By on September 3, 2013

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?


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.

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71 Comments on “2013 Volkswagen Intramural League, Fourth Place: Passat 1.8TSI SEL...”

  • avatar

    How about an Intramural League comparing VW dealers? Is the Ninth Circle *really* that much worse than the Fifth?

    Or, in the “Would you prefer to get your food poisoning from lettuce or chicken?” category, how about an intercollegiate league comparing VW dealers to those of other mainstream brands?

  • avatar

    I’m glad that warranty claims are down, but what’s after the warranty? It may only be a good news for consumers who lease.

    • 0 avatar

      You know why warranty claims are down? Because they cut a year off the warranty in 2009. Magic!!

      • 0 avatar

        I’m sure considering things like scraping baked-on carbon off of your intake valves as a “maintenance item” also reduces warranty costs.

        I just ditched my 2008 GTI. I loved the way it drove, but hated the stuff VW just assumes is “normal maintenance”.

        Sorry guys, pulling the intake every 40-60k to scrape valves is not normal maintenance. It’s a bad engine/PCV design.

        Sure, the VW fans will say “but they fixed that in the new design!” “The new design has port injection and direct injection!” “It will wash down the valves!”

        To that I respond: VW knew about this problem in 2002 and filed a patent application for ideas to solve the problem:

        What did they do with this knowledge? They released motors without any of the suggested measures to prevent the carbon buildup. The VW engineers knew the intake valves would be crusted over with carbon, and they put them on sale anyway.

        I’m finally done with VW…..for now.

  • avatar

    The interview with the engineer may be the most insightful examination of why VW does things as they so often do ever documented.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s incredible, isn’t it?

      For an alleged engineer, especially working for VW, to feign disbelief at the mention of a water pump failing is so far beyond bizarre that it’s inexplicable.

      At any rate, I test drove the B7 and agree with Jack about the road noise. It was totally unacceptable in a large sedan, most of which will be used to haul children around, and really canceled out the positive attributes of the Passat (e.g. massive rear seat with tons of legroom; e.g. very safe car).

      A quiet driving experience, especially over broken sections of concrete and bad roads, does an amazing job of adding to a premium (and “safe”) feel of a sedan, that it’s puzzling that all manufacturers don’t go to great lengths to reduce it dramatically via the use of cost effective measures (acoustic foam, layered sandwich floor panels, treatment of wheel wells, etc.).

      I used to harbor massive hatred for all things GM, especially during Roger Smith’s tenure and thereafter, but GM has really done an exemplary job of suppressing road noise in most of their models, across the board.

      • 0 avatar

        I appreciate GM’s solid feel too but getting there isn’t free.

        1. The construction to give that premium feel is heavy and expensive. GM’s cars are generally much heavier than their immediate competition. A Malibu is smaller than the Passat inside and out but is 300 lbs heavier than the I5 model and almost 400 lbs heavier than the new I4.

        2. Carrying that extra weight around means a noticeable hit to real world fuel economy.

        3. Getting that economy back onto the window sticker forces GM to go above and beyond the rest of the market in gaming the test with extra low air dams, stupidly tall rear ends, lazy throttles, transmissions that won’t downshift, etc.

    • 0 avatar

      Exactly what I was thinking. The chief engineer must be some kinda arrogant dope.

      I’ve owned a few VWs in my past, enjoyed them, was lucky, but I can’t ever see buying one again. The risk of idiotic failure and insane repair costs are just too high. Hooray for TTAC!

    • 0 avatar

      Try working with them…4% of the time brilliance and 96% arrogant and stubborn. This is German engineering.

    • 0 avatar

      Re: the engineer comment. It’s funny, but is more a testament to Ford than a demerit on VW. It’s not exactly industry-norm to guarantee individual parts for varying mileage, as much as enthusiasts would love to be the case.

  • avatar

    I see a lot of VW’s on the side of the road with the hood up-is this a safety feature?

    I have owned three new VW’s -two TDI Jetta’s and a V6 Passat Wagon (B5). While they may have made great strides in quality, they had a long way to go. I have never been able to put up with one past 180K miles. Too many little things go wrong-and some big ones too.

    That said, I still love the way they drive and handle. The interiors were first rate.

    I would guess that if the quality and reliability problems are not under control, we will have many more first and last time owners.

    • 0 avatar
      hands of lunchmeat

      So keeping a car to almost 200k that needs work along the way is entirely unacceptable?

