By on January 10, 2011

So Volkswagen took the wraps off its first (well, since the late 80s) Made-in-the-U.S.A. car last night. The name of the New Midsize Sedan had remained a matter of high suspense until the last minute. But didn’t we offhandedly mention that “some think it might be called Passat?” That’s what it will be called. “Volkswagen says it will keep the Passat name for its new midsize vehicle that will be built at the company’s new U.S. plant in Tennessee,” reports Businessweek.

Meet the Volkswagen value meal, designed for Americans: Bigger, beefier, cheaper.

Well, first of all, it’s designed for new U.S. fuel standards that are more lenient for bigger cars. You want bigger, you got bigger: The US Passat is a bit longer and wider than its willowy European sibling.

From their dazzling array of engines, Volkswagen picked three: The base version comes with a 168bhp 2.5-litre five-cylinder gasoline engine (31 mpg highway, non-EPA). For more oomph, there will be a 276bhp 3.6-litre six-cylinder gasoline mill, paired with a dual clutch transmission (DSG). That one is promised to deliver 28 mpg highway, non-EPA. For the oil burning aficionados, there is a 138bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel (43 mpg highway, non-EPA). If you thought you will get one of  VW’s small capacity TSI engines, no dice.

The car will come with the usual whiz-bang gadgetry one can expect from Volkswagen. The base version has tire pressure monitoring, ESP, ABS, Hill Climb Assist, six airbags, a radio-CD system (MP3-capable, do people still have CDs?) and a Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone system.

Oh, and there will be a “distinctive analogue clock in the center of the instrument panel.”

Volkswagen engineers studied their target group and pander to the odd American behavior.

  • Americans have valet parking. Ach du mein Lieber! The new Passat has what my 70s era Cadillac had: A valet parking key! Just don’t give the valet parking key to the valet:  Hit the valet parking button in the glove compartment to lock trunk and glove compartment. Give the REGULAR key to the kid. Your special valet parking key will open trunk and glove box. Verstanden?
  • Americans either live in brutally cold or blistering hot climes. They like to start their car in the morning, have another cup of coffee and then enter the cozy or cool car. If you get the automatic or DSG variants, you can remote start the Passat, and the A/C will prepare it to your liking. Can’t do it with a stick, VW wants to avoid unintended driver-less acceleration.

And what will this beaut cost you? The Volkswagen press release (titled “Born in the U,S.A.” – born maybe, conceived in Wolfsburg) says: “With its entry-level price, the Passat is now in the 20,000 US dollar range (final prices to be announced in March).”

Some 150,000 new U.S. Passats can be built in the new Tennessee plant, and Volkswagen needs to sell each one of their new Chattanooga choo-choo to reach their ambitious goal of selling 300,000 VWs this year in the U.S.A. Market launch of the U.S.A. Passat begins mid August, so there are only 4 months in which the car can help.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

70 Comments on “And The Name Of Volkswagen’s Chattanooga Choo-Choo Is: Passat. (Lots of pictures inside) ...”

  • avatar

    Bland looking outside, but the interior still looks nicer than a Camry or Accord.  Considering the price point and the incredible blandness… it should do nicely in America.

    After all, Toyota and Honda proved that appliance-like blandness for a reasonable price is king.

    • 0 avatar

      The new Passat is very similar in appearance to the new Audi A6 also being introduced in the same show.  I know they are based on different platforms (transverse vs. longitudinal engine, etc.) but the size, proportion and design language detailing are very close.  A6 has the big “Auto Union” grille and a lower cowl compared to the Passat, but their back windows look almost interchangeable.  The VW grille will look better in states that require front plates.

      If the new Passat is bland, then the new A6 is just as bland.

      Passat’s main problems are uncompetitive gas engines.  Compared to Hyundai Sonata, Passat’s gas engines are underpowered and thirsty.

  • avatar

    In truth… it’s not as bad as I would have otherwise thought. It’s is bland. It is clearly aaimed at the CamCord, which is the highest form of blandness, and it’s priced for bland people. It should do well.

