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2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL Long-Term Update 5

Trading diesel/manual character for navi, sunroof and Fender audio

Todd Lassa
Mar 25, 2013
Contributors: Julia LaPalme
Photographers: Motor Trend Staff
After a movie at the Detroit Film Theater uptown, we headed for a nearby dim sum restaurant. Julia LaPalme had left us a tankful of unleaded regular when she traded the 2.5 SEL for Detroit's SE TDI, and 430 miles later, we were five miles to empty.
Photo 2/9   |   2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL Front Three Quarter
This time, I didn't have to seek out a diesel pump. Just pulled into a Detroit Mobil station. Of course, the TDI would have had enough range to find diesel in Toronto.
So it goes with the five-cylinder, gasoline-powered Passat. Inside the austere German-American midsize sedan, the SEL's burled woodgrain interior trim in place of the TDI's brushed nickel-on-black pleather looks very '75 Olds 88. The gas SEL has the same capacious rear seat and fun dynamics. It also has navigation, Fender hi-fi and a sunroof, all of which our TDI manual lacks. The SEL's driver's automatic-up window has a disturbing squeak, probably a tight rubber seal.
Photo 3/9   |   2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL Center Stack
It lacks the TDI rattle-and-hum that you hear only when you lower the window to pay for parking -- the Passat's unique selling proposition, making it stand out in the vanilla segment. Yes, it's still best-in-class, though it's missing that "wow" factor; no more bragging about 44-mpg averages on a mostly highway trip to Kenosha and back on a single tank after driving it like someone who works for an enthusiasts' magazine. While the TDI's turbo lag gives way to torquey surges under hard throttle, the gasoline five's performance is merely smooth and adequate.

Our Cars
Service Life 8 months/18,976 miles
Average Fuel Economy 25.5 mpg
CO2 Emissions 0.76 lb/mile
Energy Consumption 152 kW-hr/100miles
Unresolved problems Squeaking driver's seat
Maintenance cost $0 (oil change, rotate tires, inspection)
Normal-wear cost $0

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