      I was in the trenches so to speak as a technician first, then an operations manager for VAG products back in the 00’s, It truly was a perfect storm of huge demand combined with dealers and corporate who were entirely unequipped to deal with the quality issues that sprang up in those times. Honestly from what I see with VW these days they are far more forthcoming with addressing issues when they begin to crop up rather than burying their heads in the sand and having conquest buyers get beat in the head on large repairs just out of warranty. It was not a good time for them, yet I can see signs of them actually learning from their own history, something that few corporations seem capable of.

      And Baruth, a dasher AND a Simpsons reference in the same article?

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t think that many cars are trouble-free after 180K, are they? Some owners will write in with their individual exceptions, and tell they “drove the car till the wheels fell off.” Recently, maybe too late, I’ve decided not to be that guy anymore. Come to think of it, I wish I’d sold all of my cars just a year sooner, before that last big repair! I don’t wanna be there when the wheel falls off– as actually occurred to a friend, of the “cheaper to keep ‘er” clan. The loose wheel fouled the brakes and took them out, too.

      Through a dozen cars, VW reliability has been just good enough for me. But my standards aren’t as high as yours. Early on, for ten years I owned NSUs, so there were no dealerships, few parts, and I had to train mechanics how to fix it, or try to myself.

      But that’s the last thing I ever want to say about VW reliability. It’s a dead horse, already! What are you trying to accomplish? Is it a vendetta, over past disappointments? Do the other manufacturers pay you a penny every time you post a knock on VW’s reliability? If not, get over it. What is “Trolling,” anyway, if not the repetition of hostile comments that are outside the OP’s original points and themes?

      And I thought everyone would get sidetracked over the sight of a Sirocco sedan!

    • 0 avatar

      “I see a lot of VW’s on the side of the road with the hood up-is this a safety feature?”

      I dunno, I see them running all the time, but I don’t see them broken down particularly often.

      (I am likewise not terribly offput by the prospect of a car needing (fairly significant) maintenance after 180kmi, though maybe if we knew the details of “some big ones” we might be more inclined to your point-of-view?)

    • 0 avatar

      The warranty costs are down because they’ve figured out how to make the car hold together through the life of the warranty. After that you’re on your own. I wouldn’t have dumped mine if it hadn’t racked up $9000 worth of repairs between 66k & 75k.

  • avatar

    The Pentastar V6, GM “High Feature” V6, and Honda “Earth Dreams” engines all have integral exhaust manifolds.

    edit: Re: the Ford comment; not speaking for anyone specifically but typically when an automaker quotes a mileage figure like that, they’re referring to how many miles the validation testing simulated. Which means the part should last *at least* that many miles, but doesn’t mean it’ll fail at 150,001 miles.

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah it’s the new “hip” thing in engine design. :)

      • 0 avatar

        Can anyone explain how the thermodynamic efficiency is improved? The heat is captured by the coolant, but then we don’t have the hot coolant drive a small steam turbine or anything like that, so what’s the trick?

        • 0 avatar

          I’m not in powertrain, but I’d wager it’s partly about cost and weight reduction; the manifold is no longer a separate part nor are gaskets and fasteners needed plus aluminum is a lot lighter than cast iron. Though I can also see benefits in emissions and in turbocharged applications; having the shortest path possible to the catalyst or turbine would let one eke out a couple of tenths of a percent in efficiency.

        • 0 avatar

          Efficiency is primarily helped in two ways – First, the engine is much more inefficient when cold, so the more heat you can dump into the coolant when first starting, the faster it will warm up & be operating more efficiently.

          Second, at high loads a cooled exhaust manifold will lower the exhaust gas temperature going into the turbo, allowing less high-load enrichment to protect it, or enabling more power to be made before the temperature limit is hit

          Also, the lower volume of the exhaust manifold can help the turbo spool in transients.

  • avatar

    I must be very fortunate. My local dealer is outstanding…been taking my VWs to them for the past ten years.

    Looking at the new engine…why not 200 hp like in the CC? My company car Jetta TDI wagon lease came due back in May; I drove the Passat TDI and liked it OK. Drove the CC and that’s what I went for…covers a lot of miles in comfort and it looks good. I’ve had Passat B5 wagon, B5.5 TDI, B6 wagon, the Jetta TDI and now this CC. The Jetta was a wonderful car – torque torque torque. The CC with the DSG does OK but seems to be confused easily; otherwise I like the car a lot. The only reason I didn’t go for another Jetta was it was just a bit too small; damn I wish I could have gotten a Passat wagon.

