2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI SE/2.5 SEL Verdict
I was informed by our local VW dealer that from the tire wear, they suspect someone has been drifting our Passat.
In November 2011, we named the all-new, designed for and built in America Volkswagen Passat Motor Trend's Car of the Year. At the same event, the midsize sales favorite Toyota Camry didn't even make it to the finalist round. Fast-forward to our December 2012 issue, when the Camry was joined by the newer competition from Ford, Chevy, Nissan, and Honda, who had all had a year of extra training before the big fight, and the Passat still rolled away with the win in our six-car comparo.
So what makes the Passat so good? It isn't one particular thing; it's the complete package. While the driving dynamics of most of the cars in the midsize category fall between snooze-inducing and adequate, the Passat is a joy to drive. Steering is communicative, and the body movements respond predictably in unison. It drives much smaller than it is, which is saying something given its size. In the midsize comparo, the Passat got the nod by our editors for roominess in the front and the rear seats. This was reinforced time and again throughout the year when we got out of "bigger cars" and sprawled out in the Passat.
We racked up 25,332 miles on the TDI SE and 25,521 on the 2.5-liter SEL. If you've been following the updates, you'll realize our TDI started out living at our Detroit branch, and the 2.5 was delivered to our El Segundo Global Command Center. Roughly halfway through their terms, the vehicles were switched for a truly fair comparison. TDI fans won't be surprised that our TDI beat the EPA mpg ratings of 31/43/35 city/highway/combined, returning 39.4 mpg combined under our right feet. On a few road trips, the diesel-powered Passat achieved close to 50 mpg. The real surprise was our 2.5 bettering EPA numbers, even if just barely. The five-cylinder automatic is rated at 22/31/25, and our combined average came in at 25.7 mpg. Our usage might have favored highway driving, although bettering the EPA's 31 mpg on highway jaunts wasn't difficult to do.
While the 2.5-liter I-5 generally gets brushed off as outdated, there were no complaints about power or efficiency -- the only complaint was about the lazy throttle response. The slight delay between foot and thrust stems from electronics and not the engine itself. The TDI received nothing but praise. Big torque, good throttle response, and road trips without fuel stops made it a traveling favorite. One of my own trips involved filling up in Huntington Beach, California, driving to Las Vegas, driving around that town for three days, and driving back to Huntington Beach. I filled up at the gas station with 694 miles on the tripometer, and the tank required 16.5 gallons. For those not math-inclined, the calculation returns the answer of 42 mpg. At the end of the year, the TDI had consumed $2628.75 worth of diesel. That probably doesn't mean much, until you consider the 2.5-liter required $3995.21 for virtually the same mileage. Volkswagen doesn't build gas- and diesel-powered cars exactly apples to apples, but with fuel costs alone, the TDI would pay for itself in fewer than 60,000 miles. This isn't including the astronomical resale values that historically accompany a TDI badge on a VW, or assigning a value to driving a car with a better engine.
During our year with the Passats, we took them in for four oil changes, a tire rotation each, a full inspection each, and two cabin air filters. All this for the grand total of zero U.S. dollars with VW's free maintenance. The only issue either car had was a squeaky driver's seat the service department at the VW dealer in Huntington Beach couldn't duplicate, even after I demonstrated it to them.
Slight service-oriented issues aside, we were sad to see our Passats go. We loved the TDI engine, but appreciated the extra features on the 2.5 SEL. The Fender audio system in SELs is well worth the price; the RNS510 navigation is a treat; and we even found ourselves missing the keyless ignition. In both cars, the rear seat rivals or even exceeds those of most other cars I've driven this year. The interior is quiet and comfortable. We loved the design of the car more and more as time went on.
