First Drive: 2012 Volkswagen Passat

While the rest of the mid-size world moves toward a fuel-stingy future with four-cylinder-only engine lineups, Volkswagen is adding a six-cylinder back into the Passat family after a three-year absence. The 3.6-liter, narrow-angle V-6 makes 280 hp and 258 lb-ft and is mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic. The marketers say it's what the segment wants, but anybody who's driven Hyundai's 274-hp, 35-highway-mpg Sonata Turbo can make a compelling argument otherwise. Although the 200-hp version of the VW 2.0T is weak by today's standards, the Volkswagen Group has other applications where the 2.0T produces more than 260 hp and 250 lb-ft. The VR6 wasn't on hand for our test drive, but the decision not to use the turbo four-cylinder leaves us sore on a philosophical point. The company that committed to the turbo four long before Ford or Hyundai or BMW got religion is now forsaking its best engine for a market that is rapidly disappearing.

The peace offering is Volkswagen's superb 2.0-liter turbo-diesel. At 31/43 mpg, the 2.0 TDI is not as efficient as either the Ford Fusion Hybrid or the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, but it's an engine that, compared with the other fuel-economy specials, carries the virtues of big torque and big spirit. The choice of either a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic is a reminder that this diesel is the driving man's alternative to a hybrid. It delivers a broad band of turbocharged thrust scaled to a diesel's truncated tachometer and complemented by the crisp, full-throttle upshifts of the DSG transmission.

The Passat's weight (a reasonable 3400 pounds in TDI spec) necessitates the 2.0-liter diesel's first use of a urea tank to clean up exhaust emissions. It will need to be refilled at 10,000-mile intervals. Curiously, the largest and most expensive of the TDI cars is less refined than what you get with the Golf TDI. In the Passat, the engine is both louder and transmits more vibration into the cabin, and at every stop there's the audible slap of liquid -- either fuel or urea -- sloshing against the front of the tank.

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!
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???
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.
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?
--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$$.--
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.
Can anyone say 1997 Camry??
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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