others, don’t move that quickly on the lots. Especially these days. But if you focus on a few unpopular vehicles with a lot of high-end features, and try to hit em’ where they ain’t, you can lay the groundwork for doing well on the finance side of this business.  A loaded car that has been maintained well will almost always be taken over the plain jane cloth version of an older popular vehicle.

So every once in a blue moon, I experiment.

sat1

This is a vehicle that nearly everybody in my business is scared shitless over buying. Not because they have bought it. But it is more or less the triumvirate of challenge. Hard to fix. Gas guzzler. Volkswagen. I have never bought one of these before. But the more I looked online on the day before the sale, and the more I talked to one of the mechanics in my neck of the woods who specializes in Volkswagens and Audis, the more I liked the idea of testing the waters and seeing what happens.

sat2

So this is it. A 2003 Volkswagen Passat W8 with an automatic and the 4motion all-wheel drive system. 155k and no announcements. I bought it for $2600 plus a $155 auction fee which was only $100 more than a plain jane 05 maroon Taurus with a cloth interior, 130k miles, and the Vulcan V6.

sat3

This car has the fuel economy of a minivan (18 city / 25 highway) and drives ‘heavy’ on the road. It’s actually not a bad vehicle from an engineering standpoint, and I think it has a compelling look to it when you see it in person. At least the color and the wheels are distinctive enough to attract eyeballs at a retail lot. However, as the great Robert Farago pointed out in his review of this vehicle, this car is pretty much the dowdiest V8 luxury car in the German fleet of that era.

If you are a road warrior in the rust belt who happens to know a VW mechanic and isn’t against buying a spare VW from a salvage auction company like Copart or IAA, I can see this car working out. Heck, you could probably sell off the parts through enthusiast sites and make your money back on the donor car with plenty of parts to spare for yourself.

I probably wouldn’t do it though. This uber-Passat came from an era with too many uber-cars that were simply under-engineered for the long haul. Pontiac Grand Prix GTP’s with combustible transmissions, Jaguar S-Type R’s with the potential for more high cost breakables than a pissed off bull in a Chinese pottery shop.

The Audi everything, the Mercedes everything else, the Northstar equipped Cadillacs, and of course the Beelzebub of all luxurious automotive devils, the BMW 7-series from that same era mid-200′s era. The whole heavy, straight line, high maintenance, high repair era of automobiles from the Bush era has given a lot of tinkerers the opportunity to be screwed once they realized that it truly takes a lot of experience and equipment to keep these things going past the 100k mark. Not to mention money for ever more rare electronics. Oh well.

There was one opposite side to that storm of deserved depreciation. This 1999 Toyota Land Cruiser.

99Cruiser1

 

250,000 miles divided by 50 verifiable visits to the Toyota dealership apparently equaled an $8500 net purchase at the auction. That price was $500 more than a 2011 Nissan Sentra S with only 67k miles, and $700 more than a 2007 Volkswagen GTI with 76k miles.

99cruiser2

It even beat the holy water out of a 2003 Land Rover Discovery with 80k miles that went for $5700. The difference is that the Land Rover had the usual Christmas tree lights on the dashboard (check engine, ABS, traction control, hill descent, etc) while the only malady of the Land Cruiser was the odometer cluster that actually worked. This Land Cruiser will likely be exported and have it’s odometer rolled back. As for that Range Rover? It went to a specialist.

Apparently knowing how to fix em’ and offer them to an enthusiast audience has it’s benefits… and it’s pitfalls. What a hell of a way to start off a Monday. Anyone want a Passat?

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Review: 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-volkswagen-passat-tdi-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-volkswagen-passat-tdi-with-video/#comments Fri, 20 Dec 2013 14:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=679274 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.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

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

 

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-021 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-020 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-019 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-018 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-009 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-010 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-001 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-002 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-011 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-012 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-003 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-004 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-013 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-014 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-005 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-006 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-015 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-016 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-007 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-008 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-017 ]]>
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Piston Slap: What Makes a Bad Suspension? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-what-makes-a-bad-suspension/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-what-makes-a-bad-suspension/#comments Mon, 16 Dec 2013 13:27:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=681034

TTAC commentator Seminole95 writes:

Sajeev,

The Wall Street Journal recently suggested that part of VW’s problem in the US is the slow growth in Passat sales. About the Passat sales, they attribute it to a cheapening of the components relative to the European Passat, stating: “The American model also got a simpler, lower-cost suspension that delivered a less precise ride.”

My question is: how does one tell a priori that they are buying a car with a cheap suspension? Many mainstream media car reviews do not discuss the objective quality and construction of suspension components, preferring to discuss subjective feelings of ride. In addition, a car’s ride may “feel” good now, but this does not mean that it will in 5 years.

As an aside, one of the reasons I am interested is, I am thinking about buying the new Honda Accord and trading in my old one. But the new Accords have the MacPherson struts whereas the old ones had a double wishbone setup.

Thank you, TTAC, and your readers for intelligent car discussion.

Sajeev answers:

Ya know, autojournalism is a tough gig: explain why you feel a certain way and you bore people with engineering jargon.  Well, that’s provided you actually have to chops to explain why a certain design/component behaves a certain way in the first place!  But I digress…let’s begin with some salient points:

  1. Some suspension designs are better than others, depending on application.  Sports cars shouldn’t have leaf springs (please accept my apology, Morgan) but I seriously doubt I’d ever want a truck without them (sorry RAM).
  2. The quality of suspension components makes all the difference in the world.  To wit, upgrading shocks (Konis, Bilsteins, etc.) on a seemingly terrible suspension can, by magic, make it the best in its class.
  3. Mainstream Auto Journalism or no, opinions on this subject are mostly subjective…if not entirely subjective!

Shall you feel a big difference between a new Honda Accord and the older models with double wishbones?  Possibly, but that could be attributed to a host of suspension and chassis changes, not the original design. Don’t believe me?  Just look at what BMW’s done in terms of suspension feel utilizing this same McPherson strut template.

Now about the Passat: the 2014 model (at least) has a fully independent suspension on all trim levels. Even the base model Jetta, according to the website, regained complete independence from solid axles.  But let’s say you like the Toyota Corolla or Ford Mustang: is your ass critically fine tuned enough and do you even care on those rare occasions when a modern solid axle vehicle feels juuuust a little wonky on a curvy+bumpy road?

We all aren’t a Jack Baruth on track…and hell, even Jack Baruth drives a Lincoln Town Car with a watt’s link solid axle on the street, son!

So this is much ado about nothing!  My bigger concern is the quality/configuration/durability of the suspension components, not their basic design.  Sloppy tuned shocks, poorly sized sway bars, defective ball joints, etc. are a bigger concern.  And none of that can be addressed at the time of purchase, sadly.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Piston Slap: Dash The Passat for The Road Not Taken? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/piston-slap-dash-the-passat-for-the-road-not-taken/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/piston-slap-dash-the-passat-for-the-road-not-taken/#comments Wed, 18 Sep 2013 12:52:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=518833

TTAC Commentator MightyTall writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I’ve been reading your articles and enjoying your sage advice given to other people. And since you said you’re running low on submissions, here’s mine: I’m currently driving a well maintained reliable 140hp 2.0l Turbodiesel, 6-speed manual 2007 Passat station wagon … 157.000 km on the clock and no troubles.

I love the car and it loves me back, which is why I think I need an additional vehicle to do some dirty work. I hunt and thus often go to the woods on badly maintained dirt roads and occasionally logging road type terrain. While the Passat gives me no trouble getting there I think I’m putting undue wear on it and giving it the occasional “northwestern pinstripe” due to vegetation reaching out into the tracks. Hurts my insides watching the great car slowly getting beat up.

So what I’m thinking is, I want a SUV or Pickup Truck that fits the work environment… So no carpets, no shiny bits and pieces and as long as there isn’t rust I don’t even mind if it is already a bit battered. Now here’s the main issue, I’m 6’9″ (206cm) tall and 250 lbs … so I can’t just fit any sardine can.

Newer Japanese equipment is generally out of the question…why they shrink the insides of their vehicles in the light of demographics showing ever taller people is beyond me, but anything beyond Model Year 2000 ish seems to be smaller. Land Rover, one of my favourites, is also out … 5’8″ is the max one can be to drive those.

So really what I’m stuck with is Nissan Terrano I and II, the King Cab Pickup or their Mitsubishi and Toyota equivalents. Also Lada Niva might be interesting or if we go to more commercial type vehicles it would be a VW synchro Transporter van or box truck.

To recap, I want a basically bulletproof vehicle that is easy to keep clean and will last me several years without too much investment, preferably Diesel. Rust is a no-no since the TÜV is really adamant that no structural components be affected. SUV is also rather second choice due to the difficulty of cleaning in the cargo area and also the higher tax cost … Germany is really milking the high displacement Diesels.

If confronted with such choices and with a budget of about 5.000 € what would it be for you?

Cheers,
Mightytall

Sajeev answers:

Northwestern Pinstripe? Nice: here it’s known as “Texas Pinstriping.” It’s a mark of pride for those who do real work and I betcha you know that feeling. So thank you for writing.

I know pickups in the states, but Europe is a bit different. I’ve seen that episode of Mike Brewer’s Auto Trader where he helps with a truck purchase, so I will pretend to be an expert. And since I own a Ford Ranger, why aren’t you considering one? They got the goods, are priced extremely well and are more than plentiful. It’s the complete opposite of a Land Rover, in terms of your pocketbook, from what I see.

But do you really want a truck? I mean, an open air loading area is ideal for recently dead animals, but…

If the Passat takes you hunting everywhere, perhaps a body-on-frame vehicle is unnecessary.  Why not get one of those “El Camino looking” car conversions? VW, Ford, Opel, Peugeot and others take a passenger car platform to make exactly what you need. Unless you need more space in the (regular) cab, and that’s a big concern. Plus there’s even better hunting in even cooler places with a proper pickup!

So what’s my advice?  Buy any truck, but focus on the service history!  At this price, finding a vehicle with the best paperwork and least worn out tires/brakes/hoses/body damage etc. is your first priority.  I would test drive the Nissan, Mitsubishi, Toyota (and Ford and Isuzu/Opel) trucks and see which one you certainly do not like.  From there, find the one with the most service history and the normal wear items in the best condition.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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2013 Volkswagen Intramural League, Fourth Place: Passat 1.8TSI SEL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/2013-volkswagen-intramural-league-fourth-place-passat-1-8tsi-sel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/2013-volkswagen-intramural-league-fourth-place-passat-1-8tsi-sel/#comments Tue, 03 Sep 2013 16:26:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=507001 IMG_3651 (Medium)

Westmoreland Rabbit! Say it with me: WESTMORELAND RABBIT! The minute Volkswagen announced that they would be building a new-from-scratch sedan in a new-from-scratch American factory, the cries of WESTMORELAND RABBIT were heard across the land, from MIVE to the “Emm Kay Eye Vee” forums. Westmoreland, of course, was the infamous transplant Volkswagen factory that gave us wide-taillight, square-headlight Rabbits with stupid-looking side markers and velour interiors and horrifying quality control and wallowing non-Euro suspensions and the Rabbit GTI, which is usually left out of the “complaining about Westmoreland” narrative. The fact that the “NMS” Passat would be considerably bigger and blander than the Euro B6 or the CC didn’t help matters.

Car and Driver gave the new Passat a first-place finish in its comparison-test debut and then, following certain rules of the industry, dropped it to last place in a follow-up comparison eight months later. Neither result stilled the cries of the Westmoreland Rabbit crowd. The Internet hates this car. The American public, however, loves it and VW’s sales are through the roof this year, largely on Passat momentum. For 2013-badged-2014, the Passat drops the not-quite-evergreen 2.5L five-cylinder in favor of a turbo four-cylinder with a rather odd cylinder head design.

