From the Fleet: 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI
FROM THE FLEET are brief synopses of manufacturer-supplied rides that happen to end up in my laneway – John LeBlanc
Myself and the der nue 2012 Volkswagen Passat didn’t quite hit it off during our first meeting at its debut at last January’s Detroit auto show. As per the new-generation VW Jetta, the “Americanization of VW” continues with the new U.S.-made Passat. And VW’s Camry/Impala/Accord-fighting sedan isn’t pretty if you’re a fan of highbrow, German engineering, as I admittedly am.
Designed specifically for the Chinese and American markets, the new Passat looks like a super sized version of the Jetta. "Bland" is its overarching exterior design theme. And with the bottom of the Passat’s interior front dash now hard instead of soft plastic, single instead of space-saving multi-hinge trunk lid hinges, an engine hood prop instead of a gas-filled strut, no wagon body, no AWD option, and no 2.0-litre turbocharged gas engine option, its easy to see how VW’s bean counters managed to drop the midsize sedan’s price by about $4k this year from last, starting now at $23,975.
But then I got a chance to spend some Passat seat time at the car’s media launch event earlier this year. and although there is no denying VW’s cost-conscious ways, objectively, the car stacked up well.
I’m still not a fan of the base model’s unrefined 2.5-litre fiver. And I’d take a Kia Optima SX over the similarly-priced topline $33,575 Passat 3.6-litre V6. Fortunately though, for my weeklong test drive at home, I had what I think is the best Passat you can buy, the TDI, with its 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel. Pricing starts at $27,475, and my Trendline+ press fleet car only had the slick-shifting $1,400 dual-clutch automatic gearbox as an option. Like the launch vehicles I drove in Tennessee, the TDI’s electric steering gives the usual Germanic feel. And although it’s no Jetta GLI in the curves, the Passat diesel delivers typically taut Teutonic road manners. Oh, and great fuel economy. I scored a real-world 6.8L/100 km during my week of mainly urban driving.
So while the cynic in me may callout the Passat 2.5 as a VW Impala, the TDI mill transforms the car. In fact, unless you were caught up in the badge, or the type of luxury details VW has removed from the Passat, or where it's made, you could make a case for the big VW sedan over an almost-twice-as-expensive Mercedes-Benz E 350 BlueTec diesel sedan. Seriously.
Sure. The ‘Benz's diesel delivers way more power (210 vs. 140 hp) and torque (400 vs. 236 lb-ft). But the E-Class weighs about 300 kg more, and scores worst at the pumps (9.7L/100 km city, 6.1L hwy, compared to the VW’s 6.9L and 4.9L rating). Plus, I suspect the type of driver (older, not likely to be looking to win too many stoplight grand prixs) would be quite happy taking the about-$30k in savings with the VW and putting it towards their retirement.