Vital Stats

Engine:
Turbodiesel 2.0L I4
Power:
140 HP / 236 LB-FT
Transmission:
6-Speed Manual
0-60 Time:
9.0 Seconds (est.)
Drivetrain:
Front-Wheel Drive
Curb Weight:
3,393 LBS
Seating:
2+3
MPG:
31 City / 43 HWY
Can you name a fun-to-drive sedan with a manual transmission that can transport five adults and their luggage comfortably while sipping fuel at the rate of 50 mpg? The answer is the Volkswagen Passat TDI – a German antonym for "range anxiety."

The past forty years have seen the Volkswagen Passat evolve from a three-door hatchback with a 1.5-liter engine (sold as the Dasher in the States) to a four-door near-luxury sedan boasting a 4.0-liter W8 a decade ago. I'm making the case that today's reasonably priced diesel-burning 2.0-liter TDI is the best, and most sensible, Passat ever built.
  • The turbocharged, direct-injected, 2.0-liter inline-four is a little stump puller. While only rated at 140 horsepower, it delivers 236 pound-feet of torque at 1,500 rpm. Launching from a standstill – even with a full load – was uneventful and it pulled confidently under all driving conditions (even though the acceleration numbers are far from impressive).
  • According to the EPA, the Passat TDI earns 31 mpg city and 43 mpg highway – but not on my watch. My city average was more like 35 mpg and 50 mpg wasn't difficult to achieve on the highway at 70 mph. With an 18.5-gallon fuel tank, its cruising range is just short of the moon.
  • Curiosity got the better of me one night, so I decided to run a 100-mile highway loop between Camarillo and Goleta on Southern California's coastal US 101. Following a few suggestions, I pumped the tires up from the recommended 32 psi to 42 psi (51 psi is the maximum on the sidewall of the all-season Continental ContiProContact tires), shut off the air conditioning and set cruise control at 60 mph on the highway. Driving at this "hypermiling" speed was painful, but it delivered an impressive 56.9 mpg according to the Passat's computer – that's a burn rate of just over one gallon per hour!
  • The Passat's cabin is huge. Almost limousine-like in the second row, it easily swallowed two adults and three teenage soccer players (with all of the associated gear in the trunk) during a long drive to a weekend tournament. Nobody complained about room, and the air vents in the second row kept the atmosphere fresh.
  • The cabin appointments on the 6MT model, Volkswagen's SE trim, aren't very luxurious. An upgrade to a sunroof, navigation, leather upholstery or even an iPod interface requires acceptance of the dual-clutch DSG automatic, which brings with it lower fuel economy and a less engaging driving experience. That's very frustrating.
  • On the odd side of things, the clutch pedal transmitted an awful lot of engine vibration to the driver's left foot and I noticed an unnerving sound of fuel sloshing around inside the tank each time the sedan came to a stop (keep the radio on and passengers won't notice). [Volkswagen says the noise I heard was the AdBlue urea solution sloshing around inside its 4.9-gallon tank in the trunk. One tank lasts about 15,000 miles - MH]
  • Even though the diesel is the perhaps the wisest choice in the Passat family, Volkswagen doesn't seem to want offer consumers any incentives to take one home. Unattractive lease and financing rates on the TDI often make its more expensive gasoline counterparts (or worse, its competitors) more attractive in the showroom. America's wildly fluctuating (but generally costlier) diesel fuel prices don't help, either.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 165 Comments
      Michael Harley
      • 2 Years Ago
      One thing I didn't mention in my story is that the Jetta TDI and Passat TDI have different engines. Yes, they are both 2.0-liter turbodiesel fours, but each is unique. The Passat uses a CKRA engine, while the Jetta and Golf use a CBEA/CJAA engine. To contrast, the Passat uses AdBlue, has a smaller turbo, one fuel pump, solenoid injectors, air-water intercooler and a unique intake/exhaust. - Mike
      GR
      • 2 Years Ago
