First Drive: 2012 Volkswagen Passat

2012-volkswagen-passat

This isn't a sales projection, nor is it the validation of a business case. An Automobile Magazine review isn't the place for that. As automotive savants, we -- and presumably you, too -- are more interested in a car's merits as a car, independent of where it's built, how it's advertised, and what the dealer network looks like. We simply want to know how well machine pairs with man and mission.

But you can't separate the 2012 Volkswagen Passat from its sales target. The car has become exactly what the lofty sales goal demands. Executives won't say exactly how many Passats they hope to move, only that the number has six figures. Last year, only 12,497 Passats rolled off dealer lots in America. And thus the 2012 Passat was born.

Standing twenty feet from it, I am struck by emotions that eat at me in an uncomfortable way -- confusion, concern, skepticism -- as a brand with a definitive image arrives at the lowest common denominators of the American mid-size sedan. There's the sense that with every crease of the sheetmetal, every tenth of an inch of legroom, and every penny of the price, Volkswagen vigilantly calculated how many buyers would be won and how many buyers would be lost.

To fit our tastes (and our waists!), the Ideal American Mid-Size Sedan must be approximately 190 inches long, 72 inches wide, and 58 inches tall. To get there, the Passat has grown by about four inches in length and wheelbase over the outgoing car while adding a half inch in width and height. Dimensionally, it falls between the Honda Accord and the Hyundai Sonata, a car that the VW marketing team seemed to gingerly avoid mentioning in its presentation to journalists.

Of course, it's hard to imagine many buyers cross-shopping the Passat with the new segment standard, since they sit at opposite ends of the style spectrum. Volkswagen has always played it conservatively when it comes to design, but the new Passat (and the 2011 Jetta before it) has taken clean and understated styling to a new level, overshooting the target and instead arriving at anonymous and uninspired. It's enough to make the Toyota Camry look interesting, dynamic, even exciting.

The real price of entry into the mainstream market, however, is...well, the price of entry. And on that front, Volkswagen has taken drastic measures to get into the game, cutting $7000 from the base price. Of a $27,000 car.

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bmod14
The 2012 Tiguan has a transmission problem. Earlier models don't have the problem. VW should do something about it, I own one and am having performance problems with it. Check out this link!http://forums.vwvortex.com/showthread.php?5398734-2012-Tiguan-09G-program-is-HORRID
benwilbanks
The car will sell well in the US if the drop in price doesn't show yp too much in the precieved quality of interior, etc.Quiter, cushier, yet controlled ride, much lower price, sounds good to me.Now, if someone would come up with a design that reduces that intrusive console and the rear floor hump in front drive cars. Why???
KocsiLover
Tooooo bad VW dumbed down the Jetta and Passat for the American market. VW's plan to sell more of each model could work but in the end VW's image will be hurt because of cost cutting measures. I'll be looking at either a CC or a last generation pre-owned Passat when it's time to replace my '06 GLI.
bae125
This is not really my style of car, but I was very, very surprised. For those expressing doubt, go drive one. You think the Sonata is really that good? It is, until you get inside this. Before the key even turns you'll understand the difference.This car will sell because it seems to be what the American public wants, whether we like it or not. Take a look at the best selling cars; are any of them what you really want or drive?
almprin06
--Really?VW's 170HP 2.5L 5-cyl. makes 30 LESS horsepower while using MORE gas than Hyundai's 200HP GDI 2.4L 4-cyl.? Really?! Wow. Hyundai is really kicking VW's a$$.--
Tampanews
It should be noted that VW in Europe is the most mainstream product out there. Even its name suggests proletarian. The suggestion that VW is traditionally a high-end product makes little sense. Most VWs have historically been nothing more than front-drive family sedans. Perhaps because of high labor costs they have been unable to compete on price in the mainstream segment. Clever marketing more than anything else has been able to mask the manufacturer's shortcomings.
CincyGT2009
Can anyone say 1997 Camry??
JPnyc
I think this car will sell well, despite its obvious omissions. In fact I think it might attract quite a few Mercedes and BMW shoppers, who have been "outstyled" by their own brands. This Passat, in character, looks very much like some of the German luxury midsize models of the not too distant past. Not a bad pedigree, I say.

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