2015 Passat New Car Test Drive
The Volkswagen Passat is a four-door midsize sedan designed to compete with the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, and Hyundai Sonata. Volkswagen's goal was to make the Passat the most American of any car VW builds. It was designed for Americans, launched as a 2012 model, and is built at a sparkling new assembly plant at Chattanooga, Tennessee.
A new turbocharged engine is available for the 2014 Passat, bringing the number of engine choices to four: the new 1.8-liter turbocharged, direct-injected four-cylinder, the original 2.5-liter five-cylinder, a 3.6-liter V6, and a 2.0-liter turbo diesel. The five-cylinder is being phased out and replaced by the more efficient 1.8-liter turbo four.
The new 1.8-liter turbocharged gasoline engine makes 170 horsepower (same as the five-cylinder) and 184 pound-feet of torque (an increase of 7 foot-pounds), all delivered at lower rpm than that of the five-cylinder. With manual shift, the turbo Passat gets an EPA fuel-economy estimate of 24/34 mpg City/Highway, 2-3 mpg better than the outgoing five-cylinder.
Passat 2.5L models come with the 170-horspower, 2.5-liter inline-5 mated with either a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission.
The TDI turbocharged diesel, which is unique in the market segment delivers an EPA fuel-economy estimate of 31/43 mpg City/Highway with manual transmission. The Passat TDI can be fitted with VW's slick direct-shift gearbox, or DSG, which is a twin-clutch, 6-speed manual transmission that shifts electronically, sans clutch pedal.
The top-of-the-line Passat 3.6L comes standard with the DSG and a VW-exclusive, 400-watt Fender sound system. Leather, navigation, a sunroof and keyless push button start/stop, along with other semi-luxury features, are available.
We found Passat ride quality comfortable without being soft, well tuned for American interstates. Handling is what most drivers expect from a mainstream, midsize sedan: predictable and forgiving, properly suited for the ins and outs of the daily commute.
Fit and finish has that Teutonic feel, with tight tolerances and quality materials. Nothing flashy, just solid, functional controls and easy-to-read gauges communicating the essential data. The optional wood grain looks better than the real wood in some higher-priced cars. Visibility is good, although there's a bit of blockage out the rear due to the three head restraints.
Also new for the 2014 Volkswagen Passat is a six-month, no-charge trial of VW Car-Net connected services, initially included on the Wolfsburg edition. Security/convenience features include automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, and stolen vehicle location assistance, as well as remote vehicle access and boundary/speed alerts.
The 2014 Volkswagen Passat comes with a choice of powertrains. Base engine is a 170-horspower, 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine with either a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. A 2.0-liter, turbocharged, four-cylinder diesel called the TDI comes with one of two 6-speed transmissions: either a real manual or a Direct Shift Gearbox, which is an electronically shifted, dual-clutch, automatic manual. Choice three is a 280-horsepower, 3.6-liter V6 with the DSG. A new turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine, also rated 170 horsepower, is replacing the 2.5-liter five-cylinder during the 2014 model year.
Passat 2.5L comes in three trim levels. Passat 2.5L S manual ($20,845) includes a automatic dual-zone climate control system and Bluetooth connectivity. Among the other standard features are an AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers and auxiliary input; power door locks, windows and outside mirrors; 8-way manual driver's seat; steering wheel-mounted audio controls; cruise control; padded center console with storage bin; and 215/60R16 all-season tires on steel wheels. A 6-speed automatic transmission is available ($21,945). Passat 1.8T S ($20,895) comes similarly equipped but with the new turbocharged four-cylinder and manual transmission.
Passat 2.5L Wolfsburg ($23,495) has a 6-speed automatic transmission as standard and includes 16-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, an 8-way power driver's seat, VW Car-Net services, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and SiriusXM satellite radio. The new Passat 1.8T Wolfsburg ($23,965) is similarly equipped, with an automatic transmission standard.
Passat 2.5L SE manual ($23,945) gets a 6-speed manual transmission, leatherette seating surfaces; 8-way power driver's seat; heated front seats; premium stereo with color touch screen, eight speakers, 6CD changer, MP3 capability, SD-card slot and 3-month trial satellite radio subscription; rearview camera; multi-function leather-wrapped steering wheel; aluminum dash and middle console trim; exterior chrome window trim; sliding front center console; and 215/55R17 all-season tires on alloy wheels. Options start with the automatic transmission ($25,045), then a sunroof ($25,845) and finally a navigation system with 5-inch touch screen and USB and auxiliary inputs ($26,995). The new Passat 1.8T SE manual ($24,475) also comes with a sunroof ($26,395), or sunroof and navigation ($27,555).
Passat 1.8T SEL Premium ($30,895) upgrades further with a navigation system and partial leather seating surfaces, as well as an 8-way power passenger seat. Also included are a Fender premium audio system, automatic climate control, remote start; HomeLink programmable garage and gate remote, chrome and wood grain interior accents, and chrome exterior accents.
Passat TDI SE ($26,295) comes with the same accouterments as the 2.5L SE, including a manual transmission. The TDI can be fitted with the DSG transmission, a sunroof and 18-inch wheels ($28,295); or add navigation, foglights, keyless access and chrome accents ($29,995). The Passat TDI SEL Premium ($32,995) has leather seating; the sport seats; keyless access and remote start; the upgraded navigation/Fender audio system; driver seat memory; wood grain interior trim; 8-way power passenger seat; and interior chrome accents.
Passat 3.6L SE ($29,295) starts with the DSG, adding leatherette seating surfaces; sunroof; 8-way power driver's seat; heated front seats; comfort sport seats; touchscreen radio with Fender audio system; multi-function, leather-wrapped steering wheel; aluminum dash and center console trim; exterior chrome window trim; dual exhaust with chrome tips; foglights; sliding front center console cover; and 235/45R18 all-season tires on alloy wheels. The Passat 3.6 SEL Premium ($33,895) adds leather seating surfaces; keyless entry and remote start; the upgraded navigation system; driver seat memory; wood-grain interior accents; 8-way power passenger seat; and interior chrome accents.
Safety features include six airbags (frontal, front seat side and side curtain); antilock brakes with brake assist; electronic stability control; and rear seat child safety seat anchors (LATCH). Also standard is VW's Integrated Crash Response System that cuts off the fuel supply, turns on the hazard flashers and unlocks the doors when seatbelts pre-tension or upon airbag deployment.