      First of all, pretty cool that the author is responding to comments. The author seems to highlight both the great sides to the diesel car and also the negatives. Diesel VW cars are known by their owners to get better mpg than their EPA estimates, especially in manual trans models. Interesting that you tried some hyper-miling techniques to see what kind of mpgs you got. I've got an automatic Jetta TDI in the family so I could compare and contrast in ways. I've peaked inside a new Passat recently. The rear seat leg room is huge. I was surprised. Then again, the Passat looks longer than previous generations. You also pointed out one of the biggest frustrations I have with many cars offered in the US: manual transmissions available on only lower, if not the most basic, trims. The reason I drive what I drive (2011 Suzuki Kizashi) is because the car was one of the upper trims of the model yet offered a 6 speed. They discontinued manuals in upper trims this year (well, Suzuki also left the US), but it was nice to have upper and top level trims offered with a manual. About the only ones these days that offer both top features and a stick shift are the expensive German sports sedans/cars. You also pointed out an interesting issue of the vibration in the clutch pedal. Most diesels are louder and vibrate more than a gas engine car, especially at idle and low speeds. Good to know that the vibrations of the engine are transmitted through the clutch. Though it may be bearable for a while, in stop-and-go traffic for a long time with thin soled shoes, it can get annoying and cause the ball of the left foot to ache. I went from a hard clutch pedal to a softer one and immediately noticed the change in comfort for the left foot especially because of reduced engine vibration. Lastly, you are definitely correct about the fluctuating costs of diesel. The cost is always more than regular, but sometimes it spikes above premium and other times, its about the same. It's hard to have a sense of the stable cost of diesel to see whether a diesel engine car will result in an economic savings from better efficiency. Either way, the diesel engine will benefit the long term owner over a short-term leaser.
        montoym
        • 2 Years Ago
        @GR
        quote - " It's hard to have a sense of the stable cost of diesel" - And gasoline is stable? Partly, the difference is mostly noticeable because when gasoline is cheapest (in winter months), diesel is priciest (due to home heating oil demand in winter months). Gasoline definitely fluctuates throughout the year as well, just as diesel does, they just do it on different schedules due to how their demands change through the year.
      Triharderken
      • 2 Years Ago
      Re: "The 2013 Passat TDI with a DSG starts at $35,945 including freight. in 6MT, you're looking at $34,270 including freight.", I'm not sure where you received that information. VW.com lists, with destination fee, the 2013 Passat TDI w/ DSG starting at $29,020, and the 6MT starting at $27,020.
        k.naz
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Triharderken
        Maybe they were quoting a different trim level? Automotive journalists tend to do that sometimes. Hence why all the data must be taken with a grain of salt, before confirmed by multiple and reliable resources. My 2¢.
          Triharderken
          • 2 Years Ago
          @k.naz
          I looked at other trim levels and models and still can't make the same mistake, but yes, always do your own fact-checking, even if you're not a journalist or a politician. :)
      otto.ingineer
      • 2 Years Ago
      Glad to see this offered here. Drove a 6spd MT Passat diesel in Spain a few years ago, 3 adults (5'10 - 6'2) and luggage, mixed city/highway (over 120kph / 75+mph) and was hovering around 40mpg (high 30s or low 40s). Good interior space and did not feel "Low Rent" - basically no compromises as a real car. Strong torque and easy to drive, though not exactly a thrill to rev hard or drive hard. Not as bland handling as a lot of other mid-size sedans, however.
      jtree
      • 2 Years Ago
      The TDI VW's are far from slow at highway speeds and I doubt any Prius could get the 40+ mpg I get on my 80+ mph, 300 mile weekly round trip from city to country and back. All freeway with a 5000 ft elevation gain. I had a Outback XT that would get 18mpg on the same trip at the same speeds. The TDI is just as fast at highway speeds , well just as fast in the first 3 seconds you need speed for a pass and to me that is all that matters. I am a lead footed driver and only get around 25mpg in city driving with the TDI but big chunks of fast freeway I doubt there is a better engine. The highway passing and hill climbing of the TDI engine is fantastic.
      paulwesterberg
      • 2 Years Ago
      Mileage of 31city & 43hwy does not equal 50mpg. Have the car companies outsourced their lying to bloggers?
        Douglas James Codog
        • 2 Months Ago
        @paulwesterberg

        There is no lying. It's just a fact Jack. My 2013 Passat TDI is averaging 44.7 MPG and gets 50 plus MPG on the highway driving at 70 MPH. All day every day. 

