2012 Volkswagen Passat
  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat front 3/4 view

  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
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  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat front 3/4 view

  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
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  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
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  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
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  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
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  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
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  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
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  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
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  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
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  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
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  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
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  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
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  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat engine

  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat engine

  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat interior

  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat steering wheel

  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
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  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
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  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat audio system

  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat navigation system

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  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
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  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
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  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat urea exhaust additive tank

  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat
  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat trunk

Vital Stats

Engine:
2.0L Turbo Diesel
Power:
140 HP / 236 lb-ft
Transmission:
6-Speed DSG
0-60 Time:
9.1 sec
Top Speed:
118 mph
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,397 lbs
Seating:
2+3
Cargo:
15.9 cu-ft
MPG:
31 City / 43 Hwy
Americanized Sedan Shows Its German Roots


2012 Volkswagen Passat - Click above for high-res image gallery

The 2012 Volkswagen Passat is facing a kind of perfect storm of skepticism from long-time fans of the brand. Volkswagen has wasted no chance to tell the world that the company's newest sedan will be custom-tailored to the American market, with styling and packaging tweaks designed to set the vehicle apart from its European counterpart. If that weren't enough, the new North American Passat will also carry the distinction of being the first VW product to be built at the automaker's brand-new assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

VW fans have always embraced the German flavor of their vehicles, but as the company pushes toward its (massively ambitious) goal of selling 800,000 units per year by 2018, we can expect to see more market-specific products in our neck of the woods. That trend kicked off with the 2011 Jetta – a vehicle that sacrificed interior materials and suspension refinement to meet a lower price point while growing larger to accommodate American tastes.

Does the Passat share a similar fate? When the sedan first debuted at this year's Detroit Auto Show, it came packing a host of styling cues lifted directly from the smaller Jetta. That lead many onlookers (ourselves included) to conclude that in creating its new mid-sized sedan, Volkswagen had simply supersized the Jetta.

Fortunately, that's not the case.

There's no denying that the 2012 Passat is cut from the same design cloth as the 2011 Jetta. In fact, when the two vehicles are parked next to one another, it takes a keen eye to distinguish between the two. That's thanks in no small part to the fact that Volkswagen has slathered its new familial nose over the fascia, hood and fenders of both vehicles. The look is right at home on the larger Passat, with its slightly aggressive headlights, three-bar grille and scowling hood. Along the sides of the vehicle, a new crease runs from stem to stern just below the window sills.

The rear of the vehicle is adorned with taillamps that do a smart job of integrating both that crease and additional body lines. While the overall aesthetics of the Passat's exterior is conservative compared to offerings like the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima, the overall effect is incredibly cohesive. Nothing seems tacked on. Instead, the exterior seems to be the product of a singular vision with a focus on getting the details right. No matter where your eyes rest, they're bound to fall on a line that runs nearly uninterrupted around the entire vehicle. It may not raise anyone's pulse, but in the flesh, the four-door carries itself well.

Base models wear 16-inch steel wheels with plastic covers, though 16-, 17- and 18-inch alloy rollers are also available depending on the trim specification. The options are somewhat smallish by today's standards, but larger sizes look sharp enough rolling down the road.

2012 Volkswagen Passat side view2012 Volkswagen Passat front view2012 Volkswagen Passat rear view

Indoors, we were happy (relieved?) to find a cabin that has lost very little of its German flavor on its way to the States. While the Jetta swapped most of its softer dash and trim components for well-grained but cheap-feeling plastics, the Passat has held onto higher-quality materials, at least in the places that matter most. The upper portion of the dash is clad in soft-touch goodness, though everything below the copious amounts of faux wood-grain trim is treated to the harder stuff. Still, touches like a leather-wrapped steering wheel in higher trims and excellent seating surfaces go a long way toward making the cabin feel like a quality space. Volkswagen said that it specifically wanted to focus on the vehicle's touch points – that is, where your body actually makes contact with the cabin – and that work has paid off.

For 2012, Volkswagen has built almost four additional inches into the Passat, and most of that length has found its way into the rear foot well. Rear passengers are now treated to 39.1 inches of legroom, which is nearly a full inch more than the Toyota Camry and almost two inches more than the Honda Accord. For drivers with kids, that translates into miles of motoring bliss without feeling Junior kicking you in the back from his car seat. It also means that even the jolliest of green giants can fit in the back without feeling cramped.