After thirty-five fast miles in the TSI SEL, I was convinced that it wasn’t “Americanized” much at all. Instead, it’s a return to VW’s water-cooled roots…


IMG_3652 (Medium)

If you want the old five-cylinder in your Passat, you’d better move quickly, because it’s being phased out as we speak. The replacement is a third-generation version of the “EA888″, usually sold in the United States at the “2.0T” in various VW and Audi applications. It weighs less and gets better fuel economy than the 2.5, offering the same 170hp but slightly more torque in the traditional light-pressure turbo flat curve. VW alternates between calling the engine “all-new” and “third-generation”, but the truth is probably a little of both. The unique engineering proposition is a cylinder head that incorporates the exhaust manifold.

EA888 cylinder head (Medium)

EA888 cutaway (Medium)

Routing the white-hot exhaust gases around in the head reduces the time until the catalytic converter becomes effective, it saves weight (with 88 pounds in total engine weight reduction being the figure quoted at the press event) and it improves thermal efficiency. My initial thought was “and it sounds like a great way to make sure every waterpump failure ends with a warped head” so I had a conversation with the chief engineer after the presentation was over. It went approximately like this:

Jack: “What happens if the waterpump fails? Isn’t there a chance of warping the head?

Engineer: “The waterpump? Failing?”

Jack: “Yes, happened to both my ’90 Fox and my ’06 Phaeton.”

Engineer: “There is a valve. It will be fine.”

Jack: “Also, Ford says their turbocharger is good for 150,000 miles before failure. How long is the turbocharger on this car good for, given that many people will be buying it without really considering the fact of its turbo-charge-ed-ness?”

Engineer: “Our testing is not for a certain period of miles. It will be very durable.”

So there you have it. The turbocharger and the trick head/manifold-thingy will be very durable. I should mention that during the presentation we were told that the “Things Gone Wrong” rate in new Volkswagens, along with the warranty costs, were wayyyy down. We were shown a chart that showed how VW is getting closer and closer to the standard of reliability demonstrated by companies like Chevrolet and Kia. There was something charming about the whole deal. I felt like Miles Davis listening to reasons why Paul Chambers couldn’t make the gigs on time or something.

IMG_3646 (Medium)

Back to the Passat. From the moment you sit in the car, it charms you with massive room for both front and rear passenger, plus a low beltline. It’s brilliant. The beltline and window area of the Passat provide a masterclass in applied visibility and spaciousness. It’s better than the preceding B6 Passat and probably almost up to the standards of the illustrious B5. The interior isn’t “premium” in any way, shape, or form but it’s bolted together securely of decent-feeling materials. There really is a difference between the interiors of the Jetta and Passat, with the difference solidly in the Passat’s favor. Between the CC and this American Passat, there’s less of a difference. If you’re looking for an “upscale” feel, though, you’ll have to check out a Ford.

IMG_3645 (Medium)

The inimitable LFK Setright often opined that a turbocharger and a torque-converter automatic transmission made for a very good pair because “one will be at work when the other is not”. This proves to be the case as I start the TDI up Deer Park Road in Napa. Although VW was the first manufacturer to productionize double-clutch transmissions, they also have the intelligence to leave it out of larger sedans unless the buyer really wants it. The TDI Passat comes with DSG to optimize economy. Nearly 4 out of 10 Passats, by the way, are sold with the TDI powerplant. But this 1.8TSI has a six-speed conventional automatic which immediately demonstrates its competence on severe grades and tight turns. I’ve been an bit of a 2.5-five fan in the past; it actually works very well in American driving conditions and although the mileage isn’t great, at least it will shove a bit when you need it to. But with the flat torque curve and an increased willingness to rev, the TSI has it whipped on all counts.

IMG_3649 (Medium)

Compared to the CC, the big Passat appears to have considerably more body rigidity, nearly on par with the 2013 Mercedes C250 I brought to Napa as a reference mark. That, combined with the lessened pace available from a smaller engine in a bigger car, combines to make progress up and down the mountain both pleasant and reasonably rapid. It has good body control even if it’s not even remotely sporty. A shame, then, that the brakes are just as spongy as they are in the CC. Only an exceptionally brave individual would depend on them to prevent off-mountain excursions. Still, this car will make time on a fast road. It’s not that much less athletic than a Camry SE and more so than the LE.

It’s easy to like the Passat on smooth roads but the romance hits a snag when things get complicated beneath the 18″ alloys. Road noise comes through loud and strong and minor imperfections are translated directly to the outstanding leather/Alcantara-esque seats. Perhaps the absence of wind noise makes this stand out more — I didn’t have a decibel meter with me — but my notes are clear: the Passat is simply far too loud on bad pavement. I drove this car back-to-back with a Fusion SE (about which more will be said tomorrow) and I was appalled at how much worse the road noise was. It was like stepping back in time to an old Dasher or something. No doubt the big wheels are to blame, and you don’t get them until you’re five grand above the baser-than-baser “S” price. Speaking of. Remember when “S” on a Volkswagen meant it was cool, not cheap? Anybody remember the Scirocco S with Johnny Rutherford in the magazine ads? No? Just me?

scirocco

Wish I could find it in higher resolution. I probably can, by looking through my 1980-vintage car magazines.

Note that we’ve talked about the Dasher and the Scirocco in the past hundred words. That isn’t just because I’m an old man telling stories about how nickels used to have pictures of bumblebees on them. Let’s review the merits and demerits of the Passat:

  • Big and spacious for its class
  • Great visibility
  • Good but not premium interior
  • Solid structure
  • Decent power
  • Angular, tasteful looks

Add the one thing I haven’t told you yet — the TSI SEL costs a whopping $30,895 — and it becomes plain. This is the VW Dasher all over again. It truly is a legitimate Passat in that respect. It’s not sporty, but the Dasher never was. It’s big for its class, and so was the Dasher/Quantum. It has great visibility and a solid but delicate feel… hey, that’s a Dasher. It even looks Dasher-esque. No, it doesn’t have any of the cheap-BMW appeal that has become an unstated foundation of the Volkswagen brand’s chosen image in the United States, but that was never part of the original FWD water-cooled VW plan.

The Passat is this: a regular family car with a German badge and some price premium. That’s totally consistent with Volkswagen big sedans from 1975 to 1997. It may be made in Tennessee with a Mexican turbomotor, but this is in no way a Westmoreland Rabbit. It possesses the global Volkswagen virtues, which is why they’re selling it in China now. It’s a proper, decent, honest VW product that doesn’t pretend to be anything it isn’t. For that reason, it gets a leg up on the pseudo-CLS CC with its unfulfilled pretensions of Autobahn character, and it is cheerfully recommended to anybody who is prepared for all the little hassles of Volkswagen ownership.

With that said, there’s a better choice in VW sedans available, and that’s coming up in a future installment of the Intramural League. Sit tight.

IMG_3657 (Medium)

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Junkyard Find: 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/junkyard-find-1979-volkswagen-dasher-diesel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/junkyard-find-1979-volkswagen-dasher-diesel/#comments Thu, 06 Jun 2013 13:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=491017 15 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHaving taken my driver-training classes, circa 1982, in a VW Rabbit Diesel, I thought I’d experienced the slowest car available in the United States during the second half of the 20th century. I was wrong! The oil-burning Dasher (which is what the V.A.G. called the first-gen Audi 80 aka VW Passat in North America) had the same 49 (!) horsepower diesel as the Rabbit, and it weighed between 100 and 400 pounds more. I hadn’t seen a Dasher of any sort for at least a decade, and I don’t recall ever having seen a Dasher Diesel, so this find in a San Jose-area self-service wrecking yard was startling.
17 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe entire spectrum of Malaise Era signifiers may be seen here, from the brown-and-orange tape stripes over tan paint to the rear-window louvers to the gigantic 5 MPH crash bumpers.
06 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSince the Rabbit Diesel could be purchased with an automatic, I must assume that the same power-robbing option was available on the Dasher. This one has a 4-speed, which meant that its 0-60 times were probably around 150 seconds instead of 180.
10 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSomeone bought the diesel engine, for reasons that probably made sense at the time.
04 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinJust 119,341 miles on the clock, which is only about 3,500 miles per year… or 20,000 very economical miles per year followed by 28 years of sitting in a driveway.
08 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSuch luxury!
07 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWait, the engine— or at least the long block— is still there!
01 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWe laugh at this car now, but the owner of this Dasher almost certainly did a lot of gloating as his ride cruised right past the gas lines caused by the Iranian Revolution-triggered energy crisis.

01 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1979 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Inside The Industry: TTAC Finds The Missing Etymology Of Passat, Golf, Scirocco, Polo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/inside-the-industry-ttac-finds-the-missing-etymology-of-passat-golf-scirocco-polo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/inside-the-industry-ttac-finds-the-missing-etymology-of-passat-golf-scirocco-polo/#comments Fri, 24 May 2013 11:01:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489412 Polo-cat

German launch catalog for the Polo

Where did the names of Volkswagen’s Passat, Golf, Scirocco, Polo come from? What is their meaning? For four decades, it was shrouded in mystery. Forty years later, a famous former Volkswagen CEO, Dr. Carl Hahn, and his illustrious former sales chief, “WP” Schmidt, help TTAC get to the bottom of an unsolved question,

Some of the worst performers in the truth department are the gossip press and the automotive media. A good deal there simply is fantasy. Knowing well that no-one will complain or check, bogus new product plans are being published.  The large-scale availability of cheap 3D rendering software (here is how it’s done) and of WordPress turns this disease into a pandemic.

Most of these lies come and go. Some stay and turn into history. A dark chapter of automotive history falsification is about the names of the new generation of cars that, in the early 1970s, rescued Volkswagen from the brink and that helped turn VW into the powerhouse it is today: Passat, Golf, Scirocco, Polo.

There is so munch nonsense written about those names, that we had to go to the very top, and ask the people who decided these names 40 years ago.

Passat-cat

German launch catalog for the Passat

Before the Volkswagen Passat came out in 1973, all Volkswagen were sold by the number: VW 1200, VW 1303, VW 1600 and so forth. Then came a car called “Passat.” Although nothing was ever officially published, everybody in Germany was convinced that the car was named after the same named trade wind. It had to be.

A year later came two new cars, the Golf, and the Scirocco. The latter is another famous wind. It is called Qibli in Africa, it changes to Scirocco in Italy, and after it crossed the Alps, it is called Föhn and becomes famous for causing headaches and distracted driving in Munich and surroundings.

In Germany, and especially at Volkswagen, everything supposedly goes according to plan and has a system. There was no system announced, so a system was fabricated. Passat, Scirocco: It had to be winds. But where did the Golf fit in?

Even before the Golf appeared, a German auto magazine wrote that the car, following the supposed wind logic, was originally named “Blizzard.” According to the report, an Austrian ski manufacturer with the same name objected, and instead, the car was named Golf.  Or so the apocryphal history says. That story has been written in many books and magazines, and it is wrong. If you believe the story, you have been snowed.

Golf-cat

German launch catalog for the Golf

A little research in the annals of the German Patent and Markenamt would have shown that, before the Golf arrived, the name “Blizzard” was trademarked for products like floor cleaners, perfume, even for socks. There was no entry for cars. In 1973, there wasn’t even one for skis.

The ski trademark was registered half a year after the introduction of the Golf, on October 31, 1974. Most likely by a now highly alarmed Blizzard ski maker, who had not bothered before, and who had read the stories about them allegedly blocking the name for the Golf.  What’s more, the Blizzard trademark for cars remained up for grabs until 1979, when a company called Toyota Jidosha Kabushiki Kaisha of Toyota, Aichi, Japan, took the Blizzard trademark in Germany. Yes, that Toyota. The mark was used for a luckless Toyota Blizzard, a small Daihatsu-built pocket Jeep. Toyota abandoned the mark in 2010, if you want Blizzard for a car, you most likely will get it.