  • avatar

    Interesting that 40% of sales are TDI. That must be the highest diesel take rate in the sedan class. But it also explains why it seems like every 3rd VW I see at a stoplight has TDI badges on it regardless of the model.

  • avatar

    > 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.

    The J30A 3l engine in the 2003 Accord uses similar. Considering that waterpumps have also been disposable items in my shopping history, I think I trust Honda more than I would VW with this de3sign.

  • avatar

    “The American public, however, loves it and VW’s sales are through the roof this year, largely on Passat momentum.” That’s about as far off of reality as I’ve ever read on this site. Passat sales are way off the mark. VW expected plenty more after localizing the car and discounting the price compared with past Passats and Dashers. When those goals were missed, they tried to fix things with incentives. When that didn’t work there were layoffs at Chattanooga and the awkward back-pedaling by VW execs on their 2018 sales goals.

    This car has been a disaster and I’m stumped why TTAC would say otherwise unless perhaps to ingratiate themselves to VWoA. It’s one thing to drive and like a car that has been crapped on in other places (that’s fine), but to go light on the missed sales goals needs to be called out. I love the “merits/demerits” list where there are no demerits and the first merit is that it is big LOL. Yup just like a VW of yore.

    Sales are not through the roof this year. The only reason they are up, if they are (care to share the data?), would be the increasing industry demand and fleet. Passat sales are flat or declining despite the increased incentives which means the company has actually lost share. Things would be worse if it wasn’t for the Jetta, not the Passat as this article tries to say.

    As for Jetta transaction prices, they are low compared to cars like the Fusion, Accord and Camry. Another problem for VW. If you’re going to tell me oh no the Jetta competes with Civic and Corolla I will say so you mean the Passat shares its platform with a compact car?

    With TDI sales hovering at 40% what is going to happen to Passat and Jetta sales when competitors add their own turbo diesels?

    Things are a mess in Chattanooga.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      just for another perspective

      Compared to sales of the B6 Passat, this car is a monster hit. It’s on pace to outsell the VW *brand* performance of ten years ago. Perhaps VW thought they would sell a million a year in the US. I have no idea. If they thought that, they were smoking their breakfast.

      • 0 avatar

        Obviously a cheerleading piece from the local Chattanooga paper, you won’t see headlines like that about VW sales anywhere else. Because while the Passat was up 2% for the first six month, per the article, that was 1) in a rising market with increased incentive and fleet costs on the Passat and 2) when VW brand sales were down 3.2%. Don’t see how you could say “VW sales are through the roof this year” unless they went nuts in July and August which I don’t remember reading.

      • 0 avatar

        Why on earth would one rely on the Chattanooga paper for Passat sales data, when TTAC presumably pays Tim Cain at for monthly sales data? Sales certainly went up with the latest model, but have stayed right at 9 to 10 K per month for the last year and a half, 112K last year. In a 200K capacity factory, thats about 56% utilization. They sold about 11K in July this year, up 10%, almost exactly balanced by a 1K loss in CC sales, half of last year’s 2K.

        Yup, things are just barelling along.

        • 0 avatar
          Jack Baruth

          You can spin the current Passat as a failure — it’s selling at 56% of potential build rate — or as a success — nobody bought the old one AT ALL.

          It depends on your perspective, I suppose.

          • 0 avatar

            Read the WSJ today, boys. Passat struggling, obviously losing ground to a mild renaissance from the Japanese boys in the first 8 months of 2013. Missing dealer targets, temporary Chatanooga workers let go. US light vehicle sales up 10 percentish, Passat up 1-2%.

            Great, GREAT job noticing the C&D comparison test bullshit by Baruth.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      I agree with most everything you’ve said, except for “Jetta transaction prices are low compared to cars like the Fusion, Accord and Camry.” Since the Jetta is compact, it doesn’t compete with mid-sizers like the Fusion, Accord and Camry. What you meant to say was “Focus, Civic and Corolla”…and I don’t know how true *that* is. What I do know is that the Jetta feels like the spiritual successor of the Cobalt and 2nd-gen Focus in terms of material quality, although it has better lines than either of those cars.

      • 0 avatar

        Both the Jetta and Passat are tweeners that make direct comparisons difficult. One way to look at it is that the Jetta is a cheap Fusion, Accord competitor. Another way is Jetta fetches a price premium over Civic and Focus.