2012 Volkswagen Passat interior2012 Volkswagen Passat gauges2012 Volkswagen Passat audio system2012 Volkswagen Passat rear seats

One of the biggest highlights of the 2012 Passat interior is its sound system. Volkswagen teamed up with Fender to create a nine-speaker audio system that pushes 400 watts of power. We aren't certified audiophiles, but to our ears, the stereo is capable of besting anything else in the segment. While an integrated subwoofer is part of the kit, the bass is never overbearing. Instead, deeper tones are nearly seamlessly integrated into the music. The system is standard on SEL models and optional on both S and SE trims.

Volkswagen has worked to slim its option sheet to just 16 buildable combinations down from 128 possibilities, and as a result, long-time Passat fans will find a few notable omissions. Buyers will no longer be able to enjoy a wagon version of the vehicle. Likewise, 4Motion all-wheel drive is nowhere to be found. Volkswagen admits it deleted those options to make ordering easier on both dealers and buyers and to focus its products where American shoppers spend the most money. Additionally, the 2012 Passat is only available with three engines. Those include a 2.5-liter gasoline five-cylinder with 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque as well as a 3.6-liter gasoline V6 with 280 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of twist.

2012 Volkswagen Passat engine

The Passat will also be available with a 2.0-liter turbocharged diesel four-cylinder with 140 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. That means this four-door is the only sedan in the mid-sized segment available with an oil-burning engine under its hood, a move that wins it all sorts of points in our book.

The smaller of the gasoline engine options will be available with either a six-speed automatic transmission or a five-speed manual gearbox, while the larger V6 can only be had with the dual-clutch cog-swapper. We're happy to report that Volkswagen has left some quirkiness in the Passat line by offering the 2.0 TDI engine with both the DSG and a six-speed manual option.

You can probably guess which we'd opt for.

2012 Volkswagen Passat shifter2012 Volkswagen Passat fuel door

We were able to spend time in both a 2.5-liter, automatic-equipped Passat and its 2.0-TDI, DSG counterpart in mixed driving. Though the big German sedan weighs in between 3,300 and 3,400 pounds depending on engine and transmission choices, neither engine has a particularly hard time moving the Passat in any conditions. The five-cylinder gasoline engine offers similar power to four-cylinder options in both the Camry and Accord, and as such, there's enough grunt on hand to keep the vehicle on pace with the rest of traffic. The six-speed dual-clutch transmission offers quick, smooth shifts with excellent logic for choosing the right gear at the right time, though expect to downshift a gear or two for long grades or quick acceleration.

VW says that while the EPA hasn't finished its fuel economy evaluation for the Passat, the company expects the 2.5-liter powered sedan to see 21 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway in manual guise and 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway with the autobox of our tester. Those numbers put the base entry around three mpg behind the Hyundai Sonata on the combined scale and 1.5 mpg behind a comparably equipped Honda Accord.

2012 Volkswagen Passat headlight2012 Volkswagen Passat grille2012 Volkswagen Passat wheel2012 Volkswagen Passat taillight

Of course, if fuel economy is your concern, the 2.0-liter TDI is the engine to have. While down on horsepower compared to the larger-displacement gasoline engine, the four-cylinder lump kicks out a walloping 59 more pound-feet of torque. As a result, the TDI-equipped Passat feels and drives like a sedan you want to spend time in. The 2.5-liter plays Justin Bieber to the diesel four-door's Barry White – both are plenty successful, but after a while, you only really want to listen to one of the two.

As in other applications, all that torque comes on at a low 1,750 rpm, which means you're rewarded with an addictive amount of low-end grunt that pulls with a vengeance. As in the Jetta TDI, the 2.0-liter engine is quiet both inside and out, producing marginally more engine noise than its petrol counterparts. If this is beginning to read like a love letter to the little oil-sucker, it's not by mistake. All told, VW expects to see 31 mpg city and 43 mpg highway for a total of 37 mpg combined. Remarkably, those are all better numbers than the official ones for the smaller 2011 Jetta TDI, which scores 30/42/34 mpg from the EPA. We encountered just over 40 mpg combined during our time behind the wheel of the Passat TDI.



If there's a downside to going diesel, it lies in the fact that the Passat requires a urea exhaust additive to combat particulate emissions. The automaker says that the special tank only needs to be filled every 10,000 miles, even though the vehicle can theoretically make it 50,000 miles before running dry.

