2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL Review and Report

By Jonathan Spira on 12 December 2011
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In the U.S., the Passat has had a bit of an identity crisis.  First introduced as the Passat in Germany in 1973
and developed from the Audi 80/Fox platform (VW had acquired Audi in 1964), the new front-wheel-drive sedan with a water-cooled engine was the harbinger of things to come out of Wolfsburg.

When it reached the U.S., it wasn’t called the Passat, however.  (Passat is the German word for “trade wind”; at the time, VW was heavily invested in naming its cars after winds, including Golf (Gulf stream), Jetta (Jet stream), and Scirocco (Sirocco).)  It was called the Dasher, which is not a wind, of course, just as the Golf, which was introduced in the U.S. by VW in 1974 as the Rabbit.

We first drove the new 2012 Passat TDI in June around the fine state of Tennessee but, since it didn’t reach dealerships until later in the summer, we didn’t get a chance to spend a week in one until just recently.

Known as the New Midsize Sedan (NMS) until its unveiling at the beginning of this year, the Passat NMS is not available in Germany.  It was designed with the U.S. market in mind and is the sole production vehicle at Volkswagen’s brand new plant in Chattanooga.  It’s also being built in China for the Chinese market.

The previous generation Passat (a facelifted version is still being sold in Europe but it was last sold in the U.S. in 2010 and there was no 2011 model available) was thought to be too small and too expensive for American tastes.  With fluctuating exchange rates, lowering the price of an imported Passat would have proven to be quite a challenge.

Happily for customers, Volkswagen was able to neatly address all three problems in one fell swoop.  The automaker decided to build the new Passat in the U.S. and make it bigger but use the same engineering and engines as the European version.

The 2012 Passat sells for $7000 less than its predecessor (this is a 25% reduction). The TDI (turbo diesel) model comes with the same inline-four as found in the Golf TDI and Jetta TDI.  The new Passat is also available in two gasoline variants. The base model has a 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine and the Passat SEL has a 3.6-liter V-6.  It’s also one of two new-for-2012 cars (the other is the Mercedes-Benz S350 BlueTec) that is a contender for the 2012 Diesel Car of the Year.


The first of the new 2012 Passats to be delivered to a customer was, appropriately, a black Passat TDI, delivered on September 13, 2012 to its new owner, Matt Duchesne, of San Jose, California.  The delivery took place at Stevens Creek Volkswagen.

While Volkswagen doesn’t offer factory delivery in Chattanooga (which is truly a pity), the automaker did fly Duchesne to the factory for a tour and filled his trunk with VW gear.  Shell Oil presented him with $500 in gift cards to purchase diesel fuel, a gift which, since the Passat gets 43 mpg (5.47 l/100 km), should keep his tank full for at least the first 5,000 miles (8,000 km).

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

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