2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI Trendline+ Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

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Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

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Published on June 14, 2012

Clean, contemporary design delivers understated elegance. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

The Passat takes to the curves well. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

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Published on June 14, 2012

TDI efficiency is welcome in these hard times. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

High-quality interior should please VW fans. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Standard switchgear is superbly executed. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

You gotta love the stylish analog clock. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Rear seat room is ultra-generous. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press)

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

Published on June 14, 2012

You don't have to spend big to get a well made large car filled with upscale features anymore. The Koreans have been breaking down luxury barriers for years and now Volkswagen's near-premium Passat is bigger than ever, finished with soft-touch surfaces in all the important places, replete with high-quality switchgear, loaded with the latest tech and priced almost $4,000 less than the old model.

It looks fabulous too. Or at least that's my humble opinion. If you want swoopy curves and loads of glistening chrome you might want to look elsewhere. The Passat is understated elegance in a sharply chiseled contemporary business suit. Sure, it uses bright metal here and there to discretely highlight details, but rather than relying on flashy adornment to make awkward styling look better, the Passat starts out with crisp, clean lines that can only be faulted for looking a little too Audi-like from the rear.

Likewise the interior will make Audi wannabe owner's feel right at home. No, it's not as richly appointed as an A4 or A6, and some previous Passat owners might gripe that the new car isn't finished as meticulously when it comes to making sure all surfaces are soft-touch and every pillar is wrapped in the headliner's woven cloth, but as far as the touchy feely game is concerned it's ahead of most mainstream players it competes against and on par with the few that measure up. And like the outward design the new Passat's interior looks great.

My tester was just above base. VW fitted it out with a Trendline+ trim package, meaning that heated front seats, heated washer nozzles, illuminated vanity mirrors, a rear centre armrest with storage, seatback map pockets, and 16-inch alloy wheels, not to mention fog lights, chrome side and rear fender accents, and an engine block heater (these latter items all specific to the TDI Trendline+) join the base Passat Trendline's standard features list that includes all the usual powered features, except that VW's windows express up and down automatically and the powered mirrors are heated. Dual-zone automatic climate control is a nice touch for a base car, as is an 8-way manually adjustable driver's seat with lumbar support that's really comfortable in that firm Teutonic way. You don't need to spend more for a leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel either, and the audio system it connects to is pretty good in stock trim, plus it integrates Bluetooth. You can load up your Passat with a lot more by opting for Comfortline or Highline trim levels. There's a Tech package too, as well as a Sport package and other standalone items, but even the base car is something to be proud of. Personally, I love the elegant analog clock atop the centre stack. It's the finishing touch to a very well executed business sedan.

Why do I say business sedan instead of family sedan? Certainly you can fit a family of five with adult-sized kids into the new Passat with room to spare, and the 450-litre trunk, 48 litres larger than the old one, is a baseball dad's dream (it fit my son's gear bag and a pitching machine inside with ease), but the car is just too sophisticated to be dubbed a family sedan. No, from every element of its design to the way it moves down the road, the new Passat is all business.

Of course, that presupposes that you like your job. After all, the new Passat handles better than most midsize family sedans. Its fully independent suspension and speed-proportional electromechanical power-assisted rack and pinion steering plays well over fast sweeping curves and even likes to dance through the tight twisties, kept in check by standard traction and electronic stability control. The ABS-enhanced four-wheel disc brakes lock down quickly and don't fade into oblivion after repeated stomps, allowing the push of the proverbial envelope a little more than with most rival midsize family haulers, although its nice to know there's a full assortment of airbags ready and waiting if the unthinkable ever happens.

You might be thinking, by the way I'm going on about performance, that I was driving the Passat's top-line 280-horsepower 3.6-litre V6, but no, I was in a TDI turbo-diesel equipped car. At first glance 140-horsepower might seem almost laughable in comparison, until its 236 lb-ft of torque is brought into the equation. Sure, it's not the super-sedan stuff of legend, but combined with a much lighter curb weight than the old Passat TDI, and other refinements made to the car's longer, wider chassis, plus a 6-speed manual or, as with my test car, VW's near legendary 6-speed dual-clutch sequential automatic Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG), the new model offers loads of off the line thrust and plenty of passing power. And let's not forget one of the best fuel economy ratings in the midsize sedan class at 6.8 city and 4.4 highway with the manual or 6.9 and 4.9 with the DSG. It's a hard combination to beat.

What's the price for all this great looking, well made, ultra-efficient, yummy as bratwurst and beer German goodness? My 2012 Passat Trendline+ DSG automatic retails for just $30,240 including shipping. If you want one with the 6-speed manual it'll sneak you under the $30k threshold at just $28,840. How about a well-equipped base model with VW's 170-horsepower 2.5-litre 5-cylinder? The 2012 Passat Trendline starts at just $26,240 including destination, a full $3,800 less than the old model.

Keeping the price low is one of the benefits of building it at an all-new assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and after a week's drive I can't see any drawbacks. If you experience a problem, VW backs the Passat better than most of its rivals with a basic warranty that runs a full 4 years or 80,000 kilometers instead of the class average 3 years or 60,000 km, while the powertrain is covered by 5 years or 100,000 km.

Truly, this is the type of car Volkswagen needs to keep building if it hopes to achieve its lofty sales goals in these dire economic times. We'll all still need to keep driving even if the bottom falls out of the market and fuel prices escalate to the stratosphere, and of course we'll be looking to stretch our fewer dollars and cents farther than ever. So if you're in the market for a midsize "business" sedan that's big on value and every other key class attribute, the 2012 Passat should be high on your list.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sedan, Volkswagen, VW, 2012, Passat, $20,000 - $29,999, $30,000 - $39,999, Midsize,

Organizations: Volkswagen, Passat

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