Posts Tagged ‘Passat’


The adorable little kid in the Darth Vader outfit who starred in VW’s popular Super Bowl commercial, The Force, won’t need to invoke The Force to compel consumers to buy the all-new 2012 Volkswagen Passat.  I’m relieved to report that the car is good enough to sell itself.  [For the record, that commercial turned out to be a very good investment for Volkswagen as it went viral and has been viewed more than 41.4 million times on YouTube alone. ]

Like most auto enthusiasts, I was concerned and apprehensive last year when VW announced that its new mid-size car was going to be a US-only Passat with an inflated size and a deflated sticker price.  To do this, VW built a beautiful, shiny, new $1 billion factory in lovely, noisome Chattanooga, Tennessee. And they did it all with  “only” around $557 million in state and local taxpayer incentives.

Volkswagen's new plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Right now, the only model built there is the 2012 Passat.

The new Passat was announced after the 2010 launch of the all-new 2011 Jetta. I found the new Jetta disappointing in almost all metrics save for the wonderful TDI engine option.  The Jetta had been stripped of suspension parts and fitted with interior plastics courtesy of Walmart.  Built in VW’s Puebla, Mexico plant, the Jetta is now cheap enough to compete with the Asians. Ugh.  In short, the new Jetta had turned to the Dark Side to boost sales.

Americans respond to big price reductions, so sales of the Dark Side Jetta are up. I mourn the loss of a Jetta sedan with a class-leading interior,  independent rear suspension and 4-wheel disc brakes. I’ve always been a fan of VW because the little German-engineered cars were günstiger.

The 2011 VW Jetta - knock knock - come on, wake up!

The 2012 Passat, with a base MSRP of $19,995, is targeted directly at the mid-size family sedan leaders: The Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Ford Fusion and Chevy Malibu. It’s thousands less than the previous German-built Passat, primarily due to cost cutting and elimination of the profit-sucking exchange rates.

Where the Jetta’s styling redefines anonymous, the new Passat is more detailed and mature, albeit as conservative as the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page. Pictures don’t do the Passat justice and color makes a significant difference. All the promos show the car in a pale color; however, my black tester really popped with its controversial, bright, rapper-size fore and aft VW badges and sinister-looking polycarbonate shades streamlining the halogen headlamps into the prominent 3-bar corporate chrome grille. It may look like Darth Vader, but it hasn’t gone to the Dark Side.

The front of the 2012 Passat looks a bit menacing in black. The VW badge is certainly prominent.

I contacted VW Santa Monica (part of the LACarGuy group) ahead of time to make sure they had a diesel Passat available to test. The test car was just that – a VW tester sent directly to the Santa Monica dealer to make the rounds of local events and provide a dedicated test vehicle for 40 mpg-hungry LA-area greenies.

No window sticker, just a nice "gift" to Santa Moncia Volkswagen. Note the QR (quick response) code on the sticker. You can read it with an app on your smartphone.

I’m sure the base Passat 2.5L, saddled with VW’s unremarkable 170 hp 5-cylinder hamster wheel, will be the volume leader. Inexpensive always sells. VW also offers a top-line Passat with a 3.6L 280 hp V6; but here in green veneer L.A., the marquee model is the TDI with the 2.0L 140 hp 236 lb-ft torque turbo-diesel direct-injected engine mated to either a 6-speed manual or VW’s 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automated gearbox.

Why the excitement? Well it’s because the manual version is rated at 31 mpg city, 43 mpg highway and the automatic is rated at 30 city/40 highway. The Passat’s highway mileage meets or beats any mid-size sedan, including the Toyota Camry, Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata Hybrids. Anecdotal evidence from numerous sources suggests that the TDI’s highway mileage will actually be higher. With its 18.5 gallon tank, the Passat TDI has a cruising range exceeding 700 miles. Vegas road trip anyone?

The rear of the 2012 Passat is more defined than the Jetta. It won't win any design awards, but it's well executed. Note the large VW badge and the TDI SEL on the right trunk lid.

It was a nice day for a drive in Santa Monica where the blistering summer heat was all the way up to 73 degrees — a daunting test for the Passat’s standard dual zone automatic climate control.

The little diesel engine feels right at home in the Passat and has no problem tugging around its 3,360 pounds. I experienced a bit of hesitation from the DSG when I punched it into a turn from a stand still; however in normal driving in city traffic, the transmission shifted smoothly. I never felt a lack of power because of the gobs of torque available from only 1,400 rpm.

All in easy reach: The handsome DSG shifter, start stop button and dual zone automatic climate control. The digital temperature settings can be read in the center infotainment screen.

The new electromechanical power steering felt light, somewhat isolated, but on center. It retains enough German precision to make it a better driver’s car, particular in DSG sport mode. The front wheels tracked dead straight. As with most VW products, torque steer has been all but banished by the engineers in Wolfsburg.

I did my usual tap and scratch test on the interior plastics of the new Passat and I have good news: This isn’t the Jetta. The dash cowl is covered in a pleasing, textured, soft-touch plastic. The “Autumn Nut Burl” trim, while not real, is convincing enough. The door trim above armrest level is textured and softened while the trim below the arm rest and below the dash belt line is a harder plastic that taps a bit hollow.

The driver's side door panel is pleasing and the various plastic panels all match despite being of different quality. I like the way the grab handle was integrated into the design.

The tilt/telescope three-spoke multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel felt good in my hands and adjusted for a perfect view of the instruments. Basic functions were all easily accessible and my hand fell naturally both to the shifter and adjacent start/stop button.

I was grateful for the 8-way power sports seat with driver’s side memory that are part of the $4,300 TDI SEL2 option package. It took a bit of fiddling, but I found a comfy position for my 6′ 1” lanky frame. The heated and leather-trimmed seats have Dynamico ® (synthetic suede) inserts that tether you in for an added sporty dimension.

It's not a great picture; but you can see the power seat controls.

I didn’t test the navigation system, but the smallish 6.5” touch screen had sharp graphics and was easy to read. The Fender Premium Audio System has a 30 GB hard drive, Bluetooth, satellite radio and iPod control. The interior is almost Lexus-quiet, with surprising little engine or road noise infiltrating the airy cabin. This modern advanced “clean” diesel engine is both quiet and odor-free.

The smallish - 6.5 inch - infotainment screen. Here you see some of the controls for the Fender Premium Audio System.

I missed a backup camera or sensors that would be an inexpensive add-on to the existing navigation system. There were no rain-sensing wipers either. And I’d prefer the iPod controls in the center armrest area rather than the glove box.

The 2012 Passat has class-leading front and rear legroom and its cargo capacity is almost at the top with 15.9 cubic feet. The standard 60/40 split rear bench folds down so that long flat cargo (think flat boxes at IKEA) are an easy fit. The trunk was completely lined and flocked; however, the trunk lid was naked and sported goose neck hinges rather than gas-pressure struts. I smell a diligent cost accountant at work.

The back seats look inviting and you can see the suede-like material inserts.

The capacious trunk has a fairly low lip, so it's easier to load stuff. It's nicely lined too. Note the little pulls at the top of the opening that allow you to drop the rear seats for more room. Also you can see the naked trunk lid and cheap goose neck hinges.

Base MSRP for the 2012 Passat TDI with DSG is $27,895. The SEL2 package is $4,300; however, you get almost every luxury feature and infotainment upgrade you could want. In fact, there are no other options offered. Add the $770 destination charge and the fully-loaded car is $32,965. This prices the 2012 Passat TDI smack in the middle of its similarly-equipped fuel sipping hybrid competition and it is, by far, the frugal enthusiast’s pick of the bunch.


The dust has settled around Super Bowl XLV and the public has voted.  Volkswagen of America took the top honors for favorite car commercial.  “The Force” appeals to the generation of parents who grew up on the Star Wars films. People know the characters, lines from the movies as well as John Williams’ iconic scores, including “The Imperial March.”

The commercial advertises the upcoming 2012 Passat sedan, built in VW’s brand new North American facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  I’m not sure if it will sell the Passat (whenever it arrives later this year), but the little kid in the Darth Vader outfit is beyond adorable.  The commercial itself cost almost nothing to cast and shoot, but I’m sure Lucasfilm Ltd. got a big fat check for the use of the character and John Williams for the music.  It cost VW $6 million to air the one minute commercial; but with a Super Bowl viewership of 111 million and nearly 30 million views on YouTube, they got a huge bang for their buck.

The most surprising commercial was Chrysler’s two minute film entitled “Born of Fire” or “Imported from Detroit” featuring the music, image and voice over of  the brilliant, supremely talented, but troubled Detroit-based rapper, Eminem (Marshall Mathers).  The images of Detroit are rich and dark, uplifting and sobering. It shows a city that has been through hell and is only now emerging.

The problem with this beautifully-shot and well-written “feel good” commercial is that it features the wrong car. The car should have been for the revamped 300C, not a face-lifted Sebring, renamed the 200.  The Chrysler 200 is not a luxury car, so when the video talks about luxury, you have to scratch your head.  The screaming headline in this week’s issue of Automotive News says “Super Buzz: Chrysler dealers aim to cash in on the surprising 200 commercial.”

Not so fast.  As only Peter De Lorenzo,  the Autoextermist.com Editor, can put it:

But I am now going to throw some icy cold water on this spot — and the reaction to it — because it’s simply out of hand. Our local media in particular has been flat-out sickening in its gushing, over-the-top praise, as if it was the only spot worth talking about on the Super Bowl. Well guess what? It wasn’t. And it does no good for people in this town to say how great the spot was because ultimately what the people in this town think about it doesn’t matter. It’s what everyone else across America thinks about it. And by the way, Chrysler choosing the pathetic 200 for the spot was a monumental miss. The 200 remains a rolling monument to automotive tedium and no matter how much make-up and lipstick you put on a pig, it’s still a pig. The spot should have featured the 300 or shouldn’t have mentioned a specific car at all. It would have been just fine as a Chrysler corporate postcard to Detroit and leave it at that.

I couldn’t agree more with Peter. This commercial isn’t going to sell the 200. It will take a miracle to sell more units to customers than to rental fleets.

Here’s the commercial; see what you think.  (And if you want to learn more about Eminem, you should check out his October 2010 interview on 60 Minutes with Anderson Cooper.)