2013 Volkswagen Passat 2.5 Highline Road Test Review

Trevor Hofmann - CAP staff
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Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Published on February 25, 2013

Photo: Trevor Hofmann, Canadian Auto Press

Published on February 25, 2013

There's something very urban about the new Passat. Sure it loves to slice up backcountry roads and is a fabulous cruiser on wide open highways spanning small townships, but sit down inside and you might just feel a bit more sophisticated than you did before.

Maybe it's Volkswagen's minimalist design. A Bauhaus-inspired take on function-first styling that conjures thoughts of a downtown loft with floor to ceiling windows sandwiched between cool gray concrete walls supporting thought-provoking artwork; tight-weave rugs underfoot and clean, contemporary furniture in metals, glass and leather ideally placed in feng shui perfection. Or maybe that's just me?

From the simple yet elegant lines of the Passat's sheet metal to its modern yet warm interior, VW's renewed midsize sedan is attractive. There are others in the segment with greater "wow" factor, but none with that unique sense of understated European style that could only hail from the Continent. That it isn't actually built in Germany, but in an all-new assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee is hardly a factor. Its DNA resides in Wolfsburg, a reality that becomes immediately evident when you "thunk" the door shut, press the ignition button to fire up the unique-sounding five-cylinder engine and set off down the road.

Its new Chattanooga home only means that this Volkswagen can be had for a lot less money than it used to cost. The 2013 Passat starts at a mere $25,390 including shipping and dealer prep compared to $29,150 for the least expensive 2010 model (there was no 2011 and 2012 was the design's first year). Yes, some will point out deficiencies in the new Passat compared to the old one, such as cheaper interior plastics below the beltline, plastic-covered B- and C-pillars instead of cloth wrappings (the A-pillars are still fabric-wrapped), a low-rent hood prop instead of gas struts, cheaper trunk hinges and fewer standard features. There are other shortcomings too.

For instance, a base 2013 Passat gets a five-speed manual transmission instead of the six-speed unit in the old model, and the old base engine was a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder making 200-horsepower and 207 lb-ft of torque instead of 170 and 177 respectively for the new five-cylinder. The new base Passat Trendline also replaces its 12-way powered front seats for 8-way/4-way driver/front passenger manual adjustment seats, and swaps standard leatherette upholstery for cloth (you've got to move up to Comfortline trim to get VW's surprisingly realistic leatherette now). The electronic parking brake that used to slot in between the seats is also gone, replaced by an old-school handbrake that makes a welcome return when choosing the manual gearbox. I don't know about you, but I can live with a few fewer features and some minor plastic indiscretions to save $3,760. In fact, I'd rather have the now standard dual-zone automatic climate control than the old manual HVAC system than anything missing from the 2010 model, and the same goes for the new Passat's much nicer leather-wrapped multifunction steering wheel with standard Bluetooth hands-free buttons, more useful multifunction trip computer, standard tire pressure monitoring, and the classy little analog clock atop the centre stack is a nice addition too. Both model years have keyless entry, automatic headlamps, heated mirrors with integrated turn signals, variable intermittent wipers with heated washer nozzles, and of course powered windows, a tilt and telescopic steering column, cruise control, AM/FM/CD audio with aux input, etc. And the rear side-impact airbags, rare in this class, remain standard too.

While the five-cylinder engine doesn't make as much power, it gets about the same claimed fuel economy rating as the old one at 10.1 L/100km city and 6.5 highway with the manual or 9.6 and 6.7 with the automatic (the old one achieved an estimated 10.0 city and 6.6 highway with the manual or 9.6 and 6.6 with the auto) and doesn't need pricier premium gas, saving about 10-percent at the pump.

It's plenty quick too. Sure, the base 2.5 is an antiquated design compared to some of its rivals. There's no direct injection or turbos and it sounds about as exciting as a tractor, but it scoots along well and is plenty smooth despite its odd cylinder count. Mine was fitted with VW's optional six-speed automatic, up an extra cog compared to the old one, a smooth-shifting transmission that fits the Passat's midsize family hauling duties to a tee. Don't get me wrong, slot the shift lever to the right to swap gears for yourself and it holds its own, literally, especially if Sport mode is chosen, delivering a nice energetic driving experience that'll provide miles of smiles for all but those accustomed to a premium sport sedan. The new Passat has been built more for comfort than out and out speed, mind you, and to that end its fully independent suspension does an amiable job soaking up ruts and bumps while remaining taut enough for enthusiast romps through aforementioned backcountry roads.

Comfort in mind it's interior is clean and understated as mentioned before, but still classy in its purposeful Teutonic way. My top-line Highline tester featured beautifully ribbed leather and Dinamica-suede sport seats with eight-way power adjustment as well as an auto-dimming rearview mirror, interior lighting package, and sporty faux carbon fibre trim that helped to bling things up a notch or two (real burl walnut is standard), while the usual VW metal accents complemented top-quality switchgear to give it the premium touch we've come to appreciate with Volkswagens.

The 400-watt, eight-speaker Fender audio system delivers nice rich sound, albeit FM stations didn't pipe in as well as others I've tested. Fortunately satellite radio with its myriad zero-ad music genres and talk shows came as part of the standard package, even displaying radio station logos on the infotainment screen, but mine also included a $1,250 navigation package with a rearview monitor, both features always coming in handy. My tester had the Sport package too, with the aforementioned carbon trim, paddle-shifters on the steering wheel, a tasteful rear deck lid spoiler and a gorgeous set of split-five-spoke 18-inch Bristol rims, a must-have package for a mere $700.

Altogether, starting with the $31,970 Highline and adding $3,625 worth of options, the Passat 2.5's fully loaded price came to $35,595, destination included. How much was a Passat 2.0 Highline in 2010? It works out to almost $4,000 more than the new one at $39,540 before options, but the 18-inch wheels and sport suspension were included. Then again proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition wasn't, nor was the slick new touchscreen infotainment system or the useful remote starter with automatic models. And I didn't even mention what some might think is the most important aspect of the new Passat: it's quite a bit larger than the old one allowing for a major increase in rear seat roominess and a larger 450-litre trunk.

In the end the new Passat represents better value than the old one, depending on your personal values of course. To me it wins major points for styling alone, but add in the much better price, lower running costs of utilizing regular fuel, plus numerous feature upgrades that are aligned more with today's needs, and then factor in that its interior remains near the top of its class for refinement, and the Passat is hard to beat.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)

Topics: Sedan, Volkswagen, VW, 2013, Passat, $20,000 - $29,999, $30,000 - $39,999, Midsize,

Organizations: Volkswagen, Passat

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