VW Passat Auburn

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Volkswagen has decided that it is better off designing a car more for American tastes, which is different from Europeans, rather than try and force Americans to spend more money on vehicles they don’t really want. The result is a car that still serves as the introductory luxury model for the VW brand in North America, but with slightly less expensive materials, less complex engineering, and, most importantly, a $7,000 lower base price.

The base model Passat will take a step or 2 backwards from the standard 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and direct-shift gearbox (DSG) that came as standard equipment for the previous generation, instead starting with a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter 5 cylinder that churns out just 170 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque, matched to a 5 speed manual transmission.

While a directly comparable current-gen model cannot be maxed out due to the total removal of the 2.0T engine, the next-closest option would come from the mid-level 2.5-liter TDI good for 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque, which starts slightly higher than a comparable last-gen model.

Models range from a 2.5 S base model with a manual transmission and a sticker price of around $21,000 (add $2,695 for an automatic), to about $31,000 for the SEL Premium automatic which still has the 2.5-liter 5 cylinder engine.

Stepping up to the TDI will put the base price at about $27,000 for a manual, rising to nearly $33,000 for the SEL Premium TDI. The Passat range is topped by a 3.6-liter V6, also known as the VR6, which has 280 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, starting just under $30,000, and topping out at around $34,000 before individual options.

All told, Passat is available in fifteen different preset package/engine combinations. VW says that the main reason it was able to bring the price down was not the change to packaging or features, but rather the switch to local production at VW’s new assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Other changes that count

Compared to the outgoing model, the new Passat is considerably different and larger and it shares little more than a name with its European counterpart. The changes also continue under the hood, and in total, Volkswagen believes it has found the right formula for a successful midsize sedan in the American market.

Styling

Looking much like a larger, wider Jetta, the Passat was penned by VW designer Walter de Silva. It measures in at 191.7 inches long and rides on a 110.4 inch wheelbase.

Up level models feature chrome accents throughout.

It’s what is under the hood that counts

Part of the formula that Volkswagen is banking on to move some metal comes from a new engine lineup that eschews the traditional use of a 4 cylinder engine as the base models for a 2.5-liter 5 cylinder engine, followed by a 2.0-liter TDI clean diesel and topped off with a sporty 3.6-liter VR6 engine.

The base 2.5-liter will be good for 170 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque, and comes standard with a 5 speed manual transmission. For those who prefer not to row their own gears, VW also has an optional 6 speed automatic available.

For those willing to drop a little more coin for a lot more fuel economy, the 2.0-liter TDI is certainly the engine of choice in the Passat. The only diesel in its segment, the Passat TDI is rated to net 31 miles per gallon in the city and 43 mpg on the highway. Combined with a fuel tank just short of 20 gallons, Volkswagen says it should have no problem driving 800 miles on a single tank of fuel. Rated at 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft. of torque, the 4 cylinder diesel engine is seemingly ubiquitous in VW’s lineup. A 6 speed stick will be standard, while a 6 speed DSG dual clutch automatic will be optional.

Most Passats will probably be delivered with 4 or 5 cylinder engines, but VW will also offer a 3.6-liter VR6 rated at 280 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. of torque. Volkswagen estimates fuel economy at 28 mpg on the highway. The VR6 will be exclusively mated to VW’s DSG auto transmission.

Equipment content

Although it might look and feel like a larger Jetta, Volkswagen promises that the Passat is a premium offering. Its wide doors reveal an especially spacious interior, including a huge rear seat area.

3 trim levels will be on offer – S, SE and SEL. Look for more details to arrive closer to launch, but volume SE models will be swathed in VW’s leather-like vinyl and come with switchgear used in the Jetta. Soft touch and hard plastic surfaces abound, although SELs come with richer-looking leather, synthetic suede and real wood trim.

Standard 17-inch wheels can be upgraded to 18s and the Passat will be among the first Volkswagens to offer the automaker’s new Fender-developed audio system.

Base Price $19,995
Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
Curb Weight (lbs) 3166
City (MPG) 22
Hwy (MPG) 32
Horsepower 170@5700
Torque (lb-ft) 177@4250
Wheelbase 110.4
Length (in.) 191.6
Width (in.) 72.2
Height (in.) 58.5