Let’s talk about gas pains.For those of you who haven’t already moved on, I’ll point out that the pains I’m speaking of are those you feel when you empty your wallet into the gas tank every week. Early summer gas prices have reached near historic heights in many parts of the U.S., leading to much grumbling from unhappy travelers. The steady up-tick in fuel prices in recent years has prompted automakers to come up with some alternatives. For one thing, hybrid gas and electric technology, pioneered by Honda and Toyota, is expanding to new makes and models. For another, we Americans are being asked to look again at something that Europeans have long appreciated, while we’ve been indifferent. No, not Jerry Lewis. I’m talking about diesel engines here, like the new, 2.0 liter turbo diesel now available in the Volkswagen Passat TDI.
TDI aside, the Passat late in the 2004 model year is essentially as it was earlier, which is to say, a solid feeling, comfortably roomy, well appointed midsize. This we know. What’s news now is the choice of an alternate fuel source engine, and recently we got a chance to put one through its paces.
Diesel conjures up images of smoke belching trucks to many people, but the latest generation of diesel engines are much cleaner and quieter than the old tech versions.
Page 2: Pumpe Duse
Volkswagen’s “Pumpe Duse” technology was developed in conjunction with Bosch. It’s now available in both the Passat and the Touareg. In the former, the optional motor is a 2.0 liter four cylinder. In the latter, it’s a beefy V10. Both of these engines use direct injection to deliver their fuel. High pressure injectors are located on each cylinder. The theory is simple: high pressure makes for a finer spray, which in turn leads to more efficient fuel combustion. Better combustion yields more power, better fuel economy and less noise.The Passat’s 2.0 TDI motor is turbocharged, intercooled, and drive by wire, from the foot pedal to fuel delivery. Horsepower is rated at 134 (@ 4,000rpm) while torque is listed at 247 lb. ft. (@ 1,900 rpm). Diesel engines characteristically favor torque, and as many people know, torque is a better measure of ‘round town drivability than is horsepower. Good torque output, positioned low in an engine’s rpm range is experienced by the driver as quickness off the line. Linked to a five speed automatic transmission, the 2.0 TDI can move the Passat from 0-60 in 10.4 seconds. This won’t win you any drag races, but the TDI is quick enough where it needs to be. It gets the job done in real world tasks like ramp merges and passing, and especially passing gas stations. EPA rates fuel economy at 27 mpg’s city and 38 highway. With its standard 16.4 gallon fuel tank, Passat TDI has an effective range of 623 miles. That’s roughly enough mpg’s to get you from Detroit to Washington, DC to New York City - on one tank of fuel.
Page 3: Diesel
Telltale signs remind you that you’re doing diesel. There is some engine chatter and mild vibration at idle, both of which largely disappear as you accelerate. Emissions standards are a moving target, and at this point, the Passat TDI is available in 45 states. It is not for sale in New York, Massachusetts, Maine, Vermont and California.While we as Americans are mostly new to diesel, Volkswagen is not. The company makes more diesel engines than any other passenger car manufacturer. VW estimates than some 10-15% of Passat sales will be TDI’s (about 32,000 of 300,000 total). Getting people to consider diesel will require a shift in thinking by U.S. consumers. At this point in its evolution, the practical differences between gas and diesel engines have less to do with performance than they do refinement. The 2.0 TDI for example is not in the same league with Volkswagen’s 1.8 turbo (gas) engine in terms of smoothness. That’s a tough comparison, though, as the 1.8T is a smooth operator and for my money, VW’s best all ‘round engine. As diesel and hybrids become more like conventional gas engines in terms of drivability, more and more Americans become willing to try alternatives. At the end of the day, prolonged exposure to big gas prices might do here as its done in Europe - provide the incentive to appreciate diesel. Jerry Lewis? That’s another story.
Page 4: FAQs
What's new here?
A turbo diesel engine option available in VW's popular Passat series.
What are its strong points?
Big time fuel economy. A Passat TDI is EPA rated at 27 mpg's city, 38 highway. The engine is the new addition, but that aside, Passats are roomy, well appointed and luggage friendly automobiles.
How about the shortcomings?
The Passat TDI is not available everywhere. The diesel model is not being sold in five states (New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine and California). There are some telltale reminders that you're in a diesel, like a rougher than normal idle, but that goes away as you get rolling.
Page 5: Writer's Notes
MSRP: $23,060 (Sedan)
As tested: $24,060 (Station Wagon)The 2004 Volkswagen Passat is a 4-door, 5-passenger family sedan, luxury sedan, luxury sports sedan, wagon, or luxury wagon, available in 12 trims, ranging from the GL Sedan to the W8 Wagon. The 2004 Volkswagen Passat's competitors include the Audi A4, the Lexus IS 300, and the Volvo XC70. Upon introduction, the GL Sedan is equipped with a standard 1.8-liter, I4, 170-horsepower, turbo engine that achieves 22-mpg in the city and 31-mpg on the highway. A 5-speed manual transmission with overdrive is standard, and a 5-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is optional. The W8 Wagon is equipped with a standard 4.0-liter, W8, 270-horsepower engine that achieves 18-mpg in the city and 25-mpg on the highway. A 5-speed automatic transmission with overdrive is standard, and a 6-speed manual transmission with overdrive is optional. The 2004 Volkswagen Passat is a carryover from 2003.