If the Volkswagen Passat seems more American than your typical German car, things are as the folks in Wolfsburg intended it to be. Designed specifically for the American market, it’s the first Volkswagen model to be built in the United States since the Westmoreland, Penn. Volkswagen factory closed in 1988. Tastefully drawn, wonderfully spacious, and remarkably fuel efficient, the 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI is the answer to a question a lot of people are asking. Looking for a comfortable family car with a touch of elegance tempered by understatement and a measure of environmental responsibility? Consider the Passat TDI.
2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI Quick Spin
Models & Pricing
Volkswagen offers Passat TDI in SE ($26,825), SE with Sun ($28,840), SE with Sun & Nav ($30,545), and SEL Premium trims ($33,585). Passat TDI SE features include 17-inch wheels, heated exterior rearview mirrors, rear seat air vents, and a touchscreen interface for secondary functions. It also features full power accessories, automatic headlights, keyless entry, and Bluetooth connectivity for audio and telephony. As their names imply, the other two add sunroofs and navigation. To all of the above, the SEL Premium package adds 18-inch wheels, pushbutton start, remote ignition, leather upholstery with alcantara seat inserts, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
The Passat’s linear styling is predominated by horizontal design elements. These serve to lengthen the appearance of the car without making it look heavy. At the front, the grille and headlights blend seamlessly for a unified appearance. The lines of the Passat flow gracefully from front to rear, adding a touch of elegance to the model’s visage. A set of two part taillamps, add visibility, while simultaneously unifying the rear styling of the sedan. The largest Passat ever offered; it still manages a tidy appearance. In other words, the Passat doesn’t look as big as it really is.
Features & Controls
While the Volkswagen Passat was designed with Americans in mind, its Autobahn heritage was not abandoned. Clear, sharp, gimmick-free instrumentation, straightforward controls, and intuitive ergonomics dominate the interior experience. The touchscreen interface is easy to use, and very logically arranged. Nicely sized round knobs control the audio system, with redundant controls on the steering wheel. Readily discernable buttons and knobs administer the climate control system as well. You’ll have no difficulty becoming acclimated to the control functions of the Passat at all. Everything is exactly where you expect it to be. Further, it’s all very appealing to the eye.
Comfort & Cargo
The elegant look of the Volkswagen is complemented by one of the most spacious interiors in its class with all sorts of legroom front and rear. The seats offer outstanding support, particularly the leather and Alcantara-upholstered ones fitted to the Passat TDI SEL. The seating in the more moderately equipped models also serves up all-day comfort. Remember, in Germany people drive from place to place rather than fly because driving is often faster. The cars have to play along. Passat’s trunk is good for 15.9 cubic feet of cargo and its rear seats fold 60/40 to offer more capacity.
Safety & Crash Test Ratings
All Passat TDI models get antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags, front and rear side curtain airbags, and a rearview camera. TDI SEL offers VW’s Car-Net for automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, remote vehicle access, stolen vehicle location, and geo-fencing so you can establish where the TDI can’t go. All functions are accessible using a smartphone, adding considerably to their convenience. NHTSA awarded the Passat five stars overall for crash protection. IIHS gave Passat its top rating of “good” as well—for all but the small overlap frontal offset test in which Passat scored “acceptable’.
Engine & Fuel Economy
Passat TDI’s nomenclature is derived from its 2.0-liter turbocharged inline four-cylinder diesel engine. This powerplant is good for 150 horsepower and 236 ft-lbs of torque. Passat TDI SE is offered with a six-speed manual, or a six-speed automated manual transmission (also known as the DSG, for direct-shift gearbox). TDI SEL Premium uses the six-speed automated manual. All-wheel drive is not offered with diesel. Fuel economy with the manual is rated at 30 miles per gallon in the city, 44 on the highway, and 35 combined. The six-speed automatic returns 30 in the city, 42 on the highway, and 34 combined.
The key hallmarks of the Passat TDI are quietness, smoothness, and stability. High-speed long distance travel is a very pleasant experience in the Volkswagen sedan. Further, if you didn’t know it was powered by a diesel engine, you’d never think diesel. Yes, it’s remarkably quiet and smooth—inside the car. Outside, you’ll hear a bit of diesel clatter but not obnoxious levels of it by any means. The DSG transmission can be a bit sluggish to respond at low speeds, but it’s something you get used to over time. All in all, driving a diesel Passat is quite enjoyable.
Take a look at the size and spaciousness of the Passat TDI, then align it with real world fuel economy in excess of 30 miles per gallon overall. Yes, we know it seems a bit on the surreal side, but it’s true. We saw it for ourselves. Further, the low-end torque offered by the VW’s engine moves it away from traffic signals, and gets it up to highway speeds when entering expressways with complete and utter confidence. What’s more, it’s so smooth in operation, you’ll have to tell people they’re riding in a diesel-powered automobile—they usually won’t notice.
Pros & Cons
Outstanding spaciousness, and excellent cargo capacity
Premium look and feel at a moderate price point
Excellent fuel economy and low emissions
Smooth ride, easy handling, and terrific stability
Above average safety ratings
DSG transmission can be a bit sluggish at low speeds
No lane departure warnings, blind spot monitoring or collision warning systems
Diesel fuel isn’t offered at every gas station
You’ll wind up driving all the time because your friends’ cars won’t be as comfortable