After Passat, Golf, and Scirocco came the Polo. Its naming still causes great apprehension: Where is the wind? Future cars by Volkswagen had wind names (Jetta, Santana, Vento, Bora,) therefore, members of the media decided that all Volkswagen cars must have wind names, somehow. This leads to the fact that today, Wikipedia, while citing reliable sources, can claim that “the Golf name is derived from the German word for Gulf Stream and the period in its history when VW named vehicles after prominent winds.”

Never mind that a gulf stream is no wind, but an ocean current, the Internet is convinced that the Golf is named after the Gulf Stream. According to Wikipedia, the Polo is named “after Polar Winds.” The latter is said without sources, but by now, the story of Polo and Polar Wind has been copied so many times that it is very easy to find a polar wind source for Wikipedia, even if it is a circular reference – nobody will find out.

I know it differently. I did every launch campaign, I supervised the writing of the catalogs (all pictured here) of the four models, I wrote some myself. All, except those for the Passat. That car was already done when I arrived on my job as Volkswagen copywriter in 1973. No system for the name was ever announced, neither officially nor confidentially. The briefing documents said everything about engine, displacement, they espoused the “Negativer Lenkrollradius”-  but nothing was said about the etymology of the names. Each car had a name, that was it, we were not supposed to ask where it came from, we never knew who created the name, or why. Never ever did anyone think or even joke about the Golf being named after the Gulf Stream, or the Polo after the Polar Wind. Sure, at the agency we joked about “The new  popular sport, Golf.” Sure, the GTI had a golf ball as a shifter knob, and plaid seats. Those were puns, no proof of a meaning.

Scirocco-cat

German launch catalog for the Scirocco

However, who would believe a former copywriter? I decided to go straight to the source.  Volkswagen has a great new and well-funded department, Volkswagen Classic. It is responsible for Volkswagen’s history.  If anyone knows for sure how these names came about, then it’s the people in charge of Volkswagen’s history.

I asked Eberhard Kittler, spokesman of Volkswagen Classics, whether there was a system to this name madness, whether all Volkswagens of that time were named after winds, or the Golf after the Gulf Stream, or the Polo after the Polar Winds.

Kittler had no idea. That allegedly widely known part of history has no presence in Volkswagen’s history department.

Kittler went through the archives, he pulled old internal marketing plans. He found “no conclusive records.”

Herr Kittler continued digging. He reached former, long retired members of Volkswagen’s sales and Marketing departments. They had never heard of a system, or of any official etymology of these names.

Kittler contacted Dr. Carl Hahn, the famous Volkswagen of America Chief who approved the famous Volkswagen ads of the late 50s and early 60, and who was CEO of Volkswagen from 1982 to 1993. Hahn did not know either. “At that time, I was at Continental, doing tires,” Hahn told Kittler. “But if anyone knows, it’s WP Schmidt.”

WP Schmidt was sales chief at Volkswagen when Passat, Golf, Scirocco, and Polo came, and he was so for 27 years. Schmidt is a living legend at Volkswagen. Matters as important as the naming of a car had to cross his table, and had to be approved by “WP.”

Doing research on behalf of TTAC, Hahn contacted Schmidt. “Prof. Hahn asked  Schmidt what was behind the names of Polo, Golf, Scirocco and Passat,” reported Kittler yesterday. “Schmidt did not know about anything behind the names.”

After a thorough review of the documentation, and interviews with prominent witnesses, no support for any of the naming theories was found.

Kittler confirmed that there are many “legends and speculations” about the names, for instance that “Polo could have been a riff on Marco Polo, to hint on Volkswagen’s global vision.” However, as far as the man in charge of Volkswagen’s history is concerned, these explanations came after the fact.

The quest for a meaning is as powerful as nature’s abhorrence of a vacuum. We may have to accept that some things in life are meaningless.

Passat-cat Scirocco-cat Golf-cat Polo-cat ]]>
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Monday Mileage Champion: Volkswagen Wins! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/monday-mileage-champion-volkswagen-wins/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/monday-mileage-champion-volkswagen-wins/#comments Mon, 01 Apr 2013 19:35:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=483103

Take a look at this piece of…

272,522 miles. No fooling. This 1996 Volkswagen Passat 5-speed sedan has traveled a distance nearly equal to 11 times the circumference of planet Earth.

It also visited the dealership well over 50 times during that time period as well. Which is just barely good enough for…

38th place.

Now granted that is number 38 out of 6,894 cars that were traded into a large dealer body for this week alone. 38th place also happens to be the highest finish for any non-TDI Volkswagen for all of 2013 thus far.

So obviously this car belongs in a museum. A Ripleys museum. Right next to the one and only Daewoo that made it to 100,000 miles.

On a more serious note, VW is soundly beating GM at this point. So long as you look at one and only one GM model, the Pontiac Grand Prix.

For this week VW managed to garner 8 trade-ins with over 180k miles while the notoriously plastic fantastic Pontiac Grand Prix managed a mere six vehicles. Of course there were 39 Grand Prixs and 178 Volkswagens in the trade-in mix this time around. But the German people’s car needed to find a victory somewhere in our quality index, and there it is.

Today’s number one and two offers the same powertrain as last week’s number one.

Two Chevy Silverados chalked up 354,646 miles and 346,192 miles respectively. That wasn’t as good as the 1999 Suburban that went 412,372 miles the prior week. But it’s good enough to be at the top of the heap.

As for the bottom, here’s how a few other brands fared for this week when it comes to reaching the over 180k mark at trade-in time.

Suzuki : 2 out of 27 (best showing so far!)

SAAB   : 0 out of 41 (the usual…)

Kia       : 0 out of 85 (ditto…)

Jaguar : 1 out of 37 (may require a recount.)

Audi     : 2 out of 71

261 vehicles from these brands, collectively, could not beat a mere 39 Pontiac Grand Prixs for this week. Or the entire quarter for that matter. In fact the only true shocker for this April Fools Day is that if you added Volkswagen’s 8 strong and solid vehicles out of 178, those brands come in second to another notoriously poor brand…. Mitsubishi.

Which scored a surprisingly sound 14 out of 97 cars with over 180k. Including this Mirage with 281,146 miles and no announcements related to mechanical defects. If you want a hidden gem among the unpopular brands and models, try to find the one or two Mirages that weren’t sent to an early subprime grave.

In the meantime, there were 104 Toyotas with over 180k, 124 Hondas, 106 Chevys (mostly trucks), and exactly 100 Fords (same story… with a few Panther vehicles in the mix).

Cadillac continues to be another luxury charity case with only 3 vehicles with over 180k miles out of 132 for the week. While less prestigious, but far more mechanically sound Buick continues to blow away the big brother with a score of 13 out of 110.

All of you who continue to clamor me about good deals at the auctions may want to look at one place.

The Buick Century. A jaw dropping 10 of them from the 1998-2001 period were sold as True Miles Unknown due to their odometers no longer functioning. The fix for it is only $2 in parts and a half hour of labor. But I’m not telling the dealership about it.

It’s my job to know about these types of things, and their job to keep on pushing those types of cars in my direction.  Unpopular. Unappealing. Uncertain histories if you don’t do your research before the day of the auction. Yet, these Centurys are usually conservatively driven and offer a great bang for the buck for the non-enthusiast.

Those looking for ‘nice’ basic transportation happen to be my primary clientele.

Well, there you have it for this week folks. The quarterly numbers are being crunched by the TTAC volunteer corps as we speak. I’ll have the results to all of you later in the week.

All the best!

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Volkswagen Steps On The Brakes Of The Passat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/volkswagen-steps-on-the-brakes-of-the-passat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/volkswagen-steps-on-the-brakes-of-the-passat/#comments Wed, 30 Jan 2013 12:22:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=475814

With only a 1.9 percent of lost sales in the black hole called Europe, Volkswagen remains relatively unaffected by the European contagion, especially compared to PSA (- 12.9 percent), Renault (-19.1 percent), Opel (- 15.8 percent), Ford (- 13.2 percent) and Fiat (- 16.1 percent). But Volkswagen can’t walk on water either. Volkswagen is throttling down the production of its bread & butter car, the Passat in reaction to lackluster demand.

Volkswagen’s Emden plant will give its workers four long weekends by closing on three Fridays this month and one in March, says Automobilwoche [sub]. Emden workers already received an extra holiday week during Christmas to adapt supply to demand.

Along with the Golf, the Audi A4 and Audi A6, the Passat is one oft he most popular models in the stable of the Volkswagen Group.

No rest for the weary workers of the new Golf MK7: Demand is so high that the unions had to approve overtime.

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Review: 2013 Ford Fusion SE 1.6L Ecoboost (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-ford-fusion-se-1-6l-ecoboost-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-ford-fusion-se-1-6l-ecoboost-video/#comments Sat, 22 Dec 2012 14:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=470078

The 2013 Fusion is a critical car for Ford. Despite the rise of the Koreans, an Americanized Passat, refreshed GM and Chrysler products and a dip in Fusion sales between the 2012 and the all-new 2013 model, the Ford is still the fourth-best-selling mid-size sedan in America. Michael was invited to a regional Ford event in September where he revealed his opinions, but what most readers seem to recall is Derek’s proclamation that the 2013 Fusion is a “gamechanger.” To answer the question once and for all, Ford tosses us the keys to the volume-selling SE model with Ford’s recall-beleaguered 1.6L Ecoboost engine for a week.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

No, this isn’t Aston Martin’s new mid-size four-door entry, although you could be forgiven for making the mistake. The new design is as shocking and striking as the old Fusion was bland and boring. Making your mass-market car over-styled is risky, but despite the Fusion’s rump being less daring than its schnoz, it manages to avoid looking cartoonish like the Sonata. The Aston mini-me styling is refreshing in a segment where “restrained” and “slab sided” are the mantra of the day. The new Accord is elegant for sure, but the large green house screams family sedan. The current Camry attempts to meld an edgy nose with refrigerator flat door panels. Even the stylish (in comparison) Altima looks far less exciting. Styling is subjective and I usually avoid commenting on design directly, but the 2013 Fusion is an exception. This Ford is quite simply the best looking sedan in America under $50,000.

Interior

What do the 2013 Fusion and the unloved 1995 Contour have in common? They are both Ford Mondeo world cars. (Thankfully that’s all they have in common.) After years of designing one sedan for America and one for the rest of the world, the company’s “One Ford” strategy put the Mondeo and Fusion back into the same breeding program. I’m not sure what Europe gets out of the cross-breed, but Americans will benefit from a level of refinement, parts quality and European design hitherto unknown to the Blue Oval on our shores. On the flip side this also means the Fusion’s interior is a study in black with most of the interior looking like it was carved out of a single piece of black plastic. Opting for the tan cloth or leather interior won’t avoid the black dashboard, but it does make the interior look warmer. Sadly this color option is limited to the Fusion S and SE only as the Titanium trim comes only in black.

Our Fusion tester impressed with buttons and parts-bin parts that felt more premium than the competition thanks especially to an all-new steering wheel. While the new tiller doesn’t get soft split-grain leather like the new Accord, Ford’s new button arrangements are easier to use, easier to reach and feel better built than the wheel in the C-MAX and Escape. Speaking of buttons and controls, our Fusion tester showed no signs of fine scratching on the control surfaces, a problem that the Altima, Accord and Camry all suffer from, despite having far more miles on the odometer than the Japanese trio we tested.

Front seat comfort is excellent although a step behind the 2013 Honda Accord which has the most comfortable seats in the segment. Unlike some of the competition, Ford’s tilt/telescoping steering wheel provides a large range of motion making it easy to accommodate drivers of different heights. The Fusion’s driver’s seat is 10-way powered in the SE and Titanium models and sports an optional three-position memory system (standard on Titanium) to speed driver swaps (or keep your better half from complaining). As you would expect, the passenger doesn’t get the same kind of seat-love with your choice of manual or 4-way power adjusting.

