Volkswagen Passat TDI Road Test Review by Martha Hindes
With hybrid and electric autos taking the share of attention in America these days, is there room for a rebel with a cause? What about a family-sized sedan that takes a different direction from the crowd and plants its reputation solidly on the least popular auto technology, but one of the most promising to come down the interstate in a long time? What if it offered more interior room for five, at less or comparable cost, with higher mileage than its competitors down the block. That might sound like the 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI turbo diesel.
After a year on the sidelines, the front-drive Passat is making reappearance on the national scene for 2012 with a number of changes. A noticeable transition is its switch from more limited near-luxury level status to a mainstream, competitive cost, made-in-the U.S. participant. This isn't your mother's Passat of yesterday with a hint of snob appeal and exclusivity. This newest offering is meant more for the masses. And if Volkswagen got it right, not only will it put more Passats on the road but will help to bring diesel autos to the forefront.
Diesel technology has been more rare in America than in other countries for a number of reasons. A major one is the thankfully faded memory of earlier diesel auto tailpipes that belched thick smoke while their engines grunted with the effort of climbing almost any hill. About five years ago industry regulators got serious and began phasing in mandated Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel with more stringent emissions standards that included scrubbing away those annoying bits of grit diesels used to leave behind. Companies like VW, mostly the European brands, responded by bringing in engines that run clean and lean, while generally gaining higher mileage than their gas-fueled counterparts.
While that might seem like a pretty strong claim, let’s compare some results. The often heavily tax incentivized hybrid cars that mate gasoline engines with battery-powered electric motors have reached the 40 mpg mark and in a few cases more, after years of costly development and continuing market hype. Electric only autos coming on scene require a place to plug in. But the TDI (for turbo diesel injected) version of Passat rips off a cool 31/43 miles to the gallon of diesel fuel with manual transmission, or a no-slouch 30/40 with automatic, all riding on a 2.0-liter, 140-horsepower inline four. The Selective Catalytic Reduction System ensures this earth friendly clean diesel vehicle meets the emissions requirements of all 50 states.
Those are some of the reasons the Earth, Wind & Power award's jurors chose the Volkswagen Passat TDI as the 2012 Earth, Wind & Power Car of the Year for Most Earth Friendly.
According to Courtney Caldwell, founder and director of the awards and publisher