Volkswagen is shooting for higher U.S. sales, so it has thoroughly Americanized its slow-selling Passat for 2012.
The new model is larger, roomier and comes in a variety of trim levels. It costs thousands less than previous Passats. And it’s built strictly for the U.S. market in a new Chattanooga, Tenn. plant—although Volkswagen notes that the car has “German engineering and sophistication.”
The new front-wheel-drive Passat sedan is stylish in an understated manner, and thus turns few heads. But it’s wider and considerably longer than previous Passats. Two tall adults can stretch in back, and the trunk is huge, although its high liftover can make loading cargo a bit difficult.
The 2012 Passat is roughly sized between the Hyundai Sonata and Honda Accord. Those popular cars are Passat rivals, as are the Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu and Kia Optima.
As with those autos, the new Passat isn’t really a sports sedan. However, it feels solid and its steering, handling and braking are quite good. The ride is supple enough to satisfy most Americans.
Passat prices start at $19,995 for the base six-speed manual-transmission “S” model with a 2.5-liter, 170-horsepower five-cylinder engine, automatic dual-zone climate control, power locks and windows and steering wheel audio controls. A six-speed automatic transmission raises the price of this base Passat to $22,690.
The top 2.5 version lists at $29,895 and has a sunroof, touchscreen radio, power front leather seats, navigation system, remote start and keyless entry. In between are five less costly trim levels with the 2.5 engine..
The 2.5 engine is a proven unit that gives respectable performance. But it’s for average drivers—not car enthusiasts—and isn’t as good as Volkswagen’s excellent turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder, which delivers 200 horsepower.
Fuel-conscious folks should look at the $25,995-$32,195 Passat TDI with its turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder diesel engine. It provides an estimated 31 mpg in the city and 43 on highways to give the Passat an estimated range of nearly 800 miles. While it produces only 140 horsepower, the diesel’s impressive torque provides good acceleration.
The basic TDI has a six-speed manual gearbox and a good number of features, including a power driver’s seat, touchscreen radio and heated front seats.
Volkswagen’s advanced DSG six-speed automatic transmission with a dual-clutch system ups the price of this version to $27,895—a price that includes a sunroof. The equipment-loaded top-line $32,195 TDI model has such items as leather upholstery, power front sport seats, navigation system, keyless entry and remote start.
I tested the top-line 2012 Passat with the 3.6-liter V-6, which has 280 horsepower and comes only with the DSG automatic, which can be easily shifted manually. The V-6 is a smooth engine and easily provides the fastest acceleration.
(As for mpg, figure on the low 20s in the city and low 30s on highways with the two non-diesel engines.)
The 3.6-liter Passat starts at $28,995 and goes to $32,950. Even the base version has leatherette seating, sunroof, power driver’s seat and heated front sports seats. There’s also a premium audio system and sliding front center armrest.
Add a navigation system with the 3.6 Passat and you’re at $30,595. And $32,950 gets you leather seats, keyless entry with remote start, wood grain interior decor and a power passenger seat.
Doors with large handles and wide openings provide easy entry. And the roomy, quiet interior looks good and has mostly handy controls and nicely placed cupholders. There are a fair number of storage areas, but fuel and temperature gauges are tiny.
Materials aren’t quite up to past Passat standards, but Volkswagen had to do cost-cutting to lower the car’s prices. An old-fashioned hood prop, instead of costlier hydraulic struts, now holds up the heavy hood.
The new Passat should appeal to a greater number of Americans and promises to contribute to Volkswagen’s plans to greatly increase sales here.
On the TFLcar.com recommendation scale of:
– Buy it
– Lease it
– Rent it or
I’d give the 9-5 a “buy” rating.
Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times–far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.’s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008. For of Dan’s thoughtful and insightful reviews please visit his web site HERE.
Check out our first drive video review of the new 2012 Passat below:
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