2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI

2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI Review

We drive the turbo-diesel Passat.

By: Tim Healey

Web2Carz Contributing Writer

Published: November 16th, 2012

Diesel engines are gaining popularity in the U.S., overcoming negative stereotypes caused by the stinkers of the '80s while also overcoming tight emissions restrictions and a higher price at the pump.

Sure, hybrids get excellent mileage. But so do diesels, and they provide great range to boot. Along with plenty of low-end torque.

Volkswagen knows this, and they've been committed to diesels for quite some time, which is how we get the Passat TDI. Also, check out our video review of the Passat TDI, featuring Sarah.

  • On the Road

    The Passat's torque (torque is the physical force that affects acceleration) number (236 lb-ft) doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s enough to move the Passat TDI off the line with oomph. Want to chirp the tires? Easily done with a stab of the gas. Some torque steer (a pulling of the steering wheel when accelerating hard) intrudes if the throttle is pinned, although it’s tolerable.

    Our tester came equipped with a six-speed manual transmission, and we found the shifter's throws to be a tad loose and long, although the shift gates themselves are precise enough. The clutch was firm and smooth, with a steady take-up, although we noticed some chatter when the pedal wasn't depressed all the way to floor while holding the car at rest at a stoplight.

    We had mixed feelings about the steering--it felt artificial and light, but it was accurate and seemed to firm up in the twisties. The car takes a firm set with minimal body roll, and it slides through corners with aplomb.

    We also found the brakes to be firm and solid.

  • Exterior

    The Passat suffers a bit from a plain design. It won't turn heads or excite, and it doesn't look as stylish as competitors like the Ford Fusion or Hyundai Sonata, and that's a bit of a letdown in a class where style is fast becoming more important.

  • Interior

    Interior materials are generally high-class (especially the leather and the soft-touch dash), and we found both the interior and the trunk to be quite spacious. The Passat's cabin is a comfortable place to do the business of driving, with supportive seats and sound-deadening that keeps most wind and road noise--and the diesel's clatter--outside where it belongs.

    We were confused by some of the switchgear--it's not always clear what a button will do when pressed, thanks to the German predilection for hard-to-decipher pictographs. The good news is that there isn't an overload of buttons--the dash design is relatively minimalist.

  • Fuel Economy

    One of the main reasons to buy a diesel is to get outstanding fuel economy, and the Passat TDI delivers on this, with a 31 mpg city and 43 mpg highway with the manual (30/40 with the automatic). That's pretty impressive.

  • Final Thoughts

    We found it hard to say good-bye to the Passat TDI--it does virtually everything well. It's roomy, fun to drive, and fuel efficient, with an upscale ambiance to boot. Our complaints were few and far between, mostly centering on some confusing buttons and a plain-Jane design.

    Diesel does usually cost more at the pump and it can be harder to find, but given the Passat's fuel economy and sub-$30K sticker price, we'd have no problem putting up with that.

  • Specs, Features, Prices

    Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged direct-injection diesel

    Transmission: Six-speed manual

    Drive Wheels: Front

    As-Tested Price: $27,020

    Available Features: Auxiliary port, heated front seats, Bluetooth, satellite radio, cruise control, tilt/telescope steering wheel.

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