At Diesel Power, we like to think we have one of the best jobs in the world. Of course, that doesn't mean we don't have our rare down days—one of which came recently when our friends at Volkswagen came to retrieve the keys to their 2013 Passat TDI. Our time with the hardworking Passat went by so fast, we had to double-check the calendar to make sure it was really time to part ways.
After a year—and a total of 24,484 miles under our steel-belted radials—we had grown to like our Passat so much that one of our staffers even considered buying our car from Volkswagen to continue his commutes. Even in notorious stop-and-go traffic, the big car with the little 2.0L turbodiesel managed to return impressive fuel economy numbers. In fact, our worst tank (31.44 mpg) was still better than the EPA's city cycle estimate of 30 mpg. Try doing that in a hybrid.
| The suede-like seating inserts had no abnormal wear, and the seat still looked great after a year.
Mated to a willing and quick-shifting six-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission, the TDI engine almost always seemed to be right on top of the powerband, the sole exception being a hint of turbo lag off the line. Compared with the temperamental and highly panned earlier-generation gearboxes, today's DSGs have come a long way. We noted zero issues with the transmission in our car, even after ekeing out the occasional tire chirps, much to the dismay of the traction nannies. Once you understand how a DSG trans works and adjust your driving, especially at very low speeds, any jerkiness all but disappears. What's left is a very good trans that rapid-fires shifts quicker than you could if you had control over the clutch.
As we rolled on the miles, we noticed the little diesel loosening up and delivering consistent improvements in fuel economy. For example, we took the Passat on a road trip last year for the 2013 edition of Diesel Power Challenge and averaged about 40 mpg with around 1,000 miles in the car from Los Angeles to Denver and back. This year, on the same stretch of highway, with similar conditions, we saw the number improve to about 42 mpg.
During this year's journey, we came within 11 miles of hitting our goal of 800 miles on a tank. Despite falling short of this goal, the Passat still posted a phenomenal 46.54 mpg from Orange County, California, to Parachute, Colorado. Keep in mind, this was with an average speed of more than 70 mph through weather and elevation gains—and by no means were we nursing the car along or trying to hypermile. As it turned out, we had enough fuel to make it to 800 but were running low in an unfamiliar area with the fuel light on, which made us nervous enough to tap out early. What the diesel gets in efficiency, it doesn't give up in power. While it's not a V-6, the car is geared just right for the highway and neither acceleration nor passing power has ever left us wanting.
| With clean sound and decent bass, we enjoyed listening to our favorite playlists through the Fender-branded audio system.
The other advantage of the Passat is its size and comfort. The ride is relaxed, the steering precise, and the brakes solid. Roominess, especially the cross-your-legs legroom in the expansive rear seat, is a hallmark for this car. It's a big car that gets small car fuel economy and truck-like range. As we've said before, the Passat is truly a no-compromise choice for those looking for a family sedan that might see a long commute but still needs to transport the brood with ease.
During the Passat's stay with the Diesel Power team, we took advantage of its 10,000-mile service intervals as part of VW's no-cost Carefree Maintenance program (for 2013 it lasts 3 years/36,000 miles, for 2014 it's 2 years/24,000 miles). Scheduled maintenance, provided to us by local dealer McKenna Volkswagen in Huntington Beach, California, was quick and easy, ensuring we weren't without a car for more than a few hours per visit.
While it's easy to get used to the extended service intervals, we did have a few unscheduled stops along the way. Two minor warranty issues—a creaky dash trim piece and a navigation system that would freeze up on occasion—were both fixed by VW at no charge. On the bad luck side of things, one of our testers drove over something in the roadway that blew both tires on the passenger side, and we were also rear-ended in traffic. Despite those incidents, the Passat was quickly repaired and soldiered on with no further problems.
So how do we feel about a car with a 600-plus-mile range, comfort for five, and a torquey diesel? As you can tell, we think highly of it, and the Passat is at the top of our list for diesel car recommendations. With the '15 model year comes a higher-output and more efficient version of the beloved 2.0L TDI, so from where we stand, the Passat just became an even more attractive choice for the diesel car buyer.
| The Continental tires looked new—even with almost 25,000 miles on them—but they remained noisy on concrete surfaces.
|Report: 4 of 4|
November 2013, April 2014, September 2014|
|Base price:|| $33,710|
|Price as tested:|| $33,710|
|Miles to date:|| 21,072|
|Miles since last report:|| 3,547|
|Average mpg (this report):|| 38.89 mpg|
|Test best tank: ||46.54 mpg|
|Test worst tank:|| 31.44 mpg|
|Maintenance: ||10K Service – No Charge|
(2) 18-inch Continental Tires: $562.62
20K Service – No Charge
|Problem Areas:|| Creaky trim, slow-operation head unit
(replaced under warranty)|
|We Like:|| Conservative styling, roomy cabin, reliable and consistent performance.|
|We'd Change:|| Offer the manual trans/diesel combo in higher trim levels, add a sportier
|We Say:|| Looking for a do-it-all family sedan? Look no further.|
|Logbook Quotes: ||"The EPA city number is 30. The worst tank in the logbook is just over 31."|
"Is it weird to anyone else that the headlight switch won't allow the use of the driving lights in automatic mode?"
"Remote start is odd. The car starts and runs fine but then turns off when
I open the door. Sort of pointless."
"I like this car, but too bad the
manual is only available in the
base TDI model."
"Passengers are surprised this is a diesel; it's quiet enough that no one even notices anything unusual
beyond the torque."