        But I don’t see Passat having much pricing power over Accord and Fusion, comparably equipped and net of incentives. A lot of that has to do with asking the compact-class platform to carry so much size. The limitations in areas of structure and suspension geometry mean you can’t have good ride/refinement and handling together. Usually, at a minimum, you can trade off one for the other but the Passat has little of either. In its best days, hardware-wise, the VW upper platform set benchmarks for both.

        Anyone looking for size and room need look no further than the new Chevy Imapla. The lesser platform of the Passat makes it pretty salesproof after a back to back test drive. Compared to an Accord it doesn’t do anything better and arguably looks far worse. i can’t “see” who they are trying to go after with the Passat or how VW could think this would be competitive enough in the US.

        Jetta is the brand for them in America so they focus there, making it all that it can be. But the mid-sized segment is a larger, usually more profitable one and the competitors focus there.

        This situation is obviously unique to VW and creates challenges. For a come to market strategy they have chosen the easiest thing — grow up a compact to compete in mid-size. It’s not working, especially when the mid-size looks identical to the compact car.

        What will be interesting are their plans for the next generations. Two platforms? No more Passat and just a brilliant Jetta? Could work if the market keeps moving down.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          Well if that’s the case, then the Jetta is the lousiest car in its class. It can barely keep up with compact cars in terms of competitiveness, let alone the cutthroat mid-sized arena…

        • 0 avatar

          Apparently Jack was badly misled by his Passat driving experience, thinking it had a decent ride and handling. He should have just asked you instead of bothering to actually drive a car …

          • 0 avatar

            Jack and I are in agreement on the ride and handling. He called out neither as a merit in his list and I said the car was not particularly good in either area. Never said it was terrible. Where we may disagree is on the reason, Jack seeming to blame the 18″ wheel package and me the platform.

            The whole article seems oddly nice, for example misstating the Passat’s sale performance and having a merit/demerit list with entires like “decent power”. “good but not premium interior” and “angular, tasteful looks.” Damning with faint praise or praising with faint damn I can’t tell.

            By being vague I think he may be trying to help out VW and at the same time not lose credibility with us because when I put those bullet points through a BS translator I get a slow, cheap, boring car that’s pretty roomy and easy to see out of.

      • 0 avatar

        @ vbo

        That WSJ article hit the nail on the head, thanks. A much more accurate perspective than the one in the Chattanooga paper or claim from JB that the American public “loves” the Passat.

        VW’s problem runs much deeper than not having a competitive CUV. The VW fanboys will always try to dismiss it as such and that’s over simplifying.

        Let’s be honest. For whatever reason VW made the wrong call on what the Passat should be.

  • avatar

    Even though it’s Americanized, the Passat still looks understated and classy, unlike the Sonata, Camry and Nissan’s offerings. However the Accord also looks classy and offers more content for the price. If I ever needed a larger sedan I’d probably buy a Passat TDI.

    Also, it’s odd that they’re putting a TSI badge on the Passat, yet the 2014 Jetta just changes from “2.5 SE” to “SE” with no TSI badge at all.

    Loved the conversation with the engineer. You failed to mention that it’s an electric valve. I’m sure there will be no premature failures…

    • 0 avatar

      Here in Europe this engine has been available from 2006 or so, in at least 10-15 different car models (VW, Audi, SEAT, Skoda). It’s OK motor, AFAIK it has no bigger problems. In some cases it asks for additional oil, maybe 1 quart per 10k km. I’ve driven 2 different cars with it, 80k km total and know some more people with that engine in their cars and never heard anything bad about it, except the oil thing. YMMW.

      • 0 avatar

        I had a 2006 Passat 2.0T (the CC, essentially), and VW insisted that it burning a quart of synthetic every 800 to 1,000 miles “was within normal specifications.”

        Even the 20ish year-old dealership tech who did some of the engine diagnostics confided to me in private conversation that VW was full of shit, and that they were essentially making things up as they went along, only admitting any problems after a vehicle component failed, and not a moment prior (so god help you if you weren’t under warranty, and maybe even if you were).

        • 0 avatar

          That 2006 Passat you had had old type engine, not EA888 which was put to production in 2007. That 80k km in my (+ 120k km in acquaintance’s) cars have been problem free.
          Nothing has failed.