    The lack of a stick with the V6 is a spit in the face of the car’s German heritage, but ‘mericans can’t shift, text, and eat all at once, so something had to go, and damned if it’ll be the iPhone or the Big Mac.

    The lack of a wagon variant is dissaponting, and I’d have rather seen the 170hp 2.0L TDI for the bigger car, since the Jetta already has the 140hp TDI

    Maybe this is all part of the plan, and the CC will slot in as the finer German option with (maybe) a wagon variant and the spicier TDI.

    • 0 avatar

      Well you can always pay them $5000 over sticker if you think throwing money around makes one “less bland”.

    • 0 avatar

      I just don’t get where the Accord-is-bland meme comes from wrt the latest generation. It’s perhaps a bit unrefined, but bland? But maybe that’s just my Honda Fanboi heritage showing.
      Now, this thing IS bland (as is the Camry). The availability of a diesel option is a first for the segment; and judging by TTAC commenters’ love for the wretched things, will be an out of the ballpark hit :)
      Shame about (not a) a wagon. Something is a bit weird, when the only cars reliably available in a family friendly (wagon) version, are the most family un-friendly (compact) cars to begin with. But I want a panther wagon, so what do I know.
      More than anything, at least this underscores the importance of the US market. I I can make it here, I can make it anywhere. Or perhaps conversely, and more importantly; if I CAN’T make it here………  The US midsize is a tough game. That’s what get those with bigger aspirations going, despite easier pickings in faster growing markets elsewhere.

  • avatar

    It’s pretty much in line with the new Jetta, and will probably sell better than the European version.
    By the way, this is my fourth attempt to post here this morning, where it seems the other three were rejected for some reason. My first post, which was solely a comment on the Passat, didn’t make it, and the last two were rejected as spam for some reason. Does anyone know what’s going on here?

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Any info on suspension or brakes?  Yet another drum/torsion bar throwback?

  • avatar

    Its definitely aimed at the North American CamCord segment. With Toyota and Honda getting ready to revamp their entries, I don’t see them reaching their intended numbers, but good luck to them anyway. Will wait until they sell a few tens of thousands before commenting further.

  • avatar

    About time VW returned to its roots of cheap dependable cars {we will have to wait to see if they hit the target on denpendable}.  Too bad they could not have used the better body design VW already has in production.  And yes, a wagon would be useful.

  • avatar

    Compared to the CamCordNata competition, I think it looks very nice and understated. The Sonata is horrific, like an anime-addled vision of the Homer. The CamCords are both just goofy-looking.
    But damn, VW, you just can’t quit that lumpy thirsty five-pot, can you? How about a 2.0T GLI 4mo version? As far as I know, that iron 5-cyl is offered in no other VW market aside from N. America. Embarrassed by it I suppose.

  • avatar

    Good old Detroit! Good old Cobo Hall! See it at frame 1:07. Even in 2011, Detroit’s Cobo Hall has still has riot-friendly, single-square damage-replacement features! Hell Yeah!

    Oh, and “We lost our way” is the buzz-word of the first decade of the 2000’s.

  • avatar
    Rod Panhard

    Sounds great. It looks like it’s priced right for people who like to buy. And for those who want a little less bland and like to lease, there’s the CC.
    As for their competitors, It’s like the old joke about the two guys in the woods being chased by a bear. “I don’t have to out run the bear, I only have to outrun you.”
    Part of the success of the Accord, Camry and Subaru products is that they are built in America. Now that becomes the situation with the Passat.
    The American Passat only has to outrun the Sebring and the Fusion in sales (which a lot of people say is long in the tooth.) VWs sales numbers seem aggressive, but hey, if they didn’t put an aggressive number on it, who’d pay attention?

  • avatar

    and there will be a “distinctive analogue clock in the center of the instrument panel.”

    Pretty balsy VW, going after the Panther market!

