Monday, June 20, 2011
VW 2012 Passat Midsize Sedan
We drove two of the three versions of the 2012 Passat a few weeks ago, the TDI Clean Diesel, turbocharged 2.0 liter in-line 4-cylinder that delivers 140 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque and the 2.5 liter in-line 5-cylinder that has 170 horsepower and 177 lb-ft. of torque. All of the new Passat models are front-wheel drive with no all-wheel drive options. The midsize sedan market in America is front-wheel drive and VW is going to the heart of the market. Both the 5-cylinder and the TDI are available with either manual or automatic transmission. The third model, the V-6, comes only as an automatic.
The Passat is the only Clean Diesel offered in the segment and VW estimates that it will achieve 43-MPG highway and a range of nearly 800 miles. The very nicely contented vehicle tops out at about $33,000. At this price level, with that range, and all the options including heated front seats, a cool audio system, a VW interior, leather and wood trim, do I really want to entertain the idea of buying a $33,000 hybrid or a $40,000 electric?
VW emphasizes that its new Passat is built specifically for the American market. That probably accounts for the generous rear-seat legroom (if you transport leggy individuals, you will certainly appreciate the extra space.) It also accounts for what I experienced as a taming of the German handling. It was there all right—maneuverable, tight to the corners, fun to drive, but it felt just a tad less Autobahn to me. And VW has gone to bland on the color palette, tapping into America’s fear of color boldness--the most popular car color in America is white. I just don’t understand why it isn’t burnt orange.