        Michael Harley
        • 2 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        "According to the EPA, the Passat TDI earns 31 mpg city and 43 mpg highway – but not on my watch. My city average was more like 35 mpg and 50 mpg wasn't difficult to achieve on the highway at 70 mph." - Mike
          m_2012
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Michael Harley
          Some people have a hard time with the reading part. Diesels never have a problem exceeding EPA estimates and always perform better under real world (read: higher load) conditions.
        Hello, Brian
        • 2 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        Paulwesterberg: EPA's testing loop is notoriously bad for predicting actual mileage with diesel vehicles. I can attest that this car is capable of 50+MPG highway, and an average of 38 around town. I am not a blogger and don't work for any car company. I just have the benefit of experience.
          Fed Up
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Hello, Brian
          No Paul, not "according to the vehicle's computer". Hand calculated is the only true measurement. I can easily get a tank average of over 46mpg in my SportWagen TDI.
          paulwesterberg
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Hello, Brian
          According to the vehicles computer....
      Mslincolnls
      • 4 Months Ago
      I have a 2013 Passat TDI SEL and the fuel pump failed at 17,000 miles. Now at 22,000 the car stalled again on the 101 Freeway with a strong fuel odor and it's back at the dealership. I do not recommend this vehicle to anyone.
      rtkowner
      • 2 Years Ago
      Both of the gas turbo 2.0L engines from Ford and Hyundai produce more torque and much more horsepower for less money and with less complexity than the 2.0L TDI. Why would anyone want a TDI?
        Douglas James Codog
        • 2 Months Ago
        @rtkowner

        Diesels have a lower HP rating than gas engines, but the TDI produces much more torque than the other engines that you mention and it's not even close. You are quite misinformed regarding the torque. Plus the MPG on the TDI is much greater. Why would anyone want the gasoline versions of either car you mention when the TDI is available?

        onewayroll
        • 2 Years Ago
        @rtkowner
        "According to the EPA, the Passat TDI earns 31 mpg city and 43 mpg highway – but not on my watch. My city average was more like 35 mpg and 50 mpg wasn't difficult to achieve on the highway at 70 mph. With an 18.5-gallon fuel tank, its cruising range is just short of the moon." That's why.
          rtkowner
          • 2 Years Ago
          @onewayroll
          You're spending dollars to save pennies. Diesel engines cost significantly more to operate than do gas or even a gas/electric hybrid. Just do the math. It's thousands more for maintenance, fuel and repairs in addition to upfront cost of a diesel engine. It's not even close. And 35-50 isn't what most people report in regular, real world driving. It's much closer to 35 mpg. AB's numbers are jazzed up.
          icemilkcoffee
          • 2 Years Ago
          @onewayroll
          Even at 35mpg, you'll save over $500 a year over the 25mpg gasoline car. If you keep the car 5 years you'll recuperate the difference. Also- used diesel cars retain their value far better than used gasoline cars. So you lose less money on depreciation.
      Spiffster
      • 2 Years Ago
      Great thing diesel only costs 15% more than regular gasoline, not to mention the expensive urea additive that's required. And holy crap, $27k for this thing!? Why not get a Fusion or Camry hybrid?
        atc98092
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spiffster
        Urea is only expensive if you buy it from a Benz dealer, although I don't know what VW charges so that might be too high as well. Of course, you don't need to buy any for the 36,000 miles. After that, you can get it at many auto parts stores or even truck stops. On AutoZone's web site they say most stores stock it at $6.99 a gallon or $5.99 a gallon for a 2.5 gal container. Say a 6 gallon tank (not sure what the size is, but it's far smaller than the fuel tank) that's about $30 for 10,000 miles. Not that much more than washer fluid per gallon, and over 10,000 miles you might use as much or more, depending on your local road conditions and weather.
          icemilkcoffee
          • 2 Years Ago
          @atc98092
          VW Golf and Jettas do not require urea, but the larger Passat does.
          atc98092
          • 2 Years Ago
          @atc98092
          The Touareg also takes the exhaust fluid. As noted, the Jetta, Golf and Audi A3 do not. However, because the Passat does use Urea, VW has actually tuned the engine differently for both better performance and better mileage. This is why it is EPA rated higher than the Jetta, even being a larger car. And still meeting or exceeding emission requirements.
          wasp
          • 2 Years Ago
          @atc98092
          @ Jason. The passat does require urea but as previously mentioned it is in fact, CHEAP and it doesnt use much at all.