  • avatar

    I rented a 2.5L Passat a couple of months ago and drove it a lot for a week. I can echo Jack’s assessment of the car’s virtues: huge interior, great visibility, simple controls, pleasant interior, forgettable exterior, and a smooth, drama free ride. I’ve never understood the derision often seen for the 5 cylinder engine, but it will pass on to automotive history as the more efficient turbo 4 becomes VW’s entry-level engine in the US market.

    Lots of snarky comments about lousy dealers, but I heard that about Mitsubishi and Ford during the years that I owned their vehicles and never found the reputations to be true. My VW dealer has been okay — not great, not terrible either. As Hands wrote above, there is every bit of evidence that VW has learned from the disastrous mid 2000s period and made improvements in quality, service, and products.

    • 0 avatar

      I had a 2013 Jetta last week with the 2.5 as a service loaner because my Sportwagen was getting some things done to it. (Inspection sticker, fixing a rattle and doing a DSG flash). It wasn’t a bad engine but that thing was very thirsty. I think they’re moving to the 1.8 because of the upcoming CAFE changes. I drove about 70 miles while I had that car and ended up putting 4.3 gallons in it to bring it back to full. That was crazy considering 70 highway miles on my TDI might use 1/8 tank of diesel. So I applaud them for finally getting a more fuel efficient engine installed. Hopefully it’s a durable engine over the long haul, but only time will tell.

      My dealer has been good so far. After having it for a day I only paid $18.50 for the state inspection. There was talk of the rattle work not being covered under warranty but that changed during the day and I didn’t have to argue with anyone as I expected I might.

      • 0 avatar

        I’d wager that the tank wasn’t full when you got it. From what I recall of my GTI, it was still reading 1/1 after a couple gallons were used. 17mpg is way low.

      • 0 avatar

        Has anyone else noticed an attitude change at the dealerships since the new Jetta and Passat came out?

        We have a B6 Passat wagon with almost 100k miles, and just sold a MkV GTI with 50k miles. Neither of these cars went to the dealer much (both of them had exactly one warranty repair each during their first 50k miles), but when I took the Passat in this spring to get a new ignition key programmed, the car was returned with a new fuel pressure sensor, intake flapper, and PCV assembly. I think the mileage was around 85k at the time…..VW are fixing stuff far out of warranty that 1-2 years ago would have been a $$ dealer repair job.

        • 0 avatar

          @ jdiaz34

          Is it possible your “free” repairs weren’t recall fixes that VW failed to notify you about?

          A quick check shows that the 2005 Passat had a recall for the fuel delivery system.

          • 0 avatar

            I don’t know. I try to keep up on that thru the VW VIN check site, and in the past VW had been charging to repair the intake flapper and PCV stuff on post-2006 Passats.

            Maybe they were silent recalls, I don’t know. I was mostly responding to brettc’s comment about thinking he was going to have to argue with the dealer about something with his car repair, and then the dealer just fixed it. That never used to happen at my dealer.

      • 0 avatar
        30-mile fetch

        As someone who has owned a Sportwagen with that 2.5 for 45,000 miles can I provide a contradictory opinion to your 4.3 gallon experience? I always exceed the EPA ratings. Upper 20s for mixed driving, 30-34 mpg highway unless I’m doing 80, then you’re dropping below EPA.

        It’s not marvelous, and it is about 10% lower than most 3100 lb cars with 2.5 liter engines, but it’s not as thirsty as legend says.

  • avatar

    I like the intra-mural approach. Maybe Jack could do the new Mazda 3, the 6 and CX5. They all share engines and transmissions.

  • avatar

    I’m really surprised that Jack observed excessive road noise. We had a 2006 (B6) Passat and it drove us batty on long interstate cruises with rough asphalt. It was a base model with squishy 16-inch wheels, so it probably only gets worse with higher trim levels. When we would get off the highway, we’d be always be embarrassed by how high we had turned up the stereo volume.

    Anyway, with the NMS being so “Americanized” I had expected much better sound insulation.

    Obligatory lashing of everyone’s favorite whipping boy, VW quality: I don’t expect a car to last over 100k miles without maintenance (which is why I don’t drive a Camaccord), but I do expect the manufacturer to at least work on long-term quality (which is why I don’t drive a VAG product anymore). If they can’t quantify their time-to-failure, they either haven’t bothered to work on durability… or they know the answer and are embarrassed by it.

