The all-new 2012 Volkswagen Passat sedan has a lot going for it. It may not be as sporty as the GTI or as sexy as the CC, but the Passat is cleanly attractive and serves up traditional German engineering excellence even though it was designed specifically for the U.S. market and is built in the brand new VW plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The new Passat comes with a high level of content in standard premium features that include automatic dual-zone climate control and Bluetooth. It also offers the only clean diesel option in the midsize market segment with a manufacturer estimated Best-in-Class 43 mpg highway mileage along with nearly an 800-mile range. Rear seat legroom is class-leading, and there is a no-charge 3-year/36,000 mile Carefree Maintenance Program.
The 2012 Passat is the largest ever produced, while maintaining balanced proportions in a timeless and dominant style. The front end displays VW’s new horizontal face, with the grille and headlamps exhibiting the effect of being a single unit. The grille is sculpted in a three-dimensional form and more upright position. From the side of its coupe-like appearance, highly pronounced wheel arches emphasize the dynamic properties of the aerodynamically flowing roofline and strong, rising horizontal character line and door cutlines. The rear of the car also showcases a horizontal theme with the wide, two-part taillamps that are integrated into both the fenders and trunk.
There are a total of 15 different build combinations available for the new Passat, compared to 128 offered in 2008. Three engine choices are offered along with two transmission choices. All engines are positioned up front in an East/West orientation and drive the front wheels. The base engine is a 2.5-liter, 170 horsepower, inline five-cylinder. Next up is a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder Turbo diesel with direct injection that generates 140 horsepower, while also delivering 236 pound feet of torque. The third powerplant offering is a 3.6-liter VR6 that produces 280 horses and 258 pound feet of torque.
The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mates to a six-speed manual transmission, with an optional automatic available – trim levels include: S, SE, SEL and SEL Premium. Starting price is $19,995. The 2.0-liter TDI Clean Diesel also comes with a choice of stick or auto six-speed gearboxes, with a beginning sticker of $25,995 and two trim levels – SE and SEL. The beginning price for the 3.6-liter VR6 is $28,995. Only a six-speed DSG automatic transmission is available for the 3.6-liter motor. Add a $770 Destination charge for all models.
The Passat’s interior exemplifies a look and feel generally only found in more expensive vehicles. The structure is clean, simple and geometrically formal with chrome-trimmed gauges and the use of premium quality materials, utilized in an old world craftsmanship execution. Seating is highly comfortable and all switchgear is ergonomically placed for optimum user friendliness.
I was able to experience only a couple of examples of preproduction 2012 Passats, spending the most time in a 2.0-liter TDI Clean Diesel in SEL Premium trim with an automatic transmission. The exterior was finished in a Titanium metallic with a Bone and Charcoal leather interior featuring polished wood trim accents. Included as standard was the new Fender Premium Audio system. The base price was set at $32,195 while the final sticker read $32,965.