2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI – Review and First Drive/Road Test

By Jonathan Spira on 9 June 2011
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Editor’s Note: A new and in-depth review of the 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI was published on December 12, 2012. 

The 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI will be arriving at VW dealerships soon and we had an opportunity to pick up the car at the factory  in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and drive it to Nashville.

The Passat 2.0L TDI is available in three flavors. The basic TDI comes well-equipped with 17” alloy wheels, heated front seats, a touchscreen radio, and a six-speed manual transmission, all for $25,995. You can add a sunroof and a DSG (Direct-Shift Gearbox or Direkt-Schalt-Getriebe) as options (separately or as a package) or you can get both plus 18” alloy wheels, navigation, Volkswagen’s Mobile Device Interface (MDI), fog lights, and exterior chrome accents all in one package.

The top-of-the-line Passat 2.0L TDI SEL, retailing for $32,195,  adds leather sports seats, keyless access and start, remote start, an upgraded navigation system, driver seat memory, a wood grain interior, 8-way power passenger seat, interior chrome accents, and a Fender audio system.

Two weeks ago, with great fanfare, Volkswagen officially opened its new factory where the new 2012 Volkswagen Passat is being produced. (The original Passat was first launched in 1973 and its name comes from the German word for trade wind.)

The Passat that is being produced in Chattanooga was designed expressly for the U.S. market and is not the same Passat being sold in Europe.  The previous generation Passat (last sold in 2010, there was no 2011 model available in the U.S.) was too small and too expensive for American tastes.  With fluctuating exchange rates, lowering the price of the new Passat would prove to be a challenge as well.

Volkswagen was able to neatly address all three problems in one fell swoop.  Build the new Passat in the U.S. and make it bigger but use the same engineering and same engines as the European version.

The 2012 Passat, which sells for $7000 less than its predecessor (this is a 25% reduction), also comes in two gasoline variants. The base Passat has a 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine and the Passat SEL has a 3.6-liter V-6.

Before one even settles in the driver’s seat, it’s important to note that the Passat achieved an EPA highway fuel economy rating of 43 mpg (5.47 l/100 km).  It gets 31 mpg (7.58 l/100 km) in town and the combined EPA rating is 35 mpg (6.72 l/100 km).  These figures are entirely realistic and puts it well ahead of the Toyota Camry Hybrid (31/35/33), the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid (35/40/37) and the Ford Fusion (41/36/39).

Once you’re in the driver’s seat, you’ll notice how big and roomy the interior is.  Even with the lower price point, Volkswagen not only didn’t cheapen the interior but made it more elegant and upscale.  For rear-seat passengers, the experience is almost limousine like.

Similar to other Volkswagen TDI models including the Golf TDI and the Jetta TDI, the Passat TDI comes with a heavy dose of Fahrvergnügen (a word coined by Volkswagen specifically for use in several U.S. advertising campaigns which joins “Fahr” from fahren, “to drive,” with Vergnügen, “pleasure,” to convey “driving pleasure.”)

Earlier this week, I drove the TDI from the factory in Chattanooga to Nashville, a 173 mile (278 km) drive that took a little less than four hours with a stop in Lynchburg to sample some Jack Daniels ice cream and brownies.

Click here to continue to Page 2 – Driving the 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI

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