Review: 2013 Volkswagen Passat S – Handles Like a German Sedan

2013 volkswagen passat s vw

The 2013 Volkswagen Passat is aiming at the heart of the family sedan market.  This means it’s going up against the heavy weights: Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, and many others.  Does it have what it takes to remain competitive?  Read on to find out.

STATS Starting Retail Price As Tested Price HP / Lb-Ft
2013 Volkswagen Passat S $22,945 $23,975 170 / 177
EPA Rating MPG As Tested MPG
Rating: BUY IT!  22 / 31 Combined 25  26.0

First Impressions

The 2013 Volkswagen Passat S has somewhat plain and main-stream appearance.  However, there is nothing ordinary about its cavernous interior and the big trunk capacity.  This car has huge rear seat legroom and a wide and deep trunk space to boot.

2013 vw passat profile fender 2014


The current generation of the Passat was introduced for the 2012 model year and exterior/interior design continues unchanged for 2013.  This generation of the Passat is laser focused on the United States market.  It sits on long 110.4 inch wheelbase and has a leading 102 cu-ft of interior passenger volume as well as the 15.9 cu-ft trunk capacity.  This car look substantial in person due to its imposing footprint.  The front of this base Passat has a cool lower grill design, but it otherwise blends into the crowd.  The rear is more distinctive, where you can find Volkswagen’s signature tail lamps with “hockey stick” design.

The interior follows the company tradition of simplicity and elegance.  The Passat did not lose VW’s interior design and style during the translation to the US market.  The American made Passat (assembled in Chattanooga, TN) provides the same snug and comfortable driver’s area as vdubs made in Mexico or Germany.  This entry level ‘S’ model does not have a lot of bells and whistles, and it makes the interior more clutter free and straight forward.  The base audio system will be familiar to you.  It’s got AM/FM, CD player, and AUX input for portable audio devices.  No satellite radio, or touch screen, or complicated applications.  This is what car audio systems have been  like for last couple of decades.  It’s simple and it works.  I did miss the satellite radio however.  I got spoiled by it.

2013 volkswagen passat interior dash steering wheel


The 2013 Volkswagen Passat S uses the 2.5-liter 5-cilynder workhorse found in many VW products over the last few years.  It’s smooth, not too loud, and has decent power.  It also offers good economy of 25 MPG combined as rated by EPA with the 6-speed automatic.  A 5-speed manual is also available and has a lower entry price.  This engine puts out 170 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque, so this is a torquey guy.  Still, this motor is showing its age.  There some competitive four cylinder engines that make about the same power.  Volkswagen understands this and will soon replace the good old five banger with the latest 1.8T.  Stay tuned for this, we hope to review the 1.8-liter turbo model in a few months.

As engaging as the manual transmissions are (see this CC R-Line review) the familiar 6-speed DSG automatic in this car is well matched to the engine and evokes no complaints.  The Sport mode on this transmission is nice and obvious.  It significantly changes the character of the car when you flip in and out of Sport.  The transmission gets very aggressive with the shift points and keep the engine much higher in the rpm range – right where all the power and torque are.  It wakes up the whole driving experience.  And the car returns to a more relaxed demeanor in regular Drive mode.

2013 vw passat 2.5 liter 5 cylinder engine motor


Have you ever heard the saying “it handles like a German car”?  Well, this Passat does.  The steering feels a bit over-boosted, requiring little effort to change direction.  However, it provides adequate feedback and the suspension makes the car feel composed and very controllable.  When compared to the CC R-Line, the Passat handling and ride are a notch more relaxed with a little more comfort dialed in.  And it should be, since the Passat is aimed at the broad market and will do duty as a family hauler and daily runabout.  Still, you will not be bored or nervous to take this large sedan on nice winding road.


Starting Retail Price City/Hwy MPG HP / Lb-Ft Interior cu-ft
2013 VW Passat S $23,945 22/31 170/177 102.0
 2014 Ford Fusion S $22,695 22/34 175/175 N/A
 2014 Honda Accord LX $23,545 27/36 185/181 N/A
2014 Toyota Camry L $23,045 25/35 178/170 N/A

Volkswagen positions the Passat against all the heavy hitters of the mid-size sedan class: Camry, Accord, etc.  However, the Passat is nearly big enough to be a full-size bruiser.  This is a tough crowd to be around, but the Passat is holding its own with well honed German manners and competitive pricing.  It’s getting the new 1.8T engine for 2014 model year, which provides plenty of power and better fuel economy and this should keep the Passat in the game.

On the TFLcar scale of:

  • Buy it!
  • Lease it!
  • Rent it!
  • … or Forget it!

I give the 2013 Volkswagen Passat S a Buy It!

This test car stickered at $23,975 with the DSG automatic transmission.  It’s hard to fault the entry level Passat in any area.  If you select the 5-speed manual, then you can get one for about a thousand dollars less.  It does everything that a modern mid-size sedan is supposed to.  This is the reason for the Buy It! rating.

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Andre Smirnov
Andre Smirnov

Andre Smirnov is a life-long automotive enthusiast, writer, reporter, and software engineer. He has been a contributor at TFLcar since 2011. When not working or spending time with the family – you can find him tinkering in the garage or simply ‘going for a drive’.