An American sedan with a German badge.
In cutting the Passat’s price by some $7000, Volkswagen achieved its biggest cost saving not in the interior (it is still quite nice) or the chassis (which provides a decent ride), but in the powertrain. The base engine in the 2010 model was VW’s highly regarded 2.0-liter turbo, which made a hearty 200 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque while returning 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway. Now we get the old 2.5-liter five-cylinder from the Jetta. Despite having one more cylinder, this is not an upgrade. The five musters only 170 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque, and despite the lower power output, fuel economy is about the same (21/33). For buyers willing to spend a little more, better options exist: the fuel-miserly diesel TDI and the potent 3.6-liter VR6. The turbo-diesel four-cylinder returns an excellent 30/40 mpg with an automatic transmission and delivers power much more enthusiastically than any hybrid does. The VR6 is smooth and vigorous but not as efficient as, say, the turbocharged four-cylinder in the Hyundai Sonata. There’s evidence of cost cutting in the interior, but the cabin is still comfortable, attractive, and functional. It is a cavernous space with excellent visibility. The Passat deserves consideration from buyers who previously considered it too small or too pricey.
new for 2013
Volkswagen signaled a new direction with the introduction of the 2012 Passat. There are no significant changes for 2013.
ABS; front, side, and side curtain air bags; tire-pressure monitoring; and traction and stability control are standard. The Passat comes with Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System, which responds to an accident by unlocking the doors, shutting off the fuel pump, and turning on the hazard lights.
Efficient diesel engine
Acres of legroom
Not as sporty as it once was
Interior has lost some of its exclusivity
Base Price Range: $21,640–$30,030
TRIM LEVELS: 2.5L, 3.6L, TDI
BODY STYLE: Sedan, 5-passenger
ENGINES: 2.0L turbo-diesel I-4, 140 hp, 236 lb-ft
2.5L I-5, 170 hp, 177 lb-ft
3.6L V-6, 280 hp, 258 lb-ft
TRANSMISSIONS: 5- or 6-speed manual, 6-speed automatic, 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
PASSENGER VOLUME: 102.0 cu ft
CARGO SPACE: 15.9 cu ft