New Car Reviews

2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI – Big Trips, Big Mileage

Mileage to date: 5431

Long-Term 2012 Volkswagen Passat Update: Summer 2012 Array Miles to date: 5,431

I averaged 44 mpg over 600 miles. This is the kind of mileage you expect from an economy car, and the Passat puts some of them to shame.

We predicted early on that the Volkswagen Passat TDI’s combination of space, comfort, and fuel economy would make it a popular choice for summer road trips. Sure enough, we racked up more than 1000 miles over the last month as staffers criss-crossed the state of Michigan.

Associate Web editor Jake Holmes kicked off the road trip season by ferrying his parents from Ann Arbor to Chicago for a weekend. The Passat seemed a perfect choice for the trip, as its trunk easily swallowed up every last bit of luggage, and provided rear-seat passengers with ample legroom. It also recorded some incredible fuel economy figures in the process.

“By the time we got to Chicago, the trip computer indicated 44 mpg,” writes Holmes. “Once I returned to Ann Arbor, I topped off the tank, and calculated an average of 41.5 mpg over 555 miles. That figure includes slogging around downtown Chicago, creeping through construction traffic on I-94, setting the cruise control at 75 mph, and using the air conditioning. Clearly, the Passat TDI is an incredibly frugal vehicle. Perhaps an efficiency-minded pilot could easily eke out 45 mpg on a highway run.”

Managing editor Amy Skogstrom came close to proving Holmes correct over the Fourth of July holiday, as she traveled 240 miles north to the city of Ludington. “I filled up before setting off, even though the fuel gauge showed the tank was half-full,” she notes. “I cruised at 80 mph when traffic allowed, and made the drive in less than three and a half hours. When I arrived, the gauge indicated the tank was still three-quarters full of diesel.”

After puttering around Ludington for a few days, Skogstrom then traveled another 100 miles north to Interlochen, where she discovered she still had a half-tank of fuel remaining. Winding her way back home on a mix of back roads and traditional highways, she returned to find she traveled a little over 600 miles, and still had a quarter-tank of diesel to spare. “By my calculations, I averaged about 44 mpg, which isn’t too shabby for a roomy four-door sedan. This is the kind of mileage you expect to see out of a small economy car, and the Passat puts some of those vehicles to shame.”

Thus far, our impressive fuel economy results seem to validate senior Web editor Phil Floraday’s belief that we ordered the perfect 2013 Passat. “The 2.5-liter I-5 is pretty thirsty for the performance it offers, and the VR6 offers pretty good performance with unacceptable thirst. The TDI hits the sweet spot because it delivers better highway mileage than most compact cars, but with as much interior and cargo volume as anyone can expect from a sedan.”

Several staffers came to appreciate the Passat’s suspension tuning over lengthy journeys. “The Germans certainly know their way around a chassis,” notes senior editor Eric Tingwall. “The Passat’s suspension is like Botox to the road’s wrinkles and creases, smoothing them into an even surface. It’s seriously impressive for a family sedan.”

So too is the steering. Tingwall continues: “Most midsize car buyers may not appreciate it, but the Passat TDI may have the best steering in the segment. The electrically assisted rack is reasonably quick without being twitchy, and the power assist is really nicely weighted. Some might say this is a frivolous detail in this anti-enthusiast segment, but why settle for spongy, overboosted electric power steering when it’s merely a matter of proper calibration?”

Excellent fuel economy, impressive suspension tuning, and perhaps the best steering feel for the class? Right now we’re full of praise for the Passat TDI. Check back next month to see if our feelings cool as the summer heats up.


  • Base price (with dest.) $30,265
  • Price as tested $30,365
  • Body Style 4-door sedan
  • Accommodation 5-passenger
  • Construction Steel unibody


  • Engine 16-valve DOHC turbodiesel I-4
  • Displacement 2.0 liters (120 cu in)
  • Power 140 hp @ 4000 rpm
  • Torque 236 lb-ft @ 1750 rpm
  • Transmission 6-speed dual-clutch automatic
  • Drive Four-wheel
  • Fuel Economy 30/40/34 (city/hwy/combined)


  • Steering Electrically assisted
  • Turns lock-to-lock 3.0
  • Turning circle 36.4 ft
  • Suspension, Front Control arms, coil springs
  • Suspension, Rear Multilink, coil springs
  • Brakes F/R Vented disc/disc
  • Wheels 18-inch aluminum alloy
  • Tires Hankook OptimoH426
  • Tire Size 235/45HR-18


  • Headroom F/R 38.3/37.8 in
  • Legroom F/R 42.4/39.1 in
  • Shoulder Room F/R 56.9/57.0 in
  • Wheelbase 110.4 in
  • Track F/R 62.1/61.0 in
  • L x W x H 191.6 x 72.2 x 58.5 in
  • Passenger Capacity 102.0 cu ft
  • Caro Capacity 15.9 cu ft
  • Weight 3459 lb
  • Weight dist. F/R TBD
  • Fuel Capacity 18.5 gal
  • Est. Range 630 miles
  • Fuel Grade Diesel


  • standard equipment

    • Power sunroof
    • Touchscreen navigation
    • iPod cable
    • Fog lights
    • Leatherette seating surfaces
    • Automatic dual-zone climate control
    • SiriusXM satellite radio w/3-month subscription
    • Bluetooth
    • Auxiliary audio jack
    • Tilt-and-telescopic steering column
    • Cruise control
    • Hill start assist
    • Automatic headlights w/coming home function
    • Heated front seats
    • Power driver’s seat
    • 60/40-split folding rear seats
    • Front and rear armrests w/storage
    • Intermittent front wipers w/heated washer nozzles
    • Stability and traction control


  • Wheel locks $100