2012 VW Passat: How to Enjoy 140 Horsepower

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When was the last time you can honestly say that you’ve driven a full-size car with 140 horsepower and it has been more than adequate?  Maybe the 1986 Ford Taurus with the venerable Vulcan V6?  Well, I was given the opportunity for some seat time with a 2012 Passat TDI clean diesel and it is Volkswagen’s newest sedan to hit American soil, err, actually be built on American soil.  While the styling may not be anything to get excited about at first glance; like a jelly donut, it’s what is inside that counts.

The exterior of the Passat is fairly vanilla…almost Impala-like at first glance.  That’s ok, right?  It works for the Camry.  Parked next to a Jetta, it bears a strong family resemblance.  Besides, I only have to look at it when I walk up to it.  It is the interior that matters the most.  OK, so I don’t like the phony wood trim or the climate control knobs that feel like a dollar store special buy.  Neither remind me of a real Volkswagen, which usually have pretty awesome interior bits and well-crafted switches, but I still REALLY like the Passat TDI a lot.

The rear seat is made for families that have NBA all stars in the making.  With a hair over 39-inches of leg room, the back seat is super roomy and doesn’t feel the least bit like some small Euro saloon.  The cabin is simple yet modern.  The Passat I tested had a navigation system that was easy to use and the iPod interface was fast and simple.  I can’t say the same for VW’s navi system in the Jetta, so this was a welcome surprise.

The rest of the car feels remarkably like a Volkswagen but the price was actually kept in check in time.  The Fender audio system is clean, crisp and well worth the price of admission.  The steering wheel and most of the switches and stalks feel like any other VW.    I took the family on a road trip from Ann Arbor to South Bend, IN.  With an average speed of 75 MPH I was getting over 44 MPG.  That’s over 800 miles out of one tank at that rate.  Not having any time with the five-cylinder model or the V6, I think it is safe to say that the diesel option is the ‘killer app’ in the Passat line up.

The Passat TDI hits a home run in all of the areas that matter – rear seat leg room, fuel economy, comfortable ride, attractive pricing, and safety.  If VW can prove that they have high quality and excellent fit and finish out of their new plant in Tennessee, they should be fairly successful with this new entry.

What could they fix?  I’d like to see high intensity headlights, improved feel from the climate control knobs, and maybe a blind spot mirror for the exterior mirrors.  Not much, really.  I really like the Passat and the TDI seems to have found the answer to excellent fuel economy without eating up trunk space for a hybrid battery.  I never thought 140 HP would be more than adequate in a car of this size but VW proved me wrong.

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