  • avatar

    The big news in my mind about the new 1.8 TSI engine is that it uses both port and direct injection. This will finally address the carbon-buildup problem from with many Audi / Volkswagen direct injection engines suffered. As for the integrated exhaust manifold, that’s relatively old hat by now.

    The Passat isn’t a bad car, but its one real class leading aspect is rear legroom. It’s like a limousine in the back seat. Aside from that, there are better choices in the class.

    • 0 avatar

      Doesn’t the FRS BRZ twins use direct and port? Didn’t Subaru do that at Toyota’s request? (Just mentioning that the 1.8 is not unique in that aspect.)

    • 0 avatar

      Unfortunately, the 1.8 in this car and the Jetta does NOT get the dual MPI plus DI head, and it doesn’t get the variable timing/variable lift exhaust valve arrangement either. It is straight DI.

      Audi gets the full feature engine, and maybe VW does in Europe, but not in the US. I have a PDF on this which I just reviewed, but unfortunately not the link ( came from the SAE site, I think)

      Both engines get the new spaghetti-thin crankshaft with only 4 counterweights instead of the the original 8 to save, get this, a whole 3.5 lbs weight. To compensate, the new balance shaft runs in roller bearings, but this engine won’t tolerate wild overboost like the previous one.

      Just to ease everyone’s mind, there is no thermostat, but electric motors driving valves to control the heat. Electricity plus VW= disaster.

      • 0 avatar

        WMBA: Thanks for the corrected info. I hadn’t realized that as I haven’t received my press materials re: the Jetta / Passat application yet. That’s truly unfortunate, as the port / direct combo is the only thing that would assure me that there will not be carbon build-up in a VAG product. Clearly a bit of cost-cutting for VW.

        And yes, Toyota has implemented a dual port / direct injection combo in many of its applications. I wish more makers would follow suit.

  • avatar

    That conversation with the VW engineer kind of sounds like ‘potential trouble’. The water pump on our 2011 Tiguan (2.0T) crapped the bed at 24,000 miles. Even with the current 2.0T design, things do get HOT in there. Still, the VW experience for us (a 2006 Rabbit 2.5, a 2011 GTI and the Tiguan) has been decent. Actually as good as anything else we’ve owned including 5 Honda/Acuras since 2001 – the 2002 Acura TL-S being the MOST troublesome car I’ve owned in this century.

    I was hoping for a little more out this intramural review, however…Some rough Solo DX numbers maybe for 0-60, etc? Pretty generic reviews and content other than the usual Baruth antidotes. Let’s see some numbers or at least ‘seat of the pants’ feelings on these V-Dubs…

  • avatar

    I’m stumped on picturing the state of “solid, but delicate”. Can that happen at the same time? Maybe a glass sledgehammer? An anvil made out of peanut brittle? A Saab transmission mount?

  • avatar

    $31k? Where are the xenon headlights?

  • avatar

    I’m not sure the new Passat is reaching its optimistic sales goals. Here in MA, it is heavily discounted. You can land a base Passat for under $18k, which is Civic territory……….Kudos to Mr. Baruth for having the guts to ask a VW engineer the right questions. Too often, German manufacturers have touted their engine advancements and efficiencies, or new electronic doodads, with no accountability on the durability end. GM took hell for its Vega head gaskets and its Olds diesels. Why do the Germans avoid such scrutiny??? And why did the Germans abandon the spirit of simplicity and reliability (embodied in the VW Bug) in favor of complex crap??………

    Take the new Bimmer 3-series: From what I understand, the EPS motor is now integrated with the steering rack. Probably easier to manufacture, lightens the car a few pounds, but what happens when the EPS fails? (You have to replace the entire rack, as a major car mag noted recently on its long-term test car.)

    German cars fall apart after the warranty period. Everybody knows it. That’s why everyone leases premium German marques, but they try to avoid actually buying them. I DO THINK the Passat 2.5L now has decent quality, but replacing the tried-and-true 2.5L with a tiny turbo is asking for trouble………

    • 0 avatar

      “And why did the Germans abandon the spirit of simplicity and reliability (embodied in the VW Bug) in favor of complex crap??………”

      Because the Bug was an underpowered deathtrap?

      By which I mean that these days people want more power and safety (and convenience) that meets modern standards, not those of 1945; by the standards of its initial design it was brilliant.

      And that means more-complex cars.

      (Further, the Type 1 was not “reliable” in the modern sense; it required almost constant maintenance to run well.

      None of it was very difficult, and it was all reasonably well-documented, but it was not a reliable car by modern standards. [No car of the era was, in fairness.]

      Having to re-tension the fan belt over time after a replacement? Having to carry a spare lest you be stranded? No oil filter?

      God, no. We’re not going back to that kind of “reliable”.)

  • avatar

    Indeed … the Beetle was easily maintainable, but back then cars were nowhere near as reliable as they are now. Mine was only about 10 years old, but I would be doing repairs or maintenance pretty much monthly.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    As a 5 cylinder owner I will be test driving this 1.8 the next time I’m at the dealer for an oil change. I like the 5 cylinder, the NVH and thirst ascribed to it by the wisdom of the internet are only about half as bad as they yammer on about. Ever drive a 2007-2012 Altima with the 2.5? It sounds just like a lawnmower and feels about as refined, but never is this mentioned.

    We tested a lightly used Passat 2.5S recently and came away somewhat unimpressed. A lot of the blame goes to the bargain basement trim level, but it also felt pretty anonymous from behind the wheel and the road noise is definitely too high. Road noise is not acceptable for a daily driver.

  • avatar

    I had a 2.5 as a loaner once. It was really grotesque inside. Compared to a B6, it’s like a stretch-Corolla. Comparing it to a CC is a joke in terms of the interior. The design of the dash is OK. It looks like a 7-series from the 90s or something. But the materials are shocking.

    Yes, you have visibility, but you feel like you are piloting a swamp boat, not driving a car. You are right up in the bow, sitting upright in a chair. I guess some people like this, because there is something they constantly need to see that is on the ground 6 feet in front of the car; it freaks me out a bit.

    Also, the steering was totally numb and barely had any return, as if the caster had been knocked out. It seemed that the car would just kepp going in a circle if you let go of the wheel. The tip-in is fierce in the car, but after 2nd gear, it’s sucking serious wind. One hopes that the 1.8 is better, but the output seems to say no.

    I see Mr. Baruth’s interesting rhetorical move, to say that this is better than the CC he just slated, because, while a crummy car, it doesn’t try to be a poor man’s idea of a poor man’s CLS. But it doesn’t work—a poor man’s fantasy is better than the plain squalor of need.

    I would never pay 30G for this barge. Rather, and I’m calling this now as the winner of the battle, like JB, I would get a GLI for that money. If I have to have a terrible interior, I want modicum of style (red-stitching, yes) some performance, and I’ll stll have a back seat to fit a couple rug rats.

    I get it though that certain people want a modern diesel Dasher. They want to hear that rattle and smell that aroma, because a TDI VW is a thing. The fact that it’s slow and loud just make the thing more the thing.

    So I’ll go crawl back to the Vortex now and PM some people about plastidipping the grille of my CC.

    • 0 avatar

      The Jetta Sportwagen should win. It’s really the only premium (i.e. German spec & built) VW sold in the states today.

      If it doesn’t win, I will ne disappointed with Jack, and that will crush him.

  • avatar

    The tiers weren’t run-flats by any chance?

  • avatar

    I will echo other commenters’ and JB’s statements regarding road noise on certain surfaces. When my gf was car shopping, we stopped by the VW dealer to try out a Jetta and Passat. I rode in the back in the Passat, it was roomy as all get out, but as soon as we hit a section of concrete, the whole interior was reverberating, about as noisy as my lacking-soundproofing 2012 Civic. Really surprising, I’d always thought of German cars as the solid, quiet bank vaults. The Passat certainly looks the part, but boy does it not deliver on the road noise insulation.

  • avatar

    I’m a proud owner of a 2013 Passat SEL TDI. About the road noise, it has been widely acknowledged on several VW forums that much of the road noise is attributable to cars equipped with Hankook tires. My car has Michelens and I can’t complain about the noise at highway speeds. I haven’t measured it with a SPL meter, however.

    The Passat’s interior finish doesn’t live up to that of my 2008 Audi A4, but it’s as good as the top-of-the line Nissan/Toyota/Honda, IMHO. And even with the more expensive diesel engine you can drive it off the lot for less than its similarly equipped Japanese rivals.

    The car doesn’t come close to the Audi performance-wise either, but you can’t beat the mileage from the diesel engine. I routinely drive it hard and have a combined average 42 MPG. Keeping it to 65-70 MPH I can get more than 50 MPG.

    My only real complaints so far are the horrendously slow satnav radio and the weak headlights.

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