Rear seats are as low to the ground as any in this segment and far less bolstered than the front thrones. In a family sedan this is more a feature than a problem since it makes the middle seat a more pleasant place to spend your time. Despite the sloping profile I was able to fit my six-foot frame into the middle seat without issue, although the 2013 Accord offers noticeably more room in the rear. Because of the differing ways that manufacturers measure rear seat leg room, I recommend you take your whole family with you shopping, stuff them all in the car and see how comfortable everyone is at the same time. Want to know more about the seating and cargo room? Check out the video review.

Infotainment & Gadgets

All models come with the basic SYNC system which offers USB/iDevice and Bluetooth phone integration. As you would expect, power windows and door locks and a perimeter alarm are standard, but few will be buying the base S model since there are zero options. This makes the $23,700 SE model your real starting point with standard XM satellite ratio, six speakers, a power driver’s seat, auto headlamps, body-colored mirrors and the keyless entry keypad that’s been a Ford hallmark for ages.

We also need to talk about My Ford Touch, because if you want to check pretty much any other option box on the Fusion, MyFord Touch needs to be selected first. Want dual-zone climate control, a backup cam, blind spot monitoring, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a 120V outlet, cross traffic alert, etc? The $1,000 MFT option (standard on Titanium) includes the 8-inch control screen in the dash, two 4.2-inch LCDs in the gauge cluster, dual-zone climate control and the backup camera. When MFT landed in 2010, the software had more bugs than a bag of 5-year-old flour. Thankfully, this latest version of MFT is more responsive and less problem prone. The competition has caught up however, with the Altima, Toyota and Honda systems delivering excellent USB/iDevice integration and basic voice commands without the lag and occasional software hiccups. Despite the system’s still-present flaws, MFT is still the sexiest system in this segment and the only one that brings the partial LCD disco-dash to the table. If you want the best in factory entertainment, you should know the 12-speaker Sony branded audio system is only available in the more expensive Titanium.

Automotive gadget dissemination follows a predictable path. The snazziest gadgets, safety features and entertainment concepts are first released by the big players in the luxury segment like BMW, Audi and Mercedes in their most expensive models. The next stop on the technology train is inevitable the mass-market sedan. It therefore shouldn’t surprise you that the Fusion can be had with an impressive list of options from an automated-parking system to adaptive cruise control and an innovative lane departure prevention system. Unlike most of the LDP systems up to this point, the Ford system doesn’t apply the brakes to one side of the car to get you back on track – it simply turns the steering wheel. The system is both slightly creepy and very effective. With the ability to apply more force to keep you in the lane than competing systems, the steering input feels more like a hand on the wheel than a gentle suggestion. If safety is your shtick, it’s worth noting that the Fusion and Accord scored well in the new IIHS small-overlap test while the top-selling Camry and Prius V “are the worst performers of the midsize group.” according to the IIHS.

As options lists go, the Fusion has more gadgets on offer than any of the competition – but it comes at a cost. The Fusion tops out at a fully-loaded AWD price of $38,170, $4,760 more than the most expensive Camry, $3,693 more than the Accord, and $5,730 more than a top-level Altima. As you would expect in such a cut-throat segment, comparing apples-to-apple,s the Fusion is priced very close to its top three competitors.

Drivetrain

Compared to the competition, the Fusion has an oddly extensive powertrain lineup. There are four different engines, three transmissions, two hybrid variants and FWD or AWD to choose from. The base 2.5L four-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic are largely carried over from the previous Fusion and good for 175 horses and 175lb-ft of twist. This is the sole engine in the Fusion S and base engine in the Fusion SE. We’re told by Ford that most 2.5L Fusions will be headed to fleets.

Next up is the new to America (and thrice recalled) 1.6L turbo direct-injection Ecoboost engine available with or without start-stop technology and with your choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmissions. Proving yet again that turbos are the replacement for displacement, the 1.6L mill produces more power (178HP) and more torque (184lb-ft) at lower RPMs than the 2.5L while delivering 2 more MPGs in the city and 3 more on the highway.

The sporty option is the 2.0L direct injection turbo which takes the place of a V6 in the Fusion SE and Titanium. With 240HP and 270lb-ft of plateau-like forced-induction torque, you’ll never miss those two cylinders. Should AWD be on your must-have list, be ready to shell out $32,200 because it’s available only on the Titanium. Before you complain about the cost of admission, keep in mind your only other mass-market mid-sized AWD option would be a Subaru. Last up is Ford’s redesigned 188HP hybrid system sporting a 2.0L Atkinson-cycle engine, a Ford-designed hybrid CVT transaxle and your choice of regular hybrid or plug-in battery packs. With this much variety appealing to different shoppers, check back with us when we get our hands on the 2.0L Ecoboost and hybrid models.

Drive

The Fusion impressed during the photo shoot and looked unstoppable on the printed spec sheet but none of that would matter if it felt like a wet noodle out on the road. Despite having a decidedly American-sized 112.2-inch wheelbase, it’s obvious Ford’s European division took the lead when it came to the chassis. The result is a ride that is incredibly composed, tight in the corners and as communicative as anything with electric power steering. The surprises continue when you shift your right foot over to find linear brake feel, absolutely no Taurus-like brake fade and short stopping distances.

In an interesting twist, the 6-speed manual is available in the 1.6L Ecoboost equipped SE for the same price as the automatic. As you would expect, this is the same 6-speed transmission found in the Fusion’s Euro twin and has a distinctively German engagement and overall feel. Clutch feel is top-notch as well comparing with the liked of the VW Passat and Jetta. In addition, rowing your own doesn’t have a feature penalty allowing you to still check the self-parking and lane departure prevention option boxes. Don’t get too excited, you can’t get the stick with the 2.0L turbo and AWD and if you opt for MyFord Touch you get a tiny digital tach that’s practically useless. For shame.

The 1.6L Ecoboost engine is fairly smooth and quiet on the outside and, thanks to a dedication to sound proofing, almost unnoticeable on the inside. What you will notice however is the broad torque curve of the diminutive four-banger when passing or hill climbing. During a short drive with the 2.5L engine I was constantly annoyed by the transmission’s up-shift happy nature, but despite the 1.6L’s tranny being programmed the same way it didn’t bug me as much. Why? Because all 184lb-ft are available at 2,500RPM and, thanks to the hair-dryer, 90% of that twist is available from 1,500-5,700RPM. This broad torque curve makes the 1.6L Ecoboost Fusion feel faster than it is with our run to 60 completing in 7.9 seconds, about 9/10ths off my gut estimate. This is considerably faster than the Passat and Malibu but not as fast as the Accord and Altima with their efficient CVTs.

Our tester came with the optional ($295) start/stop system which Ford claims is good for a 10% improvement in city driving and results in a 1MPG improvement in the Fusion’s EPA scores bringing the 1.6L SE up to 24/37/28 MPG (City/Highway/Combined). Ford touts the system as smoother than BMW’s 328 start/stop system and they are right. Of course the reason has as much to do with the smaller displacement as the positioning of the engine (transverse vs longitudinal). The way a transverse engine and the vehicle’s suspension interact when cranking is just different. If you live in a particularly hot climate, don’t expect start/stop to save you much as the engine has to stay running to power the A/C. Unlike our stint in the C-MAX, our Fusion beat the EPA combined score by half an MPG over nearly a thousand miles of mixed driving. With excellent fuel economy, dashing good looks, a quiet cabin, good driving dynamics and the longest option list this side of luxury sedan, the Fusion is not just a viable alternative to the competition, it truly is a game changer. The only problem is the pesky (and seemingly frequent) 1.6L engine recalls. Is that enough for me to take the Fusion off my list? Probably not, but I’d buy the hybrid or the 2.0L Ecoboost model anyway.

Ford provided the vehicle, one tank of gas and insurance for this review

0-30: 2.6 Seconds

0-60: 7.9 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16 Seconds @ 88.5 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 28.5MPG over 960 miles

 

2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Engine, 1.6L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Engine, 1.6L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Engine, 1.6L, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Engine, 1.6L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Infotainment, MyFord Touch Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Volkswagen Hits The Brakes In Europe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/volkswagen-hits-the-brakes-in-europe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/volkswagen-hits-the-brakes-in-europe/#comments Fri, 05 Oct 2012 13:06:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=462759

Volkswagen workers who make the Passat at the Emden factory in Germany are enjoying a mini-vacation. After the national holiday last Wednesday, which celebrated the fall of the wall and the re-unification, Volkswagen workers can celebrate falling sales of the Passat, and stay at home, says Germany’s Handelsblatt. Meanwhile, managers at Volkswagen are busy down–revising their production plans.

Passat sales are suffering from lagging fleet sales. Companies are postponing or canceling purchases in an attempt to ride out the European bust. Golf production on the other hand continues at double time. Volkswagen is sitting on a nice cushion of Golf Mk VII pre-orders.’ At the same time, production of the previous generation Golf continues.

“Until the end of the year, we build the old generation in parallel to the new model,” Volkswagen works council chief Bernd Osterloh told the Handelsblatt. “With that, we can fight the battle of the discounts without burdening the new Golf.”

August Production and Full Year Forecast
8M ’12 8M ’11 YoY Proj ’12
Toyota 6,904,333 4,757,211 45.1% 10,356,000
GM 6,421,000 6,303,000 1.9% 9,632,000
Volkswagen 5,910,000 5,360,000 10.3% 8,865,000
Black: Company data. Blue: Projection, based on last available
Toyota, GM: Production. VW: Deliveries. Forecast by TTAC

Nevertheless, Volkswagen will down-revise its production plan for the current year “by 140,000 units at the maximum,” Osterloh said. What the actual production plan number was and what it will be is anybody’s guess, The Handelsblatt thinks the old number was 9.7 million units for the current year, and the new number is 9.4 million. We think that the Handelsblatt is dreaming. According to a straight line projection of global sales through August, Volkswagen should end the year at around 8.9 million units, the downturn in Europe and at home in Germany could send the number lower, a Japanese windfall in China could lift it a bit.

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Junkyard Find: 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/junkyard-find-1988-volkswagen-quantum-syncro-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/junkyard-find-1988-volkswagen-quantum-syncro-wagon/#comments Thu, 13 Sep 2012 13:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=460100 Because I have some friends who race a Quantum Syncro, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for junkyard parts sources. After several years (including two of them in a state that has more weird four-wheel-drive vehicles than any other), I’ve finally found one!
Most Volkswagens, Audis, and Volkswagen-Audi mashups that you see in the junkyard show fewer than 200,000 miles on the clock. Not this car! 301,533 miles.
Judging from the bodywork and not-particularly-thrashed interior, someone loved this car enough to keep it in fairly presentable shape for decades.
The Quantum name was used for the North American-market Passat during the 1980s, and the Syncro used the drivetrain from the Audi 80 Quattro. When I called the team captain of the Chicken & Waffles 24 Hours of LeMons Quantum Syncro, he said he didn’t need any parts because the team is building a new car. That means what may be the only Quantum Syncro race car in America is being retired.
17 - 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1988 Volkswagen Quantum Syncro Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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GM Deathwatch Part 1! This Time, It’s Forbes Doing The Countdown http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/gm-deathwatch-part-1-this-time-its-forbes-doing-the-countdown/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/gm-deathwatch-part-1-this-time-its-forbes-doing-the-countdown/#comments Fri, 17 Aug 2012 14:49:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457198

“President Obama is proud of his bailout of General Motors. That’s good, because, if he wins a second term, he is probably going to have to bail GM out again.” Sounds like our august founder, Robert Farago, sounding off about American Leyland the New GM. Nope, it’s Forbes this time, and they come to bury the General, not to praise him.

Louis Woodhill’s article pulls no punches. Using TTAC’s Winterkorn Meets The i30 article as evidence, combined with Car and Driver‘s decision to rank the 2012 Passat first in a family-sedan test (and the Malibu last), Woodhill states

Uh-oh. While Dan Akerson is busy rearranging the deck chairs on GM’s Titanic, Martin Winterkorn is leading VW to world domination via technical excellence.