  • avatar

    Looks Ok and for those anti-VW people whart is your problem? VW may have dumbed down a little for the Jetta and Passat but they know the market (which you freedom loving GOP’ers out there say is always right). The Corolla.Civic and Camry/Accord sell 400,000 plus per segment. VW still gives you the option of decent European cars like the Golf, GTi, Jetta Wagon, CC, Tiguan etc. Toyota doesn`t give you that choice since every car they make is bland.

  • avatar

    Well, it’s nice to see an interior that’s not black or gray. All white/tan carpet might be a little too light for some people (those with kids) but who knows, maybe other car makers will realize lighter interior colors make the interiors look bigger.

  • avatar

    Sure isn’t for me, but for its intended audience of Camcord buyers it should offer a decent alternative.

    That said, I think Hyundai is eating this segment alive and if Volkwagen wants to compete in this playground of value offerings it is going to have to step up its overall reliability significantly.  I certainly hope that VW recognizes one of the advantages of the bland Camcord market: an appliance which works like your television or microwave, whose meantime between failures is massive (read: I don’t have to worry about it working each time I use it).

    So long as Volkswagen continues to offer product like the GTI and CC, which provide a significantly greater upscale feel, I think that the new Jetta and Passat low-end offerings will help round out the sales plan nicely.  I’ll be more comfortable seeing an uprated, sportier Jetta GLI (nicer materials, better suspension, etc.), and I think that’s what we’ll get, if this is indeed the strategy VoA is attempting to use.

    This is not that dissimilar to what Audi is doing with its newer MLP platform vehicles: offer the traditional, slightly boring mass models (A4, A6, A8) and then leverage your platform to cost-effectively product more interesting niche vehicles such as the A5/A5 Sportback and A7 to keep the brand conscious, style-conscious, performance buyers interested and buying your product.

  • avatar

    The 2.5 liter five-banger is probably the least refined engine in the segment.  Gas mileage on the EPA cycle will also disappoint when compared to the Camry, Accord, and Sonata.  They should have kept the 2.0T as the base engine, but VW seems to have a fetish for underpowered base models lately (first, the 2.slow Jetta, now this).

    • 0 avatar

      They should have kept the 2.0T as the base engine

      Then they likely wouldn’t have been able to hit their price target.

    • 0 avatar

      Hopefully, they will upgrade its performance and efficiency with the introduction of DI.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree that the decision not to put the excellent 2.0T in the lineup is disappointing.  The most cost conscious and appealing decision may have been to put only the 2.0T and the TDI in the car – the V6 seems unnecessary (ask Hyundai about that idea).  Then again, the current Passat and CC have hardly flown off the shelves with the 2.0T, so what do I know?

    • 0 avatar

      Agreed on the 2.5.
      Only VW could manage to have such bad power and fuel economy at the same time.
      They have this weird aversion to doing more than .5L of displacement per cylinder, and against multivalve, VVT heads. Even the base engine on the Mazda 3 has what, a 148hp 2.0L 4?
      I am not enjoying their love for ancient engines and “just tack another cylinder on”-ethos.

    • 0 avatar

      The one nice thing about the 2.5 is no timing belt and decent tourque. As much as I’d prefer the 2.0T motor, for the average American the 2.5L is an engine more likely to stand up to their lack of maintenance.

  • avatar

    I like the interior. Of crouse, thats without actually sitting in it and touching the materials. But it looks nice. My 2004 A6 has the “velet key”. In 2 years I have used it 0 times. And I doubt anyone going for a low-cost entry level vehicle will ever visit a fancy place that has velet service. But its the thought that counts. Wonder if they inlcuded the Audi “wallet key”, the thin little key that will open the doors only if you leave you key in the car and your kid locks the door. I have never used it either but its great piece of mind.

    • 0 avatar

      And I doubt anyone going for a low-cost entry level vehicle will ever visit a fancy place that has velet service.

