2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL Review and Report

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In my week with the Passat TDI, I had the opportunity to drive it on the winding parkways of Westchester County and Long Island as well as on a variety of city and suburban streets.

I found the Passat TDI to be an excellent Autobahn cruiser.  Expansion joints, bumps, and potholes go practically unnoticed.  Passengers will not be disturbed.  It is Verboten.

While I found the steering on the Passat TDI in July to have too much play at slower speeds, that problem was not present in the newer model and I found the steering in this car to be responsive to driver inputs.  The DSG (Direkt-Schalt-Getriebe or Direct-Shift Gearbox) shifted appropriately although at times I would have preferred the manual transmission (and VW does offer a six-speed manual, I should add).

The chassis is solid and the car politely goes where pointed.  Struts are in front; an independent multilink suspension similar to the European Passat lives in the rear.  Braking was solid and predictable.

Ultimately, it’s the torque of the diesel engine we’re after, not the horsepower, and the omnipresent 236 pound-feet available to the driver made overtaking on highways something to look forward to.


Despite the significant cut in price, the Passat’s interior is rather high end.  Fit and finish is excellent and outclasses what one finds in other VWs.  The comfortable seats with suede seating surfaces are quite suitable for backpain-free longer drives.

The extra length of the new Passat adds an additional inch of legroom to the front and 1.4” to the rear, making for a very comfortable back seat that also bests the competition from Toyota and Honda.

Our TDI, which was an SEL model, came with a great leather steering wheel, wood trim, ambience lighting, power front seats with driver-seat memory, keyless start and access, and the top-of-the-line VW navigation system.

Inside the cabin, passengers refused to believe they were in a diesel.  The Passat has extra sound insulation and the cabin was almost completely silent, even during acceleration.

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