Your humble author would suggest that it is Toyota, not Volkswagen, that has its foot on the General’s throat, but that’s a minor point.

The Forbes article rustled enough jimmies on Wednesday that the publication decided to run a counterpoint today, entitled “For GM, Bankruptcy Talk Is Its Own Fault”. The author, Micheline Maynard, argues that GM has a good cash position — sounds familiar — and plenty of ability to borrow more — which they’ve done in the past. When the best argument your defenders can make against bankruptcy is that you can borrow more money, you’re in bad shape. My AMEX is supposedly ready to charge a Lamborghini Aventador but that doesn’t mean I can pay for… hmm. Okay, I’m going to wrap this up. In unrelated news, TTAC may have a review tomorrow of the Lamborghini Aventador.

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Review: 2013 Volkswagen CC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/review-2013-volkswagen-cc/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/review-2013-volkswagen-cc/#comments Thu, 16 Aug 2012 18:33:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=455642

There was a time when “Passat” was German for “budget-Audi.” Even though the A4 and Passat parted ways in 2005, the Passat’s interior and price tag were more premium than mid-market shoppers were looking for. To hit VW’s North American yearly sales goal of 800,o000, the European Passat (B6) was replaced with a model designed specifically for American tastes. This means a lower price tag, less “premium” interior, and larger dimensions. If your heart pines for a “real” Passat, look no further than the 2013 Volkswagen CC. If it looks familiar, it should. The CC is none other than the artist car formerly known as Prince Passat CC with a nose job. VW advertises the CC as “the most affordable four-door coupé” in the US. All you need to know is: Euro lovers, this is your Passat.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The CC follows the four-door coupé formula pioneered by Mercedes: lower the roof, remove the window sashes and raise the price. Even though “coupé” means two doors and the CC has a pair too many, the silhouette is undeniably elegant. For 2013 the CC’s front was replaced with a more aggressive three-bar chrome schnoz and standard HID headlamps. Out back are new tail lamps that incorporate “CC” shapes into the LED clusters. Unlike many mid-cycle refreshes, the rhinoplasty actually jives with the rest of the car.

Our European cousins see the CC as a styling exercise between the Passat and the Phaeton in both price and size. However, the Phaeton is extinct in America turning the CC into VW flagship sedan on our shores. This presents a problem that doesn’t exist in Europe: our Passat is larger, and being sold to an audience that equates size with status. As a result you wouldn’t automatically assume the CC is $10,000 more expensive, (especially if you equate size with value) until you get inside.

Interior

Camcord clientèle value expansive, not expensive cabins.  The CC on the other hand plays further up the food chain. In this light, the CC’s “Euro Passat” squishy dash bits are right at home. Our base-model tester had leatherette seats, faux-aluminum trim and a black-on-black-on-black color scheme. A quick trip to the local dealer proved the no-cost ivory/black and ivory/brown combinations look 10 times better in person than the all-black theme.  If you’ve been frightened away by the pleather on less expensive VWs, the CC’s faux-cow is a different “animal” and was surprisingly convincing.

Because VW is on a mission to streamline their inventory, your interior “goodie quotient” is tied to your trim level and engine choice. This means there are but five different configurations (excluding interior and exterior color choices): Sport, Sport Plus, Lux, V6 Lux and VR6 Executive. (No, that’s not a typo it is “V6″ and “VR6″ for some reason.) The $30,610 Sport model starts with dual-zone climate control and standard 12-way power seats. Sport Plus ($32,850) adds a nav system, DSG transmission and some 18-inch wheels, Lux ($35,335) piles on a sunroof, ambient lighting and real aluminum trim. Jumping up to the V6 Lux($37,730) gets the shopper real-cow, a backup cam, memory seats and a bigger nav screen. The top-of-the-line VR6 Executive ($41,420) tacks on AWD, parking sensors, a power rear sunshade and front seats that heat, cool and massage. With the CC there are no options per se, just dealer sold accessories.

The front thrones are comfortable for long trips and were easily adjusted for my average frame but with the sexy roof-line comes limited headroom. If you’re a taller passenger and prefer your seats and tray tables in the upright and locked position, you may need to look elsewhere. The rear seats present more of a headroom challenge coupled with ingress and egress limited by the sloped door openings. While a center rear seat is now standard, (bringing the capacity up to 5) it was apparently designed for Lilliputians as I was unable to sit in it without cocking my head to the side.

Infotainment

VW’s infotainment systems have been behind the curve for the near luxury market and the CC is no exception. The standard five-inch touchscreen system is a basic unit with a CD player, AM/FM/HD/Sirius radio and iDevice integration. Strangely absent from all models is a USB plug for non-Apple devices. Bluetooth audio streaming (and speakerphone) is standard and works very well however. As with most entries in this segment, you cannot voice-command your iDevice, if you want that, look to Lincoln’s SYNC. If you want snazzy graphics, look to BMW.

Sport Plus and Lux models get VW’s low-end navigation system which uses the same 5-inch LCD as the base model. The screen is low resolution and the processor is slow, but it gets the job done. Eventually. How low is the resolution? 400 x 200 pixels, or about the same as a cheap computer from 1981.

Six-cylinder CC models come standard with VW’s snappier (and snazzier) 6.5-inch navigation system. In addition to improved navigation features, this unit adds 25GB of music storage. Stepping up to the “Executive” CC buys you a color LCD between the speedo and tach, and a 600-watt, 10-speaker Dynaudio system. Sound quality on the base speakers is very good for this segment and the Dynaudio system is excellent with well-balanced audio and volume levels loud enough to satisfy most customers.

Drivetrain

Not being related to the US Passat has advantages, the 2.5L inline-5 was left in Chattanooga. Instead, the CC uses VW’s 200HP/207lb-ft 2.0L turbo four cylinder, an improvement of 30HP and 30lb-ft over the 2.5L. While a 15% power bump may not sound like much, the 2.0L’s flat torque curve and choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed DSG (instead of the Passat’s slushbox) allow the CC to scoot to 60 a whopping 2.7 seconds faster (6.2 vs 8.9). Over 625 miles with the manual CC, we averaged 28.6 MPG despite the EPA ratings of 21 city / 31 highway. We were unable to test a CC with the DSG for any length of time but the EPA claims it will drop your numbers to 19/29 MPG.

As you would assume, the V6 Lux and VR6 4MOTION Executive CCs get VW’s 3.6L VR6 engine. If you’re not familiar with VW’s VR engines, they are a hybrid crossing a traditional “V” engine with a single head like an inline engine. The result is an engine that’s longer than a V6 but shorter than an I6 and uses only two cams total. This 10.6-degree “V” engine is good for 280HP and 265lb-ft of torque. For reasons only VW can explain, the only transmission is an Aisin 6-speed aut0 with or without a Haldex based all-wheel-drive system.

The extra 80HP and 58lb-ft of twist come at the expense of 261lbs in extra mass, all of which is in the nose. Adding AWD increases the weight penalty by another 226lbs so it shouldn’t be a surprise that the AWD CC is not much faster to 60 than the 2.0T. As you would assume, fuel economy drops to 18/27 MPG for the FWD VR6 and 17/25 MPG for the AWD VR6.

Drive

The CC’s electric power steering, VW’s typical rubbery shifter feel and soft springs combine to make the CC feel like a large, comfy highway cruiser. On the other hand, the 235-width rubber, light 3,400lb curb weight and German DNA do an admirable job of making the CC 2.0T stable and surprisingly grippy in the bends. If you care more about feel than outright power, the 2.0T is an excellent package due as much to the lighter front end as the well-matched ratios in the manual transmission. Start sea-sawing the wheel and the soft suspension if obvious, but in normal to moderately aggressive driving, the 2.0T will make you grin more often than the VR6

Compared to the Buick GS, the turbo CC is noticeably down on power but feels far more refined without loosing much in the “balls-out handling” category. The VR6 FWD CC on the other hand feels far more likely to plow into the underbrush when it encounters a corner thanks to that extra weight up front. The experience is the same in a V6 Avalon or MKZ. While you can opt for 4MOTION to tame some of the  FWD handling tendencies, it adds even more weight without any increase in the car’s contact patches. Many CC shoppers will be former Passat owners or shoppers brought in by the Passat’s lower starting price and increased showroom traffic. These shoppers will find a car that feels practically glued to the road compared to the Passat sitting next to it, despite the strong family resemblance.

Our Facebook fans wanted to know how the CC stacks up against the Audi A7. Since I can’t imagine too many shoppers actually cross-shopping these two I will keep this short. The CC’s main selling point is the $20,000 lower cost of entry. Yes the A7 has more oomph from a supercharged V6, two extra speeds in its gearbox, a longer warranty and a snazzier interior. The A7′s hatchback design was very handy for carrying large cargo last time we had it, but aside from the trunk the A7 is honestly no more comfortable inside than the CC.

The Passat CC used to make me scratch my head. Why would I want a Passat with less room, fewer seats and a steeper price tag? There just didn’t seem to be a good reason. By taking the America Passat in a different direction, VW seems to have solved both the Passat’s sales problem and give the CC a reason to exist.

 

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.3 Seconds

0-60: 6.2 Seconds

1/4 Mile:  14.9 Seconds @ 94 MPH

Average fuel economy: 28.6 over 625 miles

 

2012 Volkswagen CC, Exterior, rear, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Exterior, rear, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Exterior, 3/4 view, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Exterior, 3/4 view, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Front, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Exterior, 3/4 view, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Exterior, 3/4 view, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Exterior, 3/4 view, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Exterior, wheel, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Interior, gauges, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Interior, tachometer, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Interior, steering wheel, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Interior, steering wheel, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Interior, steering wheel, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Interior, shifter, 2.0T, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Interior, shifter, 2.0T, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Interior, rear seats, 2.0T, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Interior, rear seats, 2.0T, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Interior, rear seats, 2.0T, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Engine, 2.0T, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Engine, 2.0T, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Volkswagen CC, Engine, 2.0T, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Volkswagen of America Says Passat And Jetta Uber Alles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/volkswagen-of-america-says-passat-and-jetta-uber-alles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/volkswagen-of-america-says-passat-and-jetta-uber-alles/#comments Sun, 05 Aug 2012 15:55:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=455520

Scirocco? Polo? Up!? Nope. An interview with VW of America’s VP of Marketing and Strategy reveals that you’ll have to keep waiting for any of those products. 

Motor Trend’s interview with Rainer Michel ticks nearly every box on the “forbidden euro fruit” list of VW products. But Volkswagen keeps coming back to two products; the Passat and Jetta, the vulgarized, Americanized sedans that are doing quite well. The two three-box four-doors are driving VW’s growth Stateside, and the company looks committed to supporting them, before bringing over the kinds of products that endeared the company to enthusiasts, but provided little traction in the marketplace.

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Capsule Review: 1998 Volkswagen Passat, the G.O.A.T. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/capsule-review-1998-volkswagen-passat-the-g-o-a-t/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/capsule-review-1998-volkswagen-passat-the-g-o-a-t/#comments Mon, 30 Jul 2012 15:15:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=454692

Sometimes it all comes together, doesn’t it — right before it all falls apart. Lightning in a bottle. Never as good before, never to be equaled afterwards. Duane Allman crashes his motorcycle, the sunburst Les Paul yields to the “Les Paul SG”, the perfected Honda VFR800 Interceptor is replaced by something that looks like the Nostromo’s escape pod, the woman you desperately love goes desperately crazy and desperately calls your wife, that kind of stuff.

The family sedan, too, had its high-water mark, its ’59 ‘Burst, its At Fillmore East. The G.O.A.T. The Greatest Of All Time. Once in history, all the tides converged. The resulting car was fast, spacious, full-featured, affordable, safe, economical, gorgeous, desirable. Hmm. We’re missing one quality, aren’t we? We’ll get to that later.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the G.O.A.T.: the 1998 Volkswagen Passat GLS 1.8t five-speed manual. Yes, I had one.