      Hah – in places like Atlanta almost every place has valet.  I think it’s a regional thing.

    • 0 avatar

      Really? Weird. Only the fancy places where I live have valet service. And I never use it even if I go there. I always think back to the time I saw Bill Cosby talk about how a valet crashed his origional Shelby Cobra roadster. **edit** opps, it was not a cobra, it was an MG that Shelby tuned up for him. Either way…. :)

    • 0 avatar

      Maybe its a German thing. All my German cars as far back as ’91 have included a valet key (the kind that operates the doors and ignition locks but not the glovebox or trunk locks). I’ve never used them either.

  • avatar

    You people missed the most important part: TDI diesel.
    I have no idea how they are going to hit the $20K mark with all those toys, my B5 Passat was $24K ten years ago with the 1.8T (30 MPG) and cloth seats.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      The photos are almost certainly of the fully loaded model (no surprise there).  It will be interesting to see the pricing on that.
      If you can get that interior with the diesel or V6 at $30,000 or less, VW will sell a ton of them.
      The more I look at the photos, the more I am left scratching my head…  Where did VW screw this up?  Sure it’s bland, but bland in a nice way.  Looks like it has good outward visibility and large side mirrors.  The interior looks good (in the high-end trim level of course).  Price and reliability are the only things I can think of holding this car back.
      I can’t believe I actually like a VW.

    • 0 avatar

      A CamCord sized and priced car with a TDI engine getting 40+ highway mpg should appeal to a lot of long haul commuters and sales types, especially if fuel prices continue to rise.  If this is the case and VW beats the mileage drum in their advertising they may have a winner.

    • 0 avatar

      We were ready to pull the trigger on a TDI Golf a few weeks ago.  However, a little googling sent us to (and HPFP threads on
      It seems the fuel system responds to bad/contaminated diesel by self-destructing, at a cost of up to $10K (NHTSA investigation open, apparently).  Yeah, it *is* technically a fuel issue, but then I call the (current, CR) TDI simply not ready for the reality of the US/NA fuel market.
      This does suck, the Golf is nice in every other way.

  • avatar

    And the 2.5 liter 5 cylinder tractor engine lives on…

  • avatar
    Sam P

    With its relatively modest power and fuel economy (at least with the base 5-cylinder), this new Passat doesn’t seem like a great value proposition compared to the Sonata – except in terms of styling.

  • avatar

    So, did VW buy the exterior design from the 2009 Kia Optima, or just steal it from Hyundai / Kia?  The interior might look nice, but selling the previous model Optima at slightly more expensive price doesn’t seem like a winning strategy to me.

    • 0 avatar

      I saw just the opposite – looks to be very similarly-styled as the Audi A4.  Same horizontal lines, profile, taillights.
      VW’s decision to prominently feature the TDI all over the press releases was definitely a smart idea.  With crude again on the up-and-up, putting out a 27-29 MPG sedan right now would rule out quite a few people… especially with the comparable Sonata at 35.

  • avatar

    (MP3-capable, do people still have CDs?)

    While not a ludite, I still use CDs in the car for two reasons: 1) They just sound better than most MP3s to my ear – clearer, sharper, crisper. 2) Though the album a dying form of music creation and distribution, I have found that I often like to hear music in the order and context in which the artist intended it to be heard rather than just downloading singles here and there.  I’ve also found that songs I don’t initially like on an album later become my favorites while the songs I bought the album become less interesting.

