August 8, 2011

VW Passat TDI

                We haven’t tested a diesel before (insert awkward virginity joke here).  We drove the 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL.  This Passat had the premium package and had way better looking seats than the GTI’s plaid ones.  This was a four cylinder engine that we weren’t expecting. 

                The interior rivaled that of the Lexus IS250C that we drove during the convertible series.  The main difference being that the Passat had mostly leather seats.  The middle portion of each seat was a German engineered micro-fiber.  When the VW salesman said this we laughed out loud.  He was doing a very good job of “selling” the car, so we asked him if he meant “cloth” seats.  He used the phrase “micro-fiber” at least six times in the next three minutes.  Whatever…  Basically the outside three inches, sides, and back of each seat is leather with a cloth middle portion.  It didn’t bother us at all, since we had clothes on.  You can’t feel the micro-fiber stuff through your clothes and maybe being German engineered means the stuff will last longer.  Plus, we never drive naked, so don’t have to worry about not feeling the leather.
                The media center was what we would expect of a German engineered car and also seemed appropriate for $33,185.  It was a media center that you could spend more time fiddling with than actually driving the car.  We were disappointed that it wasn’t a touch screen.  The Charger ruined us.  We want them all to be touch screens now.  Motor Industry, take heed, please make this happen!
                The instrument panel looked fantastic.  The plastic was high quality, but the analog clock didn’t seem to be of higher quality stuff.  We don’t like analog clocks in new cars.  This is the future and if we drop 30 grand on a car, we want it to remind us that we are in the future, not make us feel nostalgic for third grade (last time we wore an analog watch). 
                This was an extremely roomy vehicle.  We again let Chris set the driver’s seat to his driving position and then took turns sitting behind him.  Even Chris had almost an inch of leg room behind the driver’s seat, which was very impressive.  Once Chris started to drive, he had to move the seat a little more forward adding to the back-seat nirvana.  It was really impressive.  The kind of leg room the Taurus should’ve had.  Well done, VW engineers.  Overall, we could have sat in this car longer than our test drive allowed.

                The exterior of the new Passat looks like the old Passat, with all models of cars refining their lines.  There seem to be fewer cars with curves or swoops, and more with angular, sharp edges.  The leading edge of the Passat has a sharper edge to it.
                There are eight exterior colors and three options for the micro-fiber stuff on the inside.  We liked the look of the Passat, but wouldn’t have picked black as our choice.  The dealer only has two Passats that they are using as “show cars” right now, but should have received their order to sell this last week.  The salesman said that there weren’t any back-up cameras on the new Passats because those were made in Japan and they aren’t taking delivery on a lot of Japanese components lately.  Stupid Tsunami… 
                The lower front grille looks like it came straight out of the GTI parts bin.  It is the same black honeycomb look and we love it.  The grille makes the otherwise sedate Passat look just a little bit tough.  No one would buy this vehicle based on this, in fact most of you will struggle to see it in the pictures, but we still liked it.

                We had never driven a diesel and expected this one to be slow, boring, and irritating.  That wasn’t the case. 
                Off the line, the Passat will not be winning a race ever, unless the other driver is narcoleptic and sleeps through the start.  This car wasn’t underpowered though.  It redlined around 5,000 rpms, which seemed a little low, but the transmission always shifted before it got close to that number. 
The mileage was some pretty fantastic numbers.  Getting 30 mpgs in the city and 40 on the highway, makes buying a diesel a reason for doing some math.  If you have a long highway commute, we would suggest a turbo diesel.  It’s hard to argue with 40 mpgs.  Edmunds has the mileage working out a little better than the sticker states.  They have the TDI SEL getting 31 in the city and 43 on the highway.  The price of diesel plus the price of the Passat only makes the math work with a long highway commute. 
The 2.5L five cylinder gas engine (170 horsepower) only achieves 22 city and 31 highway, and the V6 (280 horsepower) achieves 20 city and 28 highway, which is better than the Taurus, Maxima, Legacy, and Charger.  We have concerns about the V6 being similar to the Maxima, in that it will be in sport sedan and touring cruiser limbo, but we haven’t driven it yet.

The TDI Passat was nimble and well-powered.  Off the line is where our disappointment lies; then again, it is a diesel...  The Passat compares to the Taurus in the style of vehicle.  The Taurus is wider (4 inches) and more powerful, but the Passat has a more welcoming interior and has an inch more legroom in the back seat.  The voice activated system in the Ford beats anything the Passat had to offer.  The Taurus also has the sweet back-up camera located on the rear view mirror; the Passat doesn’t have it even as an option.  If you like your bells and whistles and most guys do, we will let you decide.
The four cylinder turbo diesel turns out 140 horsepower.  That’s 123 less horsepower than the Taurus, but the Passat weighs 618 lbs. less than the Taurus.  Both vehicles based around $25,000 for a comfortable sedan.  The Taurus seemed to have more bells and whistles, but the extra legroom in the back of the Passat and better mpgs with all engine options would be something to consider.
Overall, we were happy with the Passat.  The ride, gear changes, and interior were smooth and stylish.  The look of the car doesn’t detract from its performance and had us looking at a diesel in a new light.  We wonder when VW will make a GTI diesel…  Hopefully, never!

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