It was late 1997 and I was looking for a sedan to replace my soon-to-be-off-lease 1996 Taurus. My wife and I looked at pretty much everything under thirty grand, from the Camry XLE (couldn’t see myself driving a poverty-wedge Toyota, didn’t plan to own it long enough for the build quality to be an issue) to the Acura 2.5TL (apparently the result of one drunken Honda employee reminiscing about the original “aero” Audi 100 over a static-filled international phone line to another drunken Honda employee who wrote down the specs as gospel and then chose to make the dream come true using an Accord sans front clip). What I really wanted was an Audi A4, of course. Everybody wanted an Audi A4 in 1998. The car had appeared out of nowhere and simply blitzed the brainstems of the nation’s twentysomethings. The cars were so freakin’ cool that Audi was able to paint them in eye-watering shades of yellow and blue, call them “Cool Shades” in completely non-ironic fashion, and still watch ‘em fly out the door to young architects, recording engineers, and university professors.

The Passat, according to Car and Driver, was a long-wheelbase A4 with more room and even more impressive exterior design. Although VW would later on Pimp Ze Ride and create the unfortunately garish 2001 Passat from the same body shell, that doesn’t diminish the fact that an original ’98 Passat, complete with plain yellow side markers, remains probably the cleanest-looking sedan in modern history. There isn’t a single unnecessary line, flare, swoop, or crease on the thing. It’s perfectly proportioned and it slips through the air silently. It made the A4 look like it was trying too hard to justify its price premium.

The two cars shared the same base-model powertrain, too: the VW Group’s twenty-valve four-cylinder with light-pressure turbo. The mild 150-horsepower rating attached to this mill didn’t begin to describe how quick the car felt when compared to its competition. Having driven A4s equipped with this turbomotor and the optional V-6, I already knew that the silky thirty-valver was no faster in the real world than the 1.8t, and it cost seriously more money in both Audi and Volkswagen variants of the “B5″ platform.

The color rags were unanimous in their long-lead praises of the Passat, and at the time I didn’t understand just how little that meant, so we took a test drive in the bright-blue demo unit assigned to Midwestern Auto Group as soon as the car was available. The advance demand for the Passat meant that this particular car had been ridden more often than Pamela Des Barres, and in similarly careless fashion — as I recall, we got our shot in Week 2 of the Passat’s stay at the dealership and the car already had over 2500 miles on it. We weren’t in any way convinced. The interior didn’t look as nice as it had in C/D’s lovingly-lit promo photographs and the seats wobbled in their mountings as I attacked an on-ramp with what I believed to be a club racer’s worth of aggression. It even smelled weird.

A month’s worth of test drives in the Japanese competition, plus a brief visit to the BMW dealer to spec out a 318i, brought us back to VW. This time, there was an undriven unit available for us, in Royal Green. Three hours later, that car was in our driveway. Maybe it was the power of suggestion, maybe it was car-shopping ennui, maybe it was the prospect of paying $575 a month to drive a four-cylinder BMW with wheel covers, but the Passat absolutely convinced us on what Shalamar would call the second time around.

Immediately, we took the Passat all around the state: to the in-laws’ up in Cleveland, to the outlet malls and unusual restaurants, to Hocking Hills to enjoy a mostly ice-free winter romp down those infamous two-lanes. Everything about the car was even better than we’d hoped. The stereo was pretty good. All four seats were comfortable for the long haul. As noted above, it was silent on the freeway, which means a lot more to driver fatigue levels than most of us want to admit. We averaged well above thirty miles per gallon in mixed use, which seemed amazing given the ferocity with which I flogged the sleek sedan from every stoplight.

The Passat wasn’t just satisfying to drive; it was satisfying to have. It was forcefully tasteful, and when one is in one’s twenties that sort of thing matters. We pushed the Lexus ES300s and BMW E36es out of the left lane, laughing at their outmoded window glass and awkward proportions. There was simply nothing better out there. Anything available at the same price was pathetic; anything costing more was just wasteful. Our only concern was that we wouldn’t find anything nearly as good to replace it.

That turned out to be the case; about twenty-six months into our time with the Passat, I traded it for a 2000 Golf 1.8t GLS five-speed hatchback. The idea was that my wife would have a slightly smaller car to drive to work. The reality was that the Golf was worse at everything, including conserving fuel. The lady of the house wanted her Passat back. We went to look at the 2001 Passat, which as noted above was rather frightful-looking and cost considerably more for no good reason. Finally, I had a bit of a quarter-life crisis occasioned by the fact that I was nearly thirty years old and hadn’t yet purchased a new BMW, which is how we came to have a 2001 BMW 330i Sport five-speed in the driveway in the Golf’s place less than eight months after said Golf made its first appearance there. The BMW, Mrs. Baruth told me, “was pretty much as good as the Passat.” Since it had cost nearly forty-three thousand dollars against the Passat’s $21,495 or thereabouts — two to one! like Surf City for suburban strivers! — I didn’t take a lot of comfort in that mild approbation.

The Passat which replaced the “B5″ was very much the Gibson SG to the B5′s sunburst Lester, or perhaps “5150″ to the B5′s “1984″. It looked cheaper and cost more. Just like that, the best sedan in history was gone. Meanwhile, the remaining examples of that “best sedan” were busy showing their owners just how VW had been able to sell a car like that for a price like that. The interior bits rubbed shiny and then fell off. The electronics went maddeningly dark. The engines died with numbing regularity. Some of them even rusted. The ’98 Passat didn’t exactly deliver the hammer blow to the face of VW’s millennial renaissance — that task was easily accomplished by the “Emm Kay Eye Vee” Jettas with their list of failures that seemingly owed equal allegiance to Robert Bosch and Hieronymus Bosch — but they turned a lot of True Believers into Toyota Owners.

Five years after our Royal Green Passat wandered out of our lives, I drove my wife back to Midwestern Auto Group to take delivery of our new 2005 Phaeton. The sticker said something along the lines of eighty-one thousand dollars. This time, our comparison set had abandoned Camrys and Acuras for the W220 S-Class and the frowny-faced Siebener Bimmer. I insisted that she drive the car home — it was really a gift for her, for sticking with me through the hard times into the limitless paradise of our middle-class prosperity, ever after and forever. I didn’t know it at the time, but we were at our high point, too. We were the Allman Brothers, I was Duane, and I was about to go shopping for a motorcycle. We pulled out of the dealership’s massive underground garage and the sunlight flashbulbed the Phaeton’s spare-no-expense interior. The big V-8 purred and the seats adjusted to our whims in eighteen different ways while blowing cold air up the back of my Marol casual shirt. I was quite impressed with myself. “What do you think?” I asked her.

“It’s pretty nice. I mean, it’s really nice. It’s about as nice… as my Passat.”

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Review: 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-2012-volkswagen-passat-sel-2-5/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-2012-volkswagen-passat-sel-2-5/#comments Mon, 06 Feb 2012 18:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=428788 Volkswagen’s “premium” image in the minds of car enthusiasts is not entirely accurate. From the Beetle to the Rabbit, VW has a long history of making budget cars for the masses. While the automotive press lauded the high-rent interiors and Audi-sourced parts, the Touraeg and Phaeton were mere detours on the road to brand identity. Shoppers wanted a “people’s” VW again, and the result of this outcry is the 2012 VW Passat SEL.

While other VWs may get an expressive fascia, the new Passat is pure conservative VW. From the geometric grille to the character line that’s as flat as Kansas, the Passat never strikes a pose that would offend a conservative mid-size shopper. If you want a VW with more excitement or Euro flair, the CC brings more aggressive bumpers, more chrome and sexier tail lights to the party. 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 new Sonata.

Those of us that seriously considered the previous generation Passat when purchasing a near-luxury vehicle like an Acura or Volvo (myself included) will be disappointed with the interior. The new Passat is now $8,000 cheaper than the previous car, and it’s re-positioning as a mid-size, rather than near-luxury car meant that something had to give. Mid-size shoppers demand expansive rather than expensive cabins, and VW took note. Camcord shoppers also place fuel economy, electronic doodads and rear-seat leg room higher on their list than squishy dash bits.  As a result, the new Passat is as mainstream as any, with parts quality a notch below the outgoing model but easily on par with Ford’s Fusion and the new Camry, right down to the fake wood on the dash.

The lack of real tree is just one of the changes that VW made to pull the Passat out of the near-luxury market. Now missing at any trim level are  HID headlamps, optional AWD (although the rumor mill says it may be available later), the turbo four-cylinder engine, a station wagon variant, backup camera, rain sensing wipers, rear seat HVAC vents and a few other items that the VWVortex crowd feels are essential for a Passat. All this really means to the shopper is that the Passat is finally aimed squarely at Camry and Accord shoppers who don’t buy those sorts of options anway. Perhaps because of VW’s reliability numbers in past years the one standard feature VW didn’t remove is their 3 year/36,000 mile scheduled maintenance included on every Passat.

Fitting in with the rest of the class, VW fitted a 2.5 liter naturally aspirated base engine under the hood. Unlike the competition, the Passat’s engine sports a 5-cylinder design. The five-banger is smoother than the competition’s base engines and the average shopper won’t notice (or won’t care about) the odd cylinder count. Channeling the 170HP and 177lb-ft of torque to the front wheels is a standard 6-speed automatic (SE models have a manual option while TDI and V6 models get a 6-speed DSG). 2.5 shoppers aren’t likely to get hot and bothered for a DSG either, as long as they don’t have to work a clutch and gearshifter, and the combination delivers 22MPG city and 31MPG highway according to the EPA. Over our 480 miles with the Passat we averaged a respectable 28.5MPG in mixed driving with highway runs easily hitting the advertised 31MPG.

The Passat’s longer wheelbase (up 3.7 inches from 2010) pays dividends with a smoother highway ride, but notably less poise in the corners compared to the old model. While the tuning of the suspension may be slightly softer than before, much of the difference comes down to a rubber change. The outgoing model wore fairly wide (for a mass-market car) 235/45R17 shoes while the new Passat slips on svelte 215/55R17s. I like my tires wide,but this change brings the Passat in line with the Camry, Acrcord and Mazda 6 which all wear 215-width rubber on comparable models. Aiding the Passat’s agility, which I subjectively place somewhere between a Camry and a Mazda 6, is a fairly light 3,221lb curb weight.

As Ford has shown with their SYNC product, volume car shoppers want technology. VW has unfortunately decided that your level of infotainment tech directly relates to a trim level. While it is possible to upgrade some of these items after you drive off the lot, it’s far easier if you know what you want going in. Base models have standard Bluetooth integration with streaming audio, an auxiliary input jack and 9 speakers. Jumping up to the SE trim may get you a touch-screen interface and Sirius satellite radio but if iPod love is what you’re after you’ll only find that in the “SE with Sunroof and Navigation” or higher trims. The top-of-the-line SEL model will get you 400 watts of Fender amplification, and a subwoofer that’s tuned toward the “boomy” side of the baseline.

The base infotainment system, dubbed “RNS315″  gives you a 5 inch medium-resolution (400×240) touchscreen display, a single CD player and Sirius satellite radio. Stepping up to the SEL we tested gets you the “RNS 510” which is a 6.5 inch high-resolution (800×480) touchscreen system with a single slot DVD player and 45GB of hard drive storage split between maps (15GB) and personal music storage (25GB). The 510 is also capable of displaying live traffic data as well as “Sirius Travel Link” fuel prices, ski info, sports scores, weather forecasts and movie listings. While most of the information is superfluous, the fuel pricing is handy, especially if you opt for a diesel Passat as locating a diesel station can be tricky at times. The traffic and Travel Link features require a Sirius subscription and VW tosses in a 6-month trial for free. While I normally think the live traffic feature is worth the cost, VW has relegated traffic displays to a single map view rather than overlaying the information on all map views as most other manufacturers do so you might just skip the service if you have a smartphone and Google maps.