    Of course, I do now burn my CDs to my car’s built in hard drive (it uses a clearer and probably much more memory intensive format than my iPod) and play them from there once burned.  And I’m increasingly alone in my support for the CD, so CD players in cars are probably not much longer for this world…

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    I am going to diverge with the conventional wisdom here.
    1. The interior is excellent… from what I can see in the pics. The design is very well laid out and I apllaud VW for offering a nice looking wood on these vehicles… even if it’s not the real thing. A lot of 35 to 55 year olds who drive midsized sedans despise the cheap aluminum inserts and VW is paying attention to those customers.
    2. Bland sells here. Really. As much as I like the new Hyundai Sonata, it’s not carving up the sales charts in quite the same way as the Camcords. The Altima seems to be it’s direct contemporary in terms of audience, sales numbers, and ‘sportiness’. The Camcords benefit from appealing to the 65+ set which is where the Sonata can not directly compete due to it’s design.
    3. Everyone seems to hate the 5-cylinders. I doubt that most of the buyers will really care. Just so long as it gets good fuel economy and…
    4. VW has to offer a comparable Hyundai level warranty, publicize the hell out of it, or it’s dead in the water. Period. Volkswagen is an extremely damaged brand in North America thanks to a never ending barrage of low quality components. Decades worth of substandard reliability will not be overcome unless VW can put their money where their mouth is.
    Good luck to VW (and the Passat). Today’s market is not a kind one.

    • 0 avatar

      Hi Steven,  I agree with your comments esp. my dislike of the brushed alu inserts (although I didn’t dislike these nearly as much as chromed taillamp assys.)…

      You are spot-on on ohw VW needs to mann-auf (man-up) and come to parity with a 10y, 100k warranty … I can still remember all the ridiclous things that broke on my purchased-new, built in Osnabrück, ’89 Golf Cabrio …

      Amazing thing about a warranty is that if the parts are in-conformance and robust, they will be problem free and durable, and the cost of a 10/100 warranty will be essentially ZERO!  (I’m sure the good Dr. Karesh will wholeheartedly agree on this point!)

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think you’re diverging from conventional wisdom, I think you are stating the consensus. I don’t know anyone who’s owned a VW in the last 10 years who would disagree with you. (Except kids, who hate wood grain trim both simulated and real.)
      Its my opinion that a longer warranty is not going to help unless VW starts engineering reliable cars. VWoA will either go broke fixing and re-fixing cars for 10 years or people will get so fed up with something new breaking every month that they’ll sell the car long before the warranty expires and buy another brand.
      I think VW is capable of engineering quality, but they have too damn many irons in the fire. They’re doing a thousand things half-baked when they should be doing a hundred things really well. Like you said, good luck to ’em.

    • 0 avatar

      The longer warranty won’t help unless VW empowers it’s dealers to actually fix problems.  Were it not for their countrymen at BMW and Mercedes, VW would, by a large margin, hold the record for worst warranty claim and support among any OEM.
      A ten-year warranty is useless if all you’re going to do is spend ten years denying claims.

    • 0 avatar

      The interior doesn’t look that different from my ’09 Passat.  The 2.5 will be a dog, as the 2.0TSFI is a very advanced and smooth engine.  The V6 would be the way to go, unless one wants an oil burner–which might not be a bad idea if gasoline prices shoot skyward.

  • avatar

    I like the interior.  I’ve driven the 5-cyl in a rental once, and they can do better than that, but maybe not price-wise.  They have the bells and whistles ala Hyundai and Kia, but they really need the warranty to sell these cars.

  • avatar

    Proportions are very similar to the Skoda Superb, that could explain the price…

  • avatar

    Still voting for the VW “Much Cheaper Plastics” instead of “Passat”.

  • avatar

    I’m annoyed that there’s no wagon option, but I actually think it looks okay. Better than the new Jetta at least. The cheapened interior is obvious, but it still doesn’t look bad. VW’s press release at specifies that it’ll get 43 MPG highway with the TDI. That’s excellent economy so if VW can sell it cheap enough with the diesel option, I can see them selling a high percentage of TDIs (like the Sportwagen).

  • avatar

    “it’s designed for new U.S. fuel standards that are more lenient for bigger cars.”
    Bertel, what standards does that refer to?  Are you talking about mpg requirements or “renewable fuels”?  Or something else?