Unlike the Jetta, the Passat still comes with a four-link independent suspension out back, which, while more expensive to manufacture, makes for an incredibly solid-feeling vehicle no matter the condition of the pavement. Volkswagen turned us loose on a lengthy jaunt through Tennessee that covered everything from highway stints to twisting mountain passes and small-town traffic, and the suspension nearly delivered the coveted Goldilocks sweet spot of not-too-harsh, not-too-soft driving. Pavement imperfections were dispatched with just a little more float than we'd like, though understeer and body roll were both kept to a minimum in more athletic circumstances. This is a family sedan, after all.

2012 Volkswagen Passat rear 3/4 view

Volkswagen hasn't announced pricing for the 2012 Passat just yet, but the company says that it's aiming for a price point in the low-$20K range with topped-out models landing in the lower- to mid-$30K range. Those numbers would be in line with the Honda Accord, which starts at $21,180 without destination, though they sit a good bit north of metal like the Toyota Camry at $19,820 and Hyundai Sonata at $19,395. The last Passat carried a base MSRP of $26,995 in 2010, though given the German automaker's recent insistence on being price competitive, we wouldn't be surprised to see the 2012 model land well below that figure.

Exactly where the company plans to price its newest sedan will play heavily on how successful it manages to be in a segment that's fiercely competitive. Thanks to reworked machines from Korean and domestic manufacturers, big players from Nissan, Honda and Toyota have found themselves defending their respective thrones in America. The 2012 Passat underscores the fact that Volkswagen plans to be a legitimate player in this fray for the first time in the nameplate's history – even if not every brand purist chooses to go along for the ride.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 156 Comments
      Tone
      • 3 Years Ago
      From an interior perspective, I'm okay with the 3-spoke wheel, but the IP as a whole seems to take absolutely zero chances. That includes the info cluster and floor console. The centerstack looks like I've seen it before in at least three other vehicles. The metal finish bezel around it looks like a bit cheap, but obviously is only a differentiator between the wood and the plastic trimplate. Everything just appears...status quo. Kudos on the rear legroom. They made it bigger, so I'd hope there would be improvement there... Also a good call on the diesel. Can't really say much about the exterior. They're venturing into Accord territory, without the weird rear-end and janky side/door panels. Still...just bland.
      moshe
      • 3 Years Ago
      why is there no 2.0 tfsi engine? i have it in my cc and its a fantastic engine. they should definitely add it to the line up.
      JasonR
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Urea additive is to reduce NOx emissions, not to reduce Particulates.
      Mark_H
      • 3 Years Ago
      Not as bad as I had feared. The front end is very generic and I guess I wasn't the first one to think "Chevy" when I saw it. But, the interior is sharp, more room is good, and the diesel option is certainly interesting. I still think VW needs to replace the 2.5 with a world class four-cylinder to compete on fuel efficiency (for non-diesel buyers). Anyway, I have a soft spot for VW, so I hope they sell lots and sell them profitably.
      longducdong
      • 3 Years Ago
      Exterior styling is a bit drab, the interior is well done, and the overall package will be attractive to many, Im sure. I just dont get why VW decided on using DEF for its approach, as SCR is more convenient and doesnt require the added equipment needed to run urea.
        safnj
        • 3 Years Ago
        @longducdong
        I remember when the Passat was first revealed, VW commented that the SCR equipment was both bulkier and less efficient than Urea injection. This is why the Jetta TDI gets inferior mileage to this car despite being smaller and lighter - it uses SCR and wastes fuel cleaning out the soot filter periodically. IIRC, SCR was used on the Jetta because it was the cheapest solution. I'm guessing VW figures the extra cost of the Urea system in the Passat is easier to hide in its higher sticker price.
      Rob
      • 3 Years Ago
      swing and a foul tip. The 2.0tfsi with 211hp/258 ft lbs torque should be available with 6 speed man and a DSG..it is more efficient and powerful than the 5 cyl . I am sure people will not complain about losing 1mpg if the used the upgraded 170hp TDI also..This car needs to stand apart some more from the Jetta and hope the interior has much better quality also.
        icharlie
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Rob