Now to the nitty-gritty. In 2011 the average vehicle sold in the US left the dealer show room for just under $30,000 before taxes. Since VW is aiming straight at the mainstream it should be no surprise that our SEL tester rang in at $28,395 (not including a $770 destination charge). Based on my research, the Passat compares well with the Camry and Accord but the Hyundai Sonata enjoys a pricing and feature advantage over the VW, while also possessing more radical styling and a Hyundai badge. My local VW dealer wouldn’t give me any firm numbers, but indicated the “2.5 SE with Sunroof” ($25,625) and “2.5 SE with Sunroof and Navigation” ($26,795) were their top selling Passat models.

Last time I new-car-shopped I was torn between the Lexus IS350, a Passat 3.6 4Motion and a Volvo S60R. While the R got the final nod, this speaks to the market position the former Passat held. This position seems to be the hardest thing for VW lovers, VW shoppers and the automotive press to let go of. This Passat is no longer a Volvo/Acura competitor. Instead, it’s exactly what the American shoppers asked for: a grown up Jetta. As painful as this may be to hear, it’s good for VW, and it’s good for the Camcord shopper looking for something different. For the shopper looking to replace their 2007 Passat with a new VW or the forum fanoy that’s broken hearted VW has “ruined” the Passat, get over it. Your Passat is the Volkswagen CC.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30:3 seconds

0-60: 8.9 seconds

1/4 mile: 16.9 @ 82.9MPH

Observed fuel economy: 28.5MPG over 480 miles

 

2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, rear seats, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, rear, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, headlights, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, grille, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, wheel, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, wheel, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, passat logo, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes IM2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, rear, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, mirror, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, headlamp, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Exterior, grille, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, gauge cluster, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, gauge cluster, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, analog clock, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, HVAC controls, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, dash and front  seats, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, center console, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, infotainment, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, steering wheel controls, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, steering wheel controls, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, power seat controls, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, dash, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, front door, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, cupholders, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, iPod interface, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, rear seats, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, rear seats, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, rear seats, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, rear seats, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Interior, start/stop button, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Engine, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Engine, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Trunk, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL 2.5, Trunk, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes passat-sel-thumb Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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CR: VW Press Cars Don’t Match What’s On The Dealership Floor http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/cr-vw-press-cars-dont-match-whats-on-the-dealership-floor/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/cr-vw-press-cars-dont-match-whats-on-the-dealership-floor/#comments Wed, 23 Nov 2011 19:54:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=419720

TTAC has long held that reviews of press cars made available by manufacturers at launches and press fleets must be complimented by reviews of vehicles acquired from dealer lots. It’s been a controversial position at times, and I’ve had to do battle with OEMs as recently as a few months ago to explain why dealer car impressions matter. Today, Consumer Reports is proving the point by revealing

When VW dropped off an early media car this summer, I remember looking at the trunk and saying to myself “well, at least both of the cheap hinges are dressed up with plastic covers, unlike the Jetta, which just has plastic on the side with the wiring.” As you can see in these two photos from Car & Driver and Edmunds it appears that the Passats in VW’s press fleet have covers on the hinges.

But not that Passat you just bought. No, your new Passat isn’t as nicely finished as the press version.

Like all the vehicles we put through testing, Consumer Reports buys retail samples at a car dealership. I personally purchased the Passat TDI we’re testing. (We also bought a 2.5 SE and a 3.6 SEL Premium.) As you can see in our images, none of the Passats have the two plastic covers found on the press cars. Consumers apparently only get a cover for the wiring loom hinge; the other one goes bare.

Interestingly, we had a somewhat similar issue with VW when a Passat press car proved to be equipped in a spec that is not actually available at dealerships (V6 with 17-inch wheels). When we noticed the discrepancy (and by we, I mean Michael Karesh, of course), we asked VW how we had received a non-representative model, to which they replied that press fleet vehicles were “early builds” from the new Nashville plant, and therefore not necessarily in market-ready spec. Which is a reason, but not an excuse: the media can only serve consumers well if we’re given representative cars to review. So, while these discrepancies are all relatively minor, details matter when you’re spending upwards of $20k on something. Hopefully VW and the rest of the industry will learn from this experience and make greater efforts to equip their media cars exactly to dealer spec. One also hopes that Motor Trend has driven at least one Passat that’s not from a press fleet

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Volkswagen Passat Goes Crossover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/volkswagen-passat-goes-crossover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/volkswagen-passat-goes-crossover/#comments Wed, 23 Nov 2011 07:10:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=419641

One of my first jobs as a rookie copywriter in 1973 was the Passat. The Passat, basically a rebadged Audi 80, was the first of the new generation (Passat, Scirocco, Golf, Polo) that saved Volkswagen from eternal damnation and laid the groundwork for Volkswagen’s success today. (See, rebadging isn’t all that bad, it just has to be done right.) Ever since, well over 15 million Passat were built in all shapes and forms. And now, the Passat goes crossover.

First, the name: Passat Alltrack. That sounds a little like a tractor, or the illegitimate son of a hot date with a Unimog. But knowing the Passat, it will survive even that choice. The crossover genre is not as popular in Europe as it is stateside, so Volkswagen goes to great pains to explain it:

“This new version is offered in an estate car configuration, and it closes the gap between the conventional Passat Estate and SUVs such as the Tiguan. The rationale here: many car drivers who use their car as a towing vehicle, or in light off-road situations, want a versatile, sporty and very roomy passenger car that has rugged qualities. Volkswagen developed the Passat Alltrack for this clientele. In comparison with the familiar Passat Estate, the new model is defined by new bumpers in SUV style – with wheel well and side sill flares. Its greater off-road ramp angle, approach angle, departure angle and higher ground clearance all make the Passat Alltrack an excellent SUV alternative for driving on unpaved track.”

That was easy.

Two turbocharged direct injection gasoline engines (TSI) with 118 kW / 160 hp and 155 kW / 210 hp and two turbodiesels (TDI) – also with direct injection – with 103 kW / 140 hp and 125 kW / 170 hp are available in the Passat Alltrack.

The 170 hp TDI and the 210 hp TSI come with standard 4MOTION all-wheel drive and a dual clutch transmission (DSG). For the Passat Alltrack with a 140 hp TDI, all-wheel drive is optional.

The Alltrack will debut in a world premiere at the Tokyo Motor Show. Why there? Because it  is based on the Euro Passat. Market launch for the new versatile Alltrack begins in early 2012.

In the U.S., you need to wait for what will be done to the Chattanooga-Passat.

The Passat Alltrack. Picture courtesy Volkswagen The Passat Alltrack. Picture courtesy Volkswagen The Passat Alltrack. Picture courtesy Volkswagen The Passat Alltrack. Picture courtesy Volkswagen The Passat Alltrack. Picture courtesy Volkswagen The Passat Alltrack. Picture courtesy Volkswagen The Passat Alltrack. Picture courtesy Volkswagen The Passat Alltrack. Picture courtesy Volkswagen The Passat Alltrack. Picture courtesy Volkswagen The Passat Alltrack. Picture courtesy Volkswagen The Passat Alltrack. Picture courtesy Volkswagen The Passat Alltrack. Picture courtesy Volkswagen The Passat Alltrack. Picture courtesy Volkswagen passat-thumb Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

 

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: Passat CC Gets Put In Its Place Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-passat-cc-gets-put-in-its-place-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-passat-cc-gets-put-in-its-place-edition/#comments Thu, 03 Nov 2011 15:08:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=416730 With the Passat moving from a poor-selling but Euro-premium sedan to a cheaper, more mass-market design, it was inevitable that the Passat CC “four door coupe” version would change as well. Unfortunately, in order to make it more similar to the new “Das Impala”-style Passat, VW had to really tone down the design. So much so, that you almost have to wonder who is going to buy this car on style alone… which is the whole point of having a “four door coupe” version of a sedan. But hey, at least it won’t be outselling the Passat anymore, as it has for much of the last several years. Mission accomplished?

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail We just needed to make it... dowdier. You know, more like the Passat. passatcc2 passatcc1 passatcc

 

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Junkyard Find: 1977 Volkswagen Dasher http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/junkyard-find-1977-volkswagen-dasher/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/junkyard-find-1977-volkswagen-dasher/#comments Thu, 29 Sep 2011 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=412892 When Volkswagen finally decided to try this newfangled water-cooled engine idea, their first effort was the Audi 80-derived Passat. In North America, this car was badged as a Dasher, and it didn’t exactly break any sales records. Prior to finding this example in a Denver junkyard earlier in the week, I hadn’t seen a Dasher for at least a decade.
The ’77 Dasher two-door hatch listed for $4,510, which was about $450 more than the Datsun 710 hardtop, $850 more than a six-cylinder Chevy Nova hatchback, and $700 more than a Plymouth Volare six-cylinder sedan. With front-wheel-drive and generally more modern design, the Dasher was somewhat more sophisticated than much of the competition, but on the expensive side for car shoppers accustomed to paying under three grand for a Beetle.
DPD air conditioning! That must have presented a challenge for the Dasher’s 78-horsepower engine. I’m going to see if my friend with a ’76 Audi Fox has any use for parts off this thing.

DOTJ-77Dasher-14 DOTJ-77Dasher-01 DOTJ-77Dasher-02 DOTJ-77Dasher-03 DOTJ-77Dasher-04 DOTJ-77Dasher-05 DOTJ-77Dasher-06 DOTJ-77Dasher-07 DOTJ-77Dasher-08 DOTJ-77Dasher-09 DOTJ-77Dasher-10 DOTJ-77Dasher-11 DOTJ-77Dasher-12 DOTJ-77Dasher-13 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: 2012 Volkswagen Passat V6 SE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/review-2012-volkswagen-passat-v6-se/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/review-2012-volkswagen-passat-v6-se/#comments Fri, 02 Sep 2011 21:05:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=410087

After a mere six decades of testing the waters, Volkswagen decided to get serious about the American car market. For the second time. To avoid a repeat of the Westmoreland debacle, this time they’ve designed a pair of sedans specifically for American tastes. They’re also building the larger of the two, intended to lure Americans away from their Camcords, in an entirely new, non-unionized American plant. And so, with the new 2012 Volkwagen Passat, tested here in V6 SE form (earlier, briefer drives sampled the other two engines), we learn what Americans really want—as seen through a German company’s eyes.

#1 – We have the aesthetic sense of retired engineers

The new Passat is very cleanly styled, and none of its aesthetic elements can be faulted. But the whole could not be more conservative. Put another way, many American car enthusiasts find the exterior boring. But perhaps their Camcord-driving parents will love it?

The tested silver car was shod with the base SE’s 17-inch wheels. The Passat looks both more expensive and sportier with the available five-spoke 18s (more on these later). Darker colors bump up the elegance.

#2 – Good materials and warm colors are wasted on us

When I learned that Chrysler would be supplying Volkswagen with a version of its iconic minivan, I wondered how they could possibly upgrade its notoriously cheap interior to VW standards. Fast forward three years, and Chrysler has substantially upgraded its interior materials. They also banished light gray—which makes all but the best materials look cheap—from their interior color palette. All of the budget-grade light gray plastic discarded by Chrysler has found a new home in the 2012 Passat, judging from the tested car. VW emphasizes the soft materials used on the tops of the instrument and door panels, but you’re more likely to touch the hard stuff lower down. The Passat’s interior is as plainly styled as its exterior, with right angles and flat surfaces. The problem with flat surfaces: they directly present more area to the eye, so hard plastic looks like what it is. Luckily, beige and black are also available. Hard plastic tends to look best in the latter. Prefer warmer, even bright colors, or at least colorful accents? The Passat isn’t your sort of car.