The Passat wowed us a year ago at Car of the Year and is still an American midsize sedan benchmark.
|2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI SE||2012 Volkswagen Passat 2.5 SEL|
|Total mileage||12 mo/25,332 mi||12 mo/25,521 mi|
|Options||Monster Mats ($235: floor mats, trunk liner), First Aid Kit ($35)||Monster Mats ($235: floor mats, trunk liner), First Aid Kit ($35)|
|Average Fuel Econ||39.4 mpg||25.7 mpg|
|CO2 emissions||0.56 lb/mi||0.75 lb/mi|
|Price as tested||$27,035||$29,435|
|Unresolved problems||None||Squeaking driver’s seat|
|Maintenance cost||$0 (2-oil change, inspection; 1-cabin-air filter, tire rotation)||$0 (2-oil change, inspection; 1-cabin-air filter, tire rotation)|
|3-year residual value*||$15,140||$15,306|
|*Automotive Lease Guide|
| ||2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI SE||2012 Volkswagen Passat 2.5 SEL|
|DRIVETRAIN LAYOUT||Front engine, FWD||Front engine, FWD|
|ENGINE TYPE||Turbodiesel I-4, iron block/aluminum head||I-4, iron block/aluminum head|
|VALVETRAIN||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl||DOHC, 4 valves/cyl|
|DISPLACEMENT||120.1 cu in/1968 cc||151.4 cu in/2480 cc|
|POWER (SAE NET)||140 hp @ 4000 rpm||170 hp @ 5700 rpm|
|TORQUE (SAE NET)||236 lb-ft @ 1750 rpm||177 lb-ft @ 4250 rpm|
|REDLINE||5000 rpm||6000 rpm|
|WEIGHT TO POWER||24.1 lb/hp||19.5 lb/hp|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed manual||6-speed automatic|
|AXLE/FINAL-DRIVE RATIO||3.68:1 (1-4), 2.92 (5,6,R)/2.10:1||3.87:1/2.59:1|
|SUSPENSION, FRONT; REAR||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar||Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar; multilink, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|BRAKES, F;R||12.3-in vented disc; 10.7-in disc, ABS||12.3-in vented, disc; 10.7-in disc, ABS|
|WHEELS||7.0 x17-in, cast aluminum||7.0 x 17-in, cast aluminum|
|TIRES||215/55R17 94H M+S Continental ContiProContact||215/55R17 94H M+S Continental ContiProContact|
|WHEELBASE||110.4 in||110.4 in|
|TRACK, F/R||62.1/61.0 in||62.1/61.0 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||191.6 x 72.2 x 58.5 in||191.6 x 72.2 x 58.5 in|
|TURNING CIRCLE||36.4 ft||36.4 ft|
|CURB WEIGHT||3379 lb||3314 lb|
|WEIGHT DIST, F/R||59/41%||59/41%|
|HEADROOM, F/R||38.3/37.8 in||38.3/37.8 in|
|LEGROOM, F/R||42.4/39.1 in||42.4/39.1 in|
|SHOULDER ROOM, F/R||56.9/57.0 in||56.9/57.0 in|
|CARGO VOLUME||15.9 cu ft||15.9 cu ft|
|ACCELERATION TO MPH|
|0-30||3.1 sec||2.9 sec|
|PASSING, 45-65 MPH||4.8||5.1|
|QUARTER MILE||17.0 sec @ 82.4 mph||16.8 sec @ 82.8 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||123 ft||130 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.86 g (avg)||0.83 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||27.7 sec @ 0.65 g (avg)||27.7 sec @ 0.60 g (avg)|
|TOP-GEAR REVS @ 60 MPH||1650 rpm||1900 rpm|
|AIRBAGS||Dual front, front side, f/r head||Dual front, front side, f/r head|
|BASIC WARRANTY||3 yrs/36,000 mi||3 yrs/36,000 mi|
|POWERTRAIN WARRANTY||5 yrs/60,000 mi||5 yrs/60,000 mi|
|ROADSIDE ASSISTANCE||3 yrs/36 mi||3 yrs/36 mi|
|FUEL CAPACITY||18.5 gal||18.5 gal|
|EPA CITY/HWY ECON||31/43 mpg||22/31 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||123/89 kW-hrs/100 mi||153/109 kW-hrs/100 mi|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.63 lb/mi||0.77 lb/mi|
|RECOMMENDED FUEL||Diesel||Unleaded regular|