        Well, if you do the number, VW never offered that version of the 2.0T anywhere but the Audi line. The passat would have had the 2.0T with 200hp and 207lbs ft. Thats only 30hp and 30lbs ft. On paper, comparing the Golf with the GTI, thats was a loss of about 1 second 0-60. HOWEVER, then you run into things with the premium fuel requirement which is a BIG turnoff to a lot of people that have looked at buying a passat. Also, while unliked, this 2.5l mill has been pretty much bullet proof. Not a single recall, good mpg for the power, and takes regular gas. Makes sense why the chose it over the 2.0T.
        NightFlight
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Rob
        I'd rather have the TFSI as well, but VW was going for lowest possible cost and the boring and inefficient 2.5 (unfortunately) fits the bill.
          icharlie
          • 3 Years Ago
          @NightFlight
          Nightflight, the 2.5 isn't really inefficient for a 5cyl. It gets the same MPG numbers as the 2.0T TFSI engine BUT on regular gas. Powerwise, its only about a second slower. Go drive a Golf then a GTI. The power difference isn't as big of a concern as one might think. Especially for the average joe buyer.
      fgbrault
      • 3 Years Ago
      I will have to see it in person, but it reminds me of my 1999 Audi A4 which had an understated elegance. If it comes close to that it is a truly beautiful car. I currently own a 2009 Jetta TDI sedan and boring it is not. I traded in a 2007 BMW 328xi and am much more pleased with my TDI than I was with my BMW. The diesel is definitely not a "tractor" engine. It is smooth and powerful and all that torque down low makes it feel like a small block V8, except when it comes time to refuel.
      • 3 Years Ago
      [blocked]
      razorpit
      • 3 Years Ago
      While I am willing to give the new styling a chance, VW would currently loose a customer if I had to replace my '04 Passat with 4-Motion today. There is nothing in the current lineup (that I can afford) similar to my wagon. A Tiguan is tiny, and Toureg is priced out of my budget. The new Jetta wagon is close in size and price, but is a no deal without 4-Motion. I thought I remember VW making a commitment to having 4-Motion available across the product line?
      Tippy Dobbs
      • 3 Years Ago
      Looks like a nice car. But the thing I've always liked about VW's is that they were always a bit different - you could be sensible without being beige. Not anymore it seems.
      giesen
      • 3 Years Ago
      The Fender audio system is NOT an option on the S and SE trims as the article says. You have to get the top end SEL trim to get the Fender audio system. I'm buying this car and the dealer assured me this was the case (and the vw.com website confirms). Also, only the SEL has the faux wood-grain trim, which is probably for the elderly market that thought fake wood looked expensive thirty years ago. The S and SE trims have a less offensive bland silver plastic instead. It's unfortunate they bundle the speaker upgrade with the wood paneling and a $1500+ nav system that is basically garbage next to any $100 Android phone. I want the speakers but not enough to buy $5K of other features that I don't want. Overall though, I love the car. I felt the Sonata Limited had nicer interior materials than the Passat SE and the Sonata panoramic sunroof is *awesome* next to the boring sunroof on the Passat. However, I preferred the boring yet slightly tasteful exterior of the Passat (the grill and the headlights have a subtle look I like) and the simple elegance of the Passat interior is better than gadgety styling of the Sonata which is fun at first, but would be annoying after the first year. I also like the Passat's diesel engine which sounds like the better economical trade off than the hybrids.
        dgagnon819
        • 3 Years Ago
        @giesen
        I have a 3.6 SE and it has the Fender audio system. As an aside, I think the stying is very handsome and I'm happy with the overall quality of the car. Performance is respectable as well especially for a family sedan.
      tantareanujellob
      • 3 Years Ago
      Why is VW still pushing those stupid tractor engines and their expensive diesel fuel? Where is the hybrid wagon?
        Walter R. Moore
        • 3 Years Ago
        @tantareanujellob
        Because a diesel engine is much less expensive, practically as efficient, more fun to drive, and - thanks to not having a stack of toxic batteries to dispose someday - possibly cleaner too.
          CaptPugwash
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Walter R. Moore
          Yes, less expensive, compare the cost of the Volt with that of a Cruze? Or a Prius with a Corola, excluding the tax rebates. And while the batteries are probably recyclable, how much more complex and expensive and energy consuming is that recycling?
          tantareanujellob
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Walter R. Moore
          Really? The diesel engine is much less expensive? Is that why it costs $6000 more than the base 2.0 8 valve in the Jetta?
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