How cheap is the interior? Not as cheap as that in the new Jetta, but the analog clock would gather dust in a dollar store. Memo to Volkswagen: the entire point of an analog clock is to make an interior seem more upscale. Automotive news recently reported that “VW markets leatherette as a premium feature and the material’s texture might fool some Passat riders.” The author must have taken VW’s word for it, as the texture and feel of the gray vinyl in the tested car won’t fool anyone. It’s the sort of vinyl that turned Americans off of vinyl. Unless they’re the sort of Americans who preserve their furniture beneath clear plastic, for whom the Passat’s fleet-ready easy-clean interior might well be a dream come true. One positive note: the door pulls feel solid.

#3 – We like big cars with scads of room, especially legroom and trunk room

The American Passat is bigger than the European Passat, which is an updated version of the previous global Passat. Compared to the 2010 Passat, the 2012 is 3.4 inches longer (191.6), half an inch wider (72.2), and half an inch taller (58.5). Still not quite as large as the super-sized Honda Accord (194.1×72.7×58.1) and Mazda6 (193.7×72.4×57.9), but at least as large as anything else in the segment. Of course, what really counts are the interior dimensions, and here the new Passat truly shines. Through masterful packaging the interior encompasses limo-like legroom, 42.4 inches up front and 39.1 in back, for a total of 81.5, meaningfully more than in the Honda Accord (79.7) and Hyundai Sonata (80.1). Better, the Passat’s cabin feels even roomier than its dimensions suggest. Credit the straight-edged interior styling that, as in the 2012 Camry, maximizes perceived space. The Hyundai Sonata, with a swoopier interior, feels much tighter (if also sportier) from the driver’s seat.

The trunk extends forward virtually forever even before the rear seats are folded. Unlike many these days, it’s also very regularly shaped. Don’t swap in a full-sized spare and there’s more space beneath the floor. Inside the car, there are plenty of usefully large storage areas. Unlike in many current luxury cars, my superzoom camera fit in both the glove compartment and the center console.

#4 – We’re so delighted by some unexpected electrical bits that we’ll overlook the curious absence of others

VW might have nickle-and-dimed the interior materials, but they spent freely on light bulbs and minor electrical bits. Even the cheapest Passat has turn signal repeaters in the mirrors, puddle lights, a curb light in each of the wide-opening doors, comprehensive red switch backlighting, and dual-zone automatic climate control. All four windows have auto-down and auto-up. A power lock button that operates all four doors is present in each of them—even the two in back. (Great fun for the grandkids.)

Curiously MIA even in the top-of-the-range SEL Premium: separate front and rear height adjustments for the driver seat (raising the seat also tilts it forward) and rear air vents. The former are common among competitors, and it’s a mystery how VW figured the Passat would be fine without them. And the latter—why provide a huge rear seat if the people back there are going to bake?

#5 – We don’t like to gaze across acres of instrument panel, but otherwise have little need to see the outside world

The Passat’s staid exterior makes for good sightlines from the driver’s seat. The A-pillars are relatively thin and upright, and the instrument panel (abetted by a bi-level upper surface) appears compact by contemporary standards.

With this, VW decided they’d done enough to aid visibility. Even with the high beams on, the halogen headlights cast a narrow beam at night, and xenons are not available. With the body tall and high-waisted in the current idiom, rearward objects (still breathing and otherwise) can be obstructed by the high trunk, but neither obstacle detection nor a rearview camera is offered.

#6 – We like flat, hard seat bottoms and well-bolstered seatbacks

Okay, maybe not. No explanation for this one except that you can’t entirely remove German tastes from a German car. Where’s the pillow-top velour option?

#7 – There’s no replacement for displacement

No turbo Benzinmotor here, but the available V6 packs 219 cubes (3.6 liters for Americans who’ve learned some metric) and is good for 280 horsepower when wound to 6,200 rpm, the most you’ll find among direct competitors. Not the smoothest or the quietest six, with substantial engine noise at both idle and once over 3,000 rpm. But traditional American V8s also expressed their pleasure when subjected to a heavy right foot. And VW’s six uses its extra ration of gasoline (EPA ratings of 20/28 vs. the Sonata 2.0T’s 22/34) to produce much more sporting noises. Do a pair of front-mounted 215/55HR17 ContiProContact tires struggle to transfer this much power to the pavement at low speeds? You bet. But…

#8 – We like spinning our tires

The new Passat V6 continues a fine American tradition of cars with far more torque than traction. But wait…you can’t actually buy a Passat like the (pilot production) tested car, with both the V6 and the 17-inch tires. At a dealer you’ll only find V6 Passats with 235/45HR18 Bridgestone Turanza EL400s (and a sunroof also absent from the tested car). Still not a performance tire, and still no match for the V6’s 258 foot-pounds of torque channeled slush-free through the DSG, but nearly an inch wider and so a little grippier.

All-wheel-drive would help, but is no longer available.

#9 – We like lightning-fast shifts

Okay, probably not a priority among the Camcord set. But if you’ve got the next big thing in transmissions, flaunt it. The five-cylinder base engine is paired with an automatic, but the others get VW’s famed “DSG” dual-clutch automated manual. With the V6 shifts are virtually instantaneous and, except for some barely perceptible bumping about at low speeds, generally smooth. Those seeking to extract the full potential from the powerful six can use paddles on the steering wheel or the lever to manually shift the transmission. Or just stick the lever in S, in which case the transmission will keep the engine continually on boil (consequently this isn’t a viable option for typical driving). What the Camcord set won’t like about the DSG: $350+ fluid changes every 40,000 miles (just beyond the 36,000 miles of free maintenance).

#10A – We like to feel (and hear) the road

In the late 1980s, Toyota intensively studied the U.S. market and concluded that we get our kicks from super-smooth, super-quiet cars. Either times have changed, or VW used a different methodology, or they chucked the survey results in this case and did what they wanted to do (see #6). Whatever the reason, on concrete you’ll experience Honda levels of road noise and on the highway you’ll experience a similar abundance of wind noise.

Personally, I love a detailed read of the road through the seat of my pants, and consequently enjoyed my week in the Passat more than I would have a week in a Camcord. Instead of a smoother, more insulated ride, I wished for a nose that didn’t retain a bit of float and bobble (a partial concession to American tastes?) and the conventional steering offered only with the five-cylinder engine. Compared to the electric-assist system in the TDI and V6, which starts talking only under duress, the 2.5’s conventional system provides much more nuanced feedback and makes the car feel smaller, lighter, and more agile. But the Americans the new Passat is styled and sized for? Their taste in cars tends to differ greatly from mine.

Or perhaps VW’s research found…

#10B – We’re going to play the audio system loud anyway, and when we do we enjoy our bass at 11, even when it’s not

Five years ago VW partnered with Fender, legendary American manufacturer of guitars and guitar amps, to include a free GarageMaster with every car. Perhaps realizing that few of the Camcord owners they hope to lure away aspire to become six-string samurai, for the new Passat (and the new Jetta as well) VW had Fender help develop (or at least put their name on) an audio system manufactured by Panasonic. The 400-watt system can certainly kick out the volume, with an extra helping of thrumming guitar-amp-style bass even with the slide centered. Even with songs that you weren’t previously aware had much bass. Prefer a more balanced sound, similar to the default position in other systems? Simply use the touchscreen to move the slide to the left a click or three.

Or, perhaps as a result…

#10C – We’re deaf

#11 – We can be suckered by a low starting price

VW successfully captured Americans’ attention by starting the Jetta just below $15,000, and clearly hopes for repeat by starting the Passat below $20,000. But these prices are before $770 destination, and without the popular third pedal delete option. The least expensive automatic Passat lists for $23,460. The least expensive with a V6: $29,765. (Add nav like in the tested car: $31,365.) In defense of the $20,000 car, a Passat with the 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, its attendant conventional steering and lighter curb weight, and the manual transmission should be the most engaging of the bunch. Not a bad way to go for enthusiasts with two big kids and a small budget.

Take the wayback machine to 2007, the last year VW last offered a Passat with a V6 but without leather, and you’ll find a $30,820 sticker. Adjust for the 2012′s additional features using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool, and the new car’s price advantage widens to about $2,400 (but only about $1,400 comparing invoices, dealer margins have been squeezed). So the new car is less expensive even when comparably equipped, just not nearly to the degree suggested by the $7,180 base price drop.

A Honda Accord EX V6 lists for $28,050. Even after adjusting for the Passat’s additional standard features it undercuts the Passat by about $400 at MSRP, and nearly $2,000 invoice-to-invoice. Willing to trade two cylinders for a turbo? The Hyundai Sonata SE 2.0T lists for only $25,405. The feature adjustment is only a few hundred in this case, leaving the Korean competitor with an over $4,000 price advantage.

#12 – We’re ready to forgive and forget VW’s past reliability lapses

Unfortunately, it remains to be seen how reliable the new Passat will be, and how soon Americans will be ready to accept that VW has changed (assuming it has). Based on responses to TrueDelta’s Car Reliability Survey, the new Jetta is about average so far, not bad for an all-new car. But the cars are still young.

At the end of the week, I wondered about some of VW’s choices with the new Passat, yet remained intrigued by the car’s combination of qualities: plain styling, lots of room, lots of power, an engaging chassis (if less engaging steering), value-grade interior materials, and limited refinement. If VW was trying to develop a twenty-first century interpretation of the groundbreaking 1977 Chevrolet Caprice (or the Ford Crown Vic that aped it) with the “cop suspensions,” this is about where they’d end up. With the TDI the Passat would make a great cab. With the V6 it would make a great cop car. Ed was in town for a few days while I had the car. His riff on VW’s current tagline: “Das Impala.” Coincidentally (or not), the current Honda Accord is quite similar. Did VW simply riff off the Japanese? Or do both the Germans and the Japanese know us better than we know ourselves?

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

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data. Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Passat V6 trunk Passat V6 sturdy wide-opening hinges Passat V6 storage Passat V6 side Passat V6 rear seat Passat V6 rear quarter Passat V6 interior Passat V6 front Passat V6 engine Passat V6 clock Meet "Das Impala"... Dwarfing an E38 7-Series

 

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VW Is Working On An American-Sized SUV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/vw-is-working-on-an-american-sized-suv/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/vw-is-working-on-an-american-sized-suv/#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2011 20:29:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=408478

When I was still working for Volkswagen, I blatantly picked up the delegations from Wolfsburg in my Eddie Bauer Expedition when they arrived at JFK. The higher paygrades were already used to it. The lower paygrades inevitably asked: “Why don’t you drive a Touareg?” While bouncing down the Van Wyck, I inevitably shouted “Silence in the third row! The Touareg doesn’t even have a third row. If I had a Touareg, you’d be sitting in a taxi.”

Soon I’d run out of excuses: If Germany’s AUTO BILD and the DetN are correctly informed, then Volkswagen will get a big SUV – big enough for Americans, even for those with a smaller wallet.  

“Volkswagen, which is outpacing the U.S. auto market after launching new cars designed for American drivers, is studying the possibility of adding to its lineup a sport utility vehicle that seats seven,” writes the DetN. Their Christine Tierney heard it from VWoA’s CEO Jonathan Browning, who promised that the bigger SUVW “would cost more than the Tiguan SUV but less than the Touareg, which starts at $44,000.” Thierney thought she had a scoop. But Browning didn’t divulge big secrets.

Two weeks ago, Germany’s usually well informed AUTO BILD said that the new Passat generation, due in 2014, will not just get the usual sedan and wagon. It also will get a coupe, a convertible, and “an SUV – made in USA.” Says AUTO BILD:

“They are thinking about an SUV for 2016. It is supposed to be produced in Chattanooga, based on the US-Passat. On paper, the seven-seater is 5 meters long, longer than the Touareg.”

More room for less money: Even export to Germany would make financial sense, says AUTO BILD. And showed a photoshopped picture of what the bigger truck could look like.

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