2012 Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI SEPosted on June 8th, 2011
All-new midsized sedan includes a clean diesel variant
By Nina Russin
The 2012 Passat is the first car to roll out from Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant. Both the car and the brand new facility which produces it are part of an aggressive strategy to build US sales. Only North American models are produced in Chattanooga. Volkswagen expects sales from the United States, Canada and Mexico will match the plant’s capacity for 150,000 units per year. This would match current sales volume for the Jetta.
As the automaker’s midsized offering, the new sedan gives Volkswagen the opportunity to conquest buyers from competitors such as the Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata and Chevrolet Malibu with three engine offerings, including a fuel-thrifty turbo-diesel.
Styling for North American models varies slightly from those sold in Europe. For example, there is an extra piece of glass between the rear window and rear pillar.
The 2012 model is longer than the outgoing car by four-inches, which translates to more rear legroom. Designers gave the new sedan an aggressive front end with large wrap-around headlamps, connected to equally stylish tail lamps by a distinct “tornado line.” Volkswagen wants to appeal to younger, highly educated buyers with a muscular exterior which reflects the high-tech powertrains underneath.
The three available engines include the same 2.5-liter four-cylinder block as the one in the new Jetta, a two-liter turbo diesel engine, and a narrow-angle V-6. Transmissions include a six-speed manual gearbox on the base 2.5-liter model or optional six-speed automatic; and a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed automatic on the 2.0-liter Passat TDI. The V-6 comes exclusively with the automatic transmission.
Engineers narrowed the number of build options on the 2012 cars to fifteen: a significant reduction from 128 build combinations on the 2008 model. There are three trim offerings on the 2.5-liter sedan, four on the turbo-diesel and three on the V-6. Pricing ranges from $19,995 for the 2.5L S to $32,950 for the 3.6L SEL.
Engineered in Germany for European performance
Although the new Passat is built in the United States from locally-sourced parts, engineering and testing took place in Germany.
Fans of the brand will recognize the new model’s precision steering response and nimble suspension. Surprisingly, there is no all-wheel drive variant. Buyers who require the additional traction should look to the CC which undergoes a facelift later this year.
Comfort and convenience features for tech-savvy buyers
Standard convenience features such as Bluetooth interface, steering wheel audio controls, dual-zone automatic climate control and a USB port for iPods appeal to the car’s target audience. The DSG automatic transmission employs friction couplings for performance which more closely resembles a manual gearbox.
Buyers can upgrade from the standard 16-inch steel wheels to 16, 17 or 18-inch alloy rims. There are two available navigation systems, optional keyless access and remote start, power driver and front passenger seats, and satellite radio.
Test drive in Tennessee
This week I had the opportunity to drive the new turbo-diesel Passat from the assembly plant in Chattanooga to Nashville Tennessee. Our 150-mile drive route was a mixture of highways, urban surface streets, and rural two lane roads which would test the front-wheel drive car’s traction and steering response.
Base price for the TDI SE is $25,995, not including the $770 destination charge. The test car comes with the six-speed DSG automatic transmission which is optional on this grade, and the RNS navigation system. The upscale navigation system is a special feature on the test car: it is normally only available on the more expensive SEL.
Standard comfort and convenience features include 17-inch alloy wheels, leatherette seating surfaces, an eight-way power driver’s seat, premium audio system and a sliding front center armrest. The nine-speaker, 400-wattaudio system is produced exclusively for Volkswagen by Fender.
An abundance of power
Two things are immediately apparent about the turbo-diesel variant: excellent balance and abundance of power. The diesel engine develops 236 foot-pounds of torque: almost as much as the higher-displacement V-6.
Peak torque is available from 1500 rpm, which is throttle tip-off. The smaller engine shaves about 50 pounds off the sedan’s curb weight, and makes it less nose heavy.
High-strength steel in key parts of the chassis adds rigidity for enhanced steering response. During the drive, I was forced to make an emergency lane change when the truck ahead of me blew a tire. On-center response was excellent, and the chassis remained essentially flat throughout the maneuver.
The rack-and-pinion steering system offers ample assist at lower speeds for good maneuverability. A 36.4-foot turning circle is excellent for a car with a 110-inch wheelbase, making U-turns a possibility on wider suburban roads.
The fully-independent suspension consists of a strut-type double wishbone setup in the front and a four-link system in the rear. The compact design includes standard anti-roll bars on both axles for better cornering. Twelve-inch ventilated disc brakes up front and 11-inch solid discs in the rear stop the sedan in a firm, linear fashion.
Fuel economy for the test drive was 41 miles-per-gallon on average: significantly better than EPA estimate. While I didn’t spend any time idling in traffic, I drove more aggressively than most people would, especially on the challenging two-lane roads. The automatic transmission includes manual gear selection for those who want more control when driving the Passat for sport.
The sedan’s interior lives up to its promise of abundant rear legroom: enough to satisfy tall adults. Headroom in the back is also excellent. I found both the power driver’s seat and front passenger seat to have good lower lumbar support. I was comfortable throughout the three-hour test drive.
An information display in the gauge cluster can be programmed to include ambient temperature, time of day, trip meter and odometer readings. When the car is equipped with navigation, it also displays basic directions and the distance to the destination, so the driver isn’t distracted by referring to the map in the center stack screen.
The leatherette upholstery is attractive and comfortable. Climate and audio controls in the center stack are easy to reach from either front seating position, and intuitive to operate. Touch screen controls operate the navigation system. Graphics for the navigation screen are clear and uncluttered. I had no problems reading the gauges or navigation screen in bright sunlight.
Reading lamps over both rows of seating illuminate the interior at night. There are ample storage spaces around the passenger compartment including a locking glovebox, and an overhead console for a garage door opener or sunglasses. There are plenty of cup and bottle holders for both rows of passengers, and two, 12-volt power points for recharging cell phones.
Buyers with active lifestyles will appreciate the Passat’s cavernous trunk. Release latches near the trunk opening fold the second-row seats flat to extend the cargo floor. While sedans won’t hold bicycles as easily as crossover vehicles, the Passat trunk with the rear seats folded down could hold a road bike with the front wheel removed. The Passat comes with a full-sized spare tire mounted under the cargo floor.
All models come with Volkswagen’s ICRS system, which cuts off fuel, engine power, unlocks the doors and turns on the hazard lights after a collision. Front, side and side curtain airbags are standard, as well as four-channel antilock brakes, traction and stability control. Hill hold assist prevents the car from sliding backwards when accelerating from a stop on a steep grade. Volkswagen now includes complimentary scheduled maintenance for the first three years or 36,000 miles as part of its factory warranty.
Likes: An affordable midsized sedan with excellent performance, outstanding fuel economy and a 795-mile driving range. The turbo-diesel engine produces an abundance of power for seamless acceleration. The new Passat is roomier than the model it replaces with a high level of standard safety features.
Dislikes: Turbo-diesel model is not available with a cloth interior, which is easier to clean than leatherette. An all-wheel drive variant is not available.
Model: Passat 2.0 TDI SE
Base price: $25,995
As tested: N/A
Horsepower: 140 Hp @ 4000 rpm
Torque: 236 lbs.-ft. @ 1500-2500 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 31/43 mpg city/highway
2 responses to “2012 Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI SE”
tewkewl November 30th, 2011 at 00:25
you are deluded. the leatherette is by far the easiest to clean of ALL surfaces with cloth being the worst to clean…
Leatherette is great if you don’t live in the southwest. Out here because of the heat it gets a lot more sweat stains and it’s very uncomfortable.
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