2013 Volkswagen Passat SEPosted on April 24th, 2013
Midsized sedan combines fun and practicality
By Nina Russin
The newest Volkswagen Passat proves that midsized sedans can function well as active lifestyle vehicles if they’re designed properly. To begin with, the trunk is cavernous: large enough to hold a bicycle with the rear seats folded flat. V-Tex leatherette seating looks like real leather but is easier to keep clean.
The sedan is also priced for buyers on a budget, with the base model starting at $20,845 for the base 2.5-liter engine and five-speed manual transmission. The upscale SE with the 3.6-liter, 280-horsepower V-6 and six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission costs $30,030 including the delivery charge.
Fuel economy is good across the model line-up, ranging from 43 miles-per-gallon highway for the turbo-diesel, to 28 for the V-6.
Built in Tennessee
Knowing that the Passat would be key to the brand’s continued growth stateside, Volkswagen made it the first model to be built at the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant. When I visited the plant, I was happy to find several trailheads in the vicinity. Evidently, a number of the employees are fairly serious mountain bikers.
Details such as the rear air vents, plentiful good-sized cupholders and well-bolstered seats reflect a familiarity with active Americans who like to take long road trips.
Test drive in Arizona
This week, I drove the Passat SE on a road trip between Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, as well as on highways and surface streets in both towns. I came away from that experience feeling that the Passat is a great choice as a primary vehicle, combining a hefty dose of performance with the versatility its audience is looking for.
The V-6 engine is a sweet piece of work, with abundant horsepower and torque. While I’ll always been a fan of manual transmissions, the dual clutch automatic comes quite close in terms of performance, with quick, precise shifts.
Fuel economy for my test drive was 29.4 miles-per-gallon: significantly better than the EPA estimate. After 300 miles of driving, the gas tank was still half full.
Although Phoenix city streets are too smooth to evaluate a suspension, some of the older parts of Tucson rival the Midwest. The four-wheel independent suspension on the Passat consists of damper struts with coil springs and lower control arms in front and a four-link design in the rear. It does a good job of absorbing jousts on well-worn city streets, while roll bars on both axles keep the chassis flat while cornering.
The power rack-and-pinion steering system gives the Passat a 36.4 turning circle, which is good enough for the occasional U-turn. It has a pleasantly heavy feel at speed with excellent on-center response.
Vented front and solid rear disc brakes stop the sedan in firm, linear fashion.
One of the reasons buyers choose midsize sedans over compact models is for rear legroom. The Passat has it in abundance. Rear passengers will also appreciate the overhead reading lamps and air vents behind the center console. Although the car has a tall floor tunnel, it’s narrow enough for the middle passenger to straddle, especially for short trips around town.
I found both the power driver’s seat and manually adjustable front passenger seat comfortable for drives of over two hours. HVAC and infotainment controls are easy to reach from both seating positions and intuitive to operate.
The test car comes with the premium Fender sound system: a nice perk on long road trips.
A center console bin, covered bin at the base of the center stack and locking glovebox are great places to stash cell phones and portable electronic devices. Two 12-volt power points up front recharge electronic devices on the go.
Both the center stack screen and gauge cluster are easy to read in bright sunlight.
Redundant steering wheel controls enable the driver to access the information screen in the gauge cluster, which includes fuel economy, oil and coolant temperatures, time elapsed and average speed. It also turns off the speed-warning chime, which I found to be more annoying than useful.
The only option I missed having on the car was a rearview camera. It comes with the premium model, but the difference in MSRP is about $4000, and the buyer must add other options he or she might not want, such as leather trim and navigation.
Both rows of passengers have access to bottle holders in the doors. Cup and bottle holders have, for a long time, been a sticking point with German car companies. It’s an example of how having a presence stateside has helped Volkswagen better understand its market.
As mentioned above, the Passat trunk is quite large, capable of holding multiple pieces of luggage for family road trips, golf bags, and small camping equipment. Release leavers near the trunk lid make it easy to fold the rear seats flat, extending the cargo floor for larger items.
The Volkswagen Passat comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes and electronic stability control.
The factory warranty includes complimentary scheduled maintenance and 24-hour roadside assistance for up to three years or 36,000 miles.
Like: A spacious, versatile sedan with excellent power and performance. The Passat has an abundance of rear legroom and a cavernous trunk that will appeal to buyers with active lifestyles.
Dislike: For cars equipped with the V-6 engine, the rearview camera is only available on the premium model.
Model: Passat SE with Sunroof
Base price: $29,235
As tested: $30,030
Horsepower: 280 Hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque: 258 lbs.-ft. @ 2500 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: Standard
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy*: 20/28 mpg city/highway
Comment: The manufacturer requires the use of 91 octane premium unleaded gasoline.2013, Best Value 2013, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, performance, pricing, standard safety, Volkswagen
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