2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL Long-Term Update 6
Outgoing COTY takes a victory lap of the eastern U.S.
This update is being composed from the front passenger seat of our lame-duck COTY champ as my co-driver pedals the anchor leg of an eight-state holiday tour of the eastern U.S. We departed Detroit for family visits in Memphis, Tallahassee, and Atlanta. An odyssey like this—with stints as long as 800 miles—tells much about a car’s seat comfort and other potential fatigue factors such as wind noise and directional stability. On the latter counts the VW earns high marks, tracking bullet-train straight even during a two-hour wind-and-rain storm in Alabama. But after seven hours the firm, flat seats had us both squirming with butts asleep and lower backs twinging. We wondered if the two-way lumbar adjusters on the eight-way power seats might justify purchasing the $1500 Premium package, at least for long-haulers.
Other road-trip observations: Gas pumps always seem to click off unless you pull the nozzle out a bit, and because the wipers can’t be propped up from their park position, it’s harder to clean the windshield or leave them off the glass when parking outdoors during a snow/ice storm. At night the auto-dimming inside mirror is less effective than the old-fashioned flipper ones, and the low-beams don’t project far enough. We had the latter checked during a pre-trip Carefree Maintenance stop, and were assured they were aimed as high as possible. The complimentary 20K service (oil, filter, tire rotation, inspections) was handled while I waited, but an hour and three re-starts later the check-engine light illuminated. I doubled back to Suburban VW, where a hose from the intake airbox was reattached, fast and free. Was it jostled loose during service? Probably. Nobody’s perfect.
The only other “problem” we suffered was the sudden onset of a serious ride (not music) induced buzz that I traced to the housing for the Fender speakers under the package shelf. Jamming a pine stick in the gap quelled the noise. During this trip I made peace with this soon-to be euthanized five-banger. Some of you have complained of surge-y power delivery in our comments session, but I find it a surprisingly smooth operator. In normal use, its power/torque deficit only reveals itself when the transmission has to shift down one or two gears climbing gentle hills that our TDI manual would have grunted right up in sixth at highway speeds. The 2.5’s 27.7-mpg average fuel economy over 2524 miles can’t touch the TDI’s, but at least its 18.5-gallon tank lasts 500 miles. Not bad for a car whose roomy interior and strong value proposition impressed every family member that rode in it.
|Service life||10 months/23,655 mi|
|Average fuel economy||29.5 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||0.75 lb/mile|
|Energy consumption||114 kW-hr/100mi|
|Unresolved problems||Squeaking driver’s seat|
|Maintenance cost||$0 (oil change, rotate tires, inspection)|