          Jason Golden
          • 2 Years Ago
          @atc98092
          VW's TDI does not require any urea additive. Nothing to mess with. Just fuel it and drive.
        RWD
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Spiffster
        The 2 liter TDI does not require the urea injection, it has a permanent filter that vaporized particulates and never needs to be changed.
          montoym
          • 2 Years Ago
          @RWD
          Only in the smaller cars, the larger Passat (and the Tiguan if we ever got the TDI verison) do require Urea.
      Bob
      • 2 Years Ago
      So if the max PSI for the tires is 50, and you pumped them up to 42 before leaving, then over the course of your highway run they probably went up another 4 PSI just from warming up. Man, that's awfully risky just to try to get your MPGs up a tad. Not only will the ride be more jarring, but you'll have less traction and a greater risk of tire damage. Why not draft behind semi trucks as well? That'd really boost your mileage. Who cares if you risk taking a rock to the windshield? Sheesh.
        Michael Harley
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Bob
        It was night, the ambient temp was about 50 degrees and the vehicle was lightly loaded (plus, my speeds were low). I doubt they went up even a few pounds each. Drafting a stranger on the open road is just plain stupid. - Mike
          Michael Harley
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Michael Harley
          Hybrids/Diesels, yes. I will even run them on the same 100-mile loop. I don't review them often... but I do have a few scheduled. - Mike
          The Wasp
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Michael Harley
          Mike, can we expect you to do the same for other cars you review (specifically hybrids or models focused on increased efficiency)?
        m_2012
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Bob
        Even if what you said was true, which its not, that is still 8% under the max, plus any typical safety margin there is. -10 for speaking before thinking. Please go let some air out of your tires now.
        creamwobbly
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Bob
        Less traction is part of the intent here... lower rolling resistance. My old Jetta is specified for 195s on 7" wide bead, whereas the more popular tire for that wheel is a 185 or 175, often interchangeably such as on the Prizm/Corolla ranges. So, if a Prizm/Corolla can have a choice of sizes, it's not beyond the imagination that a Jetta can too. Now, overinflating a tire reduces the contact area by less of a margin than changing the tread width from 195mm to 185mm, or 185mm to 175mm; but it has a similar effect. Then we move to aftermarket low-rolling-resistance tires of the same dimensions as the OEM tires: your idea that lower rolling resistance is dangerous just got shattered. Sure, it's *less* traction, but unless you're really pushing the vehicle, it's still well within the safety margin.
      loopless
      • 2 Years Ago
      In any real world comparison tests the TDI Passat thrashes the hybrids for fuel economy and driving pleasure.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @loopless
        [blocked]
        • 2 Years Ago
        @loopless
        [blocked]
          RWD
          • 2 Years Ago
          I see 18 cents more, but it varies hugely, even in the same city.
          zoom_zoom_zoom
          • 2 Years Ago
          In my town, Diesel is always 90 cents more. $1.00 more this week.
        Tweaker
        • 2 Years Ago
        @loopless
        Pretty funny since VW has long ago announced that their Jetta Hybrid is their most efficient Jetta. AND, it's .05 sec quicker 0-60.
          onewayroll
          • 2 Years Ago
          @Tweaker
          That's the Jetta...this is the Passat.
        • 2 Years Ago
        @loopless
        [blocked]
      desinerd1
      • 2 Years Ago
      Sure, who doesn't want to spend almost $30K on a car with 140hp, that goes 0-60 in 9.3 seconds. Why not save money and get a Prius? It will last much longer.
        m_2012
        • 2 Years Ago
        @desinerd1
        Are you high? A Prius is $2K less but needs battery replacements. And no way will the gas engine last longer than the diesel. Plus, in the end you are STUCK in a Prius. Please do yourself a favor and never compare those two cars again.
          • 2 Years Ago
          @m_2012
          [blocked]
        AcidTonic
        • 2 Years Ago
        @desinerd1
        I just spent $41K on a 4 door with a 2.0 inline 4 and a 5 speed. You have no clue what the purchasing public wants.
          The Wasp
          • 2 Years Ago
          @AcidTonic
          You got hosed!
          icemilkcoffee
          • 2 Years Ago
          @AcidTonic
          Well I hope you got extended warranty on your Audi! Prepare to get hosed on resale.
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