Volkswagen's latest Passat was launched in 2011 with much fanfare: an all-new platform specifically developed for North America, built in Chattanooga, Tennessee in an all-new factory, and designed to sell 100,000 vehicles per year in one of the country's hottest market segments. The Passat stays competitive against volume sellers like the Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry, which is also all-new for 2012.
And despite the frantic cost-cutting done by Volkswagen to stay competitive, the Passat hides its new lower price well. A completely new interior still comes lined with leather and wood, and quality controls can be found in every button. Optioned up, the Passat can be had with iPod input, Bluetooth, touchscreen navigation, a premium audio system by Fender, leather seats, keyless entry, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
Engine choices are oldies, but goodies. A 2.5-liter five-cylinder with 170 horsepower is the base engine, and a 280-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 is available for power-hungry drivers. For fuel savers, Volkswagen offers the only available midsize diesel in lieu of a hybrid, with a 2.0-liter TDI four-cylinder. Sadly, no all-wheel-drive, wagon, or eight-cylinder motivation will be offered anytime soon, unlike the previous generation. You know what they say about progress.
Engines: 2.5-liter inline-5, 3.6-liter V-6, 2.0-liter diesel inline-4
Transmissions: five-speed manual, six-speed Tiptronic automatic
Models: Passat S, Passat SE, Passat SEL
Everything: the Passat is now built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, as a model specifically designed and sold in America, and tailored for our tastes. As you can expect, it's comfortable on the highway and large enough for our statures, and its pricing and power come well within the framework of the midsize market.
Stylish without being superfluous, both the Passat sedan and wagon feature classic Teutonic design. LED taillights and mirror-mounted turn signals are a modern touch, as do the standard multi-spoke Le Mans 17-inch alloy wheels.
Inside, VW's cost-cutting doesn't make itself apparent. A combination of tight-fitting materials, leather, and wood, the Passat manages to be comfortable at any speed. There is enough room in front and back for virtually everybody. Grey and black are dour colors, but beige with wood trim on higher-end models both looks and feels right.
Performance & Handling
As befitting a car designed for American families, the Passat emphasizes comfort over speed. There's still a hint of the GTI down there somewhere, but it's buried under layers of body roll and sound deadening. The 3.6-liter V-6 overcomes its weight with copious amounts of power, far surpassing the abilities of the base five-cylinder.
Front, side curtain and side airbags are standard for the driver and front passenger. Head curtain airbags are standard front and rear. Traction and stability control are standard, as well as Volkswagen's Intelligent Crash Response System that shuts off the engine and turns on the lights if a crash is detected.
EPA Fuel Economy
2.5-liter inline-5: 21 mpg city/32 mpg highway
3.6-liter V-6: 20 mpg city/28 mpg highway
2.0-liter diesel: 31 mpg city/43 mpg highway
- Roomy, well-crafted interior
Great power from V-6 engine
Cheap base price
You Won't Like
- No wagon or all-wheel drive
May get lost in a parking lot
Pricey compared to competition
Finally mainstream enough to compete
If You Like This Vehicle
- Ford Fusion
- Hyundai Sonata
- Honda Accord
- Toyota Camry