  • avatar

    One man’s bland is another man’s understated.  I think the new Passat has conservative good looks.  The key to success will be whether it retains the brand’s combination of ride and handling.  If it does, VW might retain its current Jetta adherents who are looking for a more spacious vehicle and will add some Camaccord conquests.  The problem is that the combination of great handling with average power and fuel economy hasn’t moved too many Mazda Sixes.  Why would it work any better for VW?

  • avatar

    It may be cheap but I highly doubt that it will be as reliable or cheap to maintain as the Camry or Accord.  To me this thing looks like an XL version of the New(hideous)Jetta.

  • avatar

    Note to Volkswagen from this German car customer: Bring this new “cheapened” Passat to the European market as well. Forget about turning Volkswagen into a “premium” brand, get back to the roots, make it reliable and affordable.
    Thank you very much :)

  • avatar

    So, VW spends YEARS insisting that the car rags and auto blogs call Das Auto the “NMS”.  “Don’t call it the next Passat!” has practically become the car’s name at this point!  Now it’s here and it is indeed crowned “Passat”…
    Random thoughts:
    1.  Yay for the Diesel, now where’s my wagon version?
    2.  Who put the Mercury logos in the headlights?
    3.  Hyundai is the new VW, VW is the new Hyundai?

  • avatar

    I dunno, I see a europeanized Impala. A VW-Body, if you will. It has the biggest rear seat in its class and, with a diesel, can get almost 800 miles to a tank. If it had a decent warranty it’d sell like hotcakes.

  • avatar

    I like it. Far, far classier than a Malibu or Altima, not as snooze-inducing as a Camry or (current) Accord. I’d have to sit in it to determine how much of a factor those cheaper plastics would be.

    The Sonata is what VW should be worried about, particularly if/when reliability is proven to not compare to even Korean standards…

  • avatar

    Well, the interior looks really nice.  Very much like my old Audi. 

    The outside is a bit more derivative – nose like the current Accord, side profile reminds me of a Subaru Legacy sedan, tailights similar to a BMW 3-series.  It doesn’t stand out but at least it won’t offend. 

    I share the view that VW’s success is all going to boil down to reliability, reliability, reliability. 

  • avatar
    Kevin Jaeger

    I’m glad I could get a turbo wagon with a manual transmission back when I was in the market for a Passat.  I won’t be buying one of these but I understand they’re targeting a different market from me at this point.
    Personally, I think the people they are aiming at are quite happy with their CamCords and Fusions.  I kind of doubt they’ll be able convert that many to Passats but I guess they figured there were too few of us who actually bought what they were offering before.

  • avatar

    I like it but VW’s reliability scares me.  The new Fords and Asian cars are all overstyled.

  • avatar

    Looks like a VW Impala.

  • avatar

    Dullsville. It’s going where Honda and Toyota have moved to lately. Well, to me, Honda has almost created dull and boring. With few exceptions, it’s got to be the most unfun line up of cars over the last 30 years or so.
    As far as the Passat goes, I would be willing to bet a friend of mine’s wife leases one. She has the VW fetish going back to high school 35 years ago when she drove a 10 year old Bug that was indestructible. She forgets the pain of her Jetta from 2002 or whenever it was. O
    Oh the pain of fahrvergnügen! Arf! What a dog that was. I think that thing was haunted by the Ghost of Lucas Electric…

  • avatar

    One nice feature of all Volkswagen models:  They have the thinnest “black painted glass border” in the industry.  For example, the frameless rear window in the Golf has thinner border than some competitors with framed hatch.

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • TheEndlessEnigma: All touch screen controls are a hard no, the cost to repair anything there will involve touchscreen...
  • TheEndlessEnigma: I haven’t had any abusive interactions with the F&I ass, but then when I go to I dealer I...
  • jack4x: I had the same thing happen to me, I just bought the warranty to get the lower rate, then canceled it for a...
  • DV-32: A truck company built the Spanish Pegaso.
  • Jeff Waingrow: If all the drivers were in their late seventies, like myself, the problem of unreliability would...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber