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Actual rating will vary with options, driving conditions, habits and vehicle condition.
The standard features of the Volkswagen Passat 2.5L S include 2.5L I-5 170hp engine, 5-speed manual transmission with overdrive, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes (ABS), side seat mounted airbags, curtain 1st and 2nd row overhead airbags, airbag occupancy sensor, Climatronic automatic air conditioning, 16" steel wheels, cruise control, ABS and driveline traction control, and an electronic stability. (en)
|2.5L S (M5)||$20,590||170-hp 2.5L 5-cyl||5-spd man.||22 / 32|
|2.5L S w/PZEV (M5)||$20,590||170-hp 2.5L 5-cyl||5-spd man.||22 / 32|
|2.5L S w/Appearance (A6)||$22,690||170-hp 2.5L 5-cyl||6-spd auto||22 / 31|
|2.5L S w/Appearance/PZEV (A6)||$22,690||170-hp 2.5L 5-cyl||6-spd auto||22 / 31|
|2.5L SE (M5)||$23,725||170-hp 2.5L 5-cyl||5-spd man.||22 / 32|
|2.5L SE w/PZEV (M5)||$23,725||170-hp 2.5L 5-cyl||5-spd man.||22 / 32|
|2.5L SE (A6)||$24,825||170-hp 2.5L 5-cyl||6-spd auto||22 / 31|
|2.5L SE w/PZEV (A6)||$24,825||170-hp 2.5L 5-cyl||6-spd auto||22 / 31|
|2.5L SE w/Sunroof (A6)||$25,625||170-hp 2.5L 5-cyl||6-spd auto||22 / 31|
|2.5L SE w/Sunroof/PZEV (A6)||$25,625||170-hp 2.5L 5-cyl||6-spd auto||22 / 31|
2.0L TDI SE (M6)
||$25,995||140-hp 2.0L 4-cyl||6-spd man.||31 / 43|
|2.5L SE w/Sunroof/Nav (A6)||$26,795||170-hp 2.5L 5-cyl||6-spd auto||22 / 31|
|2.5L SE w/Sunroof/Nav/PZEV (A6)||$26,795||170-hp 2.5L 5-cyl||6-spd auto||22 / 31|
2.0L TDI SE w/Sunroof (A6)
||$27,895||140-hp 2.0L 4-cyl||6-spd auto with auto-shift||30 / 40|
2.5L SEL (A6)
||$28,395||170-hp 2.5L 5-cyl||6-spd auto||22 / 31|
2.5L SEL w/PZEV (A6)
||$28,395||170-hp 2.5L 5-cyl||6-spd auto||22 / 31|
3.6L V6 SE w/Sunroof (A6)
||$28,995||280-hp 3.6L 6-cyl||6-spd auto with auto-shift||20 / 28|
2.0L TDI SE w/Sunroof/Nav (A6)
||$29,495||140-hp 2.0L 4-cyl||6-spd auto with auto-shift||30 / 40|
2.5L SEL Premium (A6)
||$29,895||170-hp 2.5L 5-cyl||6-spd auto||22 / 31|
2.5L SEL Premium w/PZEV (A6)
||$29,895||170-hp 2.5L 5-cyl||6-spd auto||22 / 31|
3.6L V6 SE w/Sunroof/Nav (A6)
||$30,595||280-hp 3.6L 6-cyl||6-spd auto with auto-shift||20 / 28|
2.0L TDI SEL Premium (A6)
||$32,195||140-hp 2.0L 4-cyl||6-spd auto with auto-shift||30 / 40|
3.6L V6 SEL Premium (A6)
||$32,950||280-hp 3.6L 6-cyl||6-spd auto with auto-shift||20 / 28|
The Passat TDI's diesel engine produced linear power delivery with little of the surge sensation common with a turbocharger, but not as torquey as expected following our experience with VW's Golf TDI. Shifts from the 6-speed automatic, which felt programmed for conservation over quickness, were noticeable but generally smooth.
EPA-estimated fuel economy of 31 mpg City and 43 mpg Highway from the TDI diesel tops the gasoline-powered competition, by 8 mpg Highway (Hyundai Sonata) to 14 mpg Highway (Ford Fusion). Volkswagen Passat TDI bests the Toyota Camry Hybrid, which manages only a 31/35 mpg City/Highway on EPA's charts. The Fusion and Sonata hybrids better the Passat TDI with 41/36 mpg and 35/40 mpg respectively.
The Passat 3.6L was more fun to drive, primarily due to its responsiveness to a heavy foot on the gas pedal. The Direct Shift Gearbox delivered solid shifts but less promptly than expected in comparison with the Golf version, and even in manual-select mode. Expect stops at the gas station to happen at about the same frequency as with other V6-powered cars in this class; the Passat 3.6L's V6 is EPA-rated 20/28 mpg City/Highway, about average for the class.
We didn't get any seat time in the Passat 2.5L with the 2.5-liter five-cylinder gas engine at the launch event. Those who did reported it trailed behind the TDI in quickness off the line and exposure to oncoming traffic in passing zones, with credit for the difference going to the TDI's substantially higher torque (236 lb.-ft. vs. 177 lb.-ft. for the 2.5L). It generally trails, too, in fuel economy, with a 21/32 city/highway that falls most significantly short of the Sonata's 24/35 and its highway rating bettering only the Fusion's 29 mpg.
Ride quality in the new Passat is, well, very American. There's a bit of body roll in corners, although no float on mildly heaving interstates. But graded on what people might be sensitive to in a car wearing a German car maker's logo, it's definitely on the gentle side of firm. There was a bit of a whistle at speed from somewhere near the outside mirrors (from their 2-piece housings, perhaps?) on the Passats we drove at the launch, but nothing serious. Tire and road noise was minimal and varied little on different qualities and types of pavement. Put up against the competitors, it fits right in, not really standing out in any measure, but not falling short in any, either.
Which is pretty much the case in the handling department, too. Understeer (where the car wants to go straight when the driver wants it to turn) is the predominant characteristic when the Passat is pushed in a curve. Between the TDI and the 3.6L, the 3.6L feels less put upon when driven aggressively. We were told the 3.6L's steering is a bit tauter, closer to what's in the German-market Passat. None of the Passat models beg to experience an energetic blast through an extended set of twisties, however. Clearly, the Passat much prefers casual motoring, like a casual weekend getaway to the beach or a vacationing meander along the Blue Ridge.
Based on our experience, the Honda Accord feels more planted in winding roads, although the Accord filters out less of the mechanical and road and tire noise than the Passat does. The Ford Fusion All-Wheel-Drive is the most balanced in responding to steering inputs and quick changes of direction. The Fusion AWD exacts a price, however, with the worst city/highway numbers of the crew, at 18/26 mpg.
What was most disappointing with the new Passat was the brake feel, which clearly has been tuned for the American market. Gone is the prompt, sure-footed, throw-out-the-anchor response to the brake pedal that we're used to in VWs, and German-brand cars in general. We never worried about stopping power when driving the new Passat, but there was still this softness, not sponginess, just not the high quality firmness we've come to know and love, and appreciate, in Volkswagens. Thus, in comparing brake feel and the confidence it can inspire and the distinctiveness it can impart, we could have been in any of the five all-American competitors.
The motif for the front end was horizontal-ness, according to the designers. The inverted trapezoidal chrome grille surround of the previous Passat is gone, replaced by the Passat's version of VW's new trademark façade: the traditional VW logo centered on a simple array of three chrome-like bars bracketed by trapezium-shaped headlamp units. A bold bumper splits the fascia atop a full-width lower intake with floating wing-like braces at each end that, depending on model and trim level, give the look of cooling ducts for the front brakes or house squat fog lights. Sculptured reliefs in the hood splay rearward from the outer ends of the grille to the A-pillars (front supports for the roof), giving an illusion of width.
For lack of a better descriptor, side view is basic European sedan, that is, it could be one of any number of mid-size four doors originating from any one of four or five continental car makers. No logo or other identifiers break up otherwise mostly generic expanses of sheet metal. Wrap around headlamp housings de-emphasize the front overhang. An understated character line crease runs from the trailing edge of the headlamp housings rearward across the doors slightly above the full-round door handles and ending in the leading edge of the wrap around taillight housing. Defined blisters outline circular tire wells. On some models, thin chrome striping frames the side windows; about the only feature that stands out is a kinky rear quarter window that serves both to lessen the mass of the C-pillar (the rearmost roof support) and, along with the deep rear side doors, to hint at the 2012's stretched wheelbase (distance between the tires front to rear) of more than three and one half inches longer than the previous Passat.
Rearview, which only the 3.6L is going to display to other drivers with any regularity, is, again, relatively generic, although in this instance more Pacific Rim than Continent, save for the de rigueur VW logo. Taillight housings are 2-piece, split between the fenders and trunk lid. License plate tucks up beneath an overhang that crosses the trunk lid between the taillights. The trunk lid reaches the top of the rear bumper, itself a seamless piece that sweeps around the lower rear fascia from the trailing edge of one rear wheelwell to the other. The 3.6L gets twin exhaust tips.
The gauge cluster in the instrument panel is delightfully basic, with large round analog tachometer and speedometer, each with a small circular gauge embedded in its base, one monitoring coolant temperature, the other fuel status. A commendable addition, especially for drivers running solo, is a digital repeater for the navigation system, when equipped, in the mini-display screen, which also shows the trip computer data, centered between the two larger gauges.
Front seats, both base and Sport, are comfortable, with the Sport adding a smidgen of appreciated lateral support. The center stack, which houses the audio/navigation and climate control interfaces, stays true to the layout of the previous Passat, with the audio/navigation panels above and the trio of large knobs that manage the climate control settings below. Controls for the stereo and the very competent navigation system are unchanged from the previous Passat, consisting of two smallish knobs at the lower corners below vertical sets of four buttons on each side of the display that shows the various menus of touch-sensitive buttons, all of which work as efficiently and effectively as any our fingers have manipulated. (We haven't gotten a chance to check out the system in the base model.)
The rear seat is more bench than bucket but still accommodating, with foot wells deep enough that occupants can imagine they're seated in a chair instead of on the floor. What's most remarkable about the rear seat, however, as hinted above, is the leg room. While one inch of the lengthened wheelbase goes to the front seat, the rear seat gets almost an inch and a half, earning the 2012 Passat what VW claims is a best in class rating, bettering the primary competitors (the Chevrolet Malibu, the Ford Fusion, the Honda Accord, the Hyundai Sonata and the Toyota Camry) by between just under an inch (Camry) to more than four inches (Sonata). This is especially noteworthy because that added inch to the front seat also brings the Passat all but even with all except the Sonata, which treated the front seat more fairly, with an inch more leg room than the Passat.
Interior materials on the SE and SEL, the trim levels available at the launch event, were above average in feel and quality, with snug tolerances between panels and hard surfaces. The wood grain didn't quite pass as real but some real wood we've seen looked more like wood grain. Visibility is good, better out the front than the back, where the proud head restraint triplets crowd the view through the rearview mirror.
There are enough cubby holes and bins to satisfy the average hoarder. There's a map pocket in each door (although not the best design, as the rear-most area under the armrest pinches down to the point it's accessible only by a child's small hand, in itself not reassuring). The glove box, while basic plastic, is refreshingly spacious. The front center console bin is a bi-level set up, with an upper tray fit for cell phones (where they should stay unless the car is parked, even if you have a hands-free system; sorry, but distraction is distraction, no matter the source) and a deeper part that also holds the audio inputs. Each front seat back has a magazine pouch.
Trunk space splits the difference with the competition, with around a cubic foot more than the Malibu, Accord and Camry and about a cubic foot a half less than the Fusion and the Sonata.
Passat 2.5L comes in three trim levels. Passat 2.5L S ($19,995) includes automatic, dual-zone climate control system and Bluetooth connectivity. Among the other standard features are an AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers and auxiliary input; power door locks, windows and outside mirrors; 8-way manual driver's seat; steering wheel-mounted audio controls; cruise control; padded center console with storage bin; and 215/60R16 all-seasons on steel wheels. Optional is an Appearance package ($2,695) that replaces the manual transmission with the automatic and the steel wheels with alloys and adds a fold-down, rear center console with storage bin.
Passat 2.5L SE ($23, 725) gets leatherette upholstery; 8-way power driver's seat; heated front seats; premium stereo with color touch screen, eight speakers, 6-CD changer, MP3 capability, SD-card slot and 3-month trial satellite radio subscription; multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel; aluminum dash trim and middle console; exterior chrome window trim; sliding front center console; and 215/55R17 all-seasons on alloy wheels. Options start with the automatic transmission ($1,100), then a sunroof ($800) and finally a navigation system with 5-inch touch screen and USB and auxiliary inputs ($1,170).
Passat 2.5L SEL ($28,395) upgrades further with a navigation system and a 400-watt, 9-speaker Fender audio system with 6.5-inch color touch screen and 30-GB HDD; push-button start; programmable garage and gate remote; front sport seats; chrome and wood grain interior accents; and chrome exterior accents. Optional is a Premium package ($1,500), with leather seating surfaces; keyless access and remote start; fog lights; 3-setting driver seat memory; and 8-way power passenger seat.
Passat TDI SE ($25,995) comes with the same accouterments as the 2.5L SE. The sunroof and DSG are packaged as an option ($1,900), as are the navigation system with USB and auxiliary inputs; the fog lights; the exterior chrome accents; and 235/45R18 all-seasons on alloy wheels ($1,600). The Passat TDI SEL ($32,195) has leather seating; the sport seats; keyless access and remote start; the upgraded navigation/Fender audio system; driver seat memory; wood grain interior trim; 8-way power passenger seat; and interior chrome accents.
Passat 3.6L SE ($28,995) starts with the DSG; the leatherette seating; sunroof; 8-way power driver's seat; heated front seats; sport seats; touch screen radio with the Fender audio system; multi-function, leather-wrapped steering wheel; aluminum-trim dash and center console; exterior chrome window trim; dual exhaust with chrome tips; fog lights; sliding front center console cover; and 235/45R18 all-seasons on alloy wheels. A navigation system plus USB and auxiliary inputs and exterior chrome accents can add ($1,600) is also available. The Passat 3.6 SEL ($32,950) adds leather seats; keyless entry and remote start; the upgraded navigation system; driver seat memory; wood grain interior accents; 8-way power passenger seat; and interior chrome accents.
Safety features include six airbags (frontal, front seat side and side curtain); antilock brakes with brake assist; electronic stability control; and rear seat child safety seat anchors (LATCH). Also standard is VW's Integrated Crash Response System that cuts off the fuel supply, turns on the hazard flashers and unlocks the doors when seatbelts pre-tension or on airbag deployment.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from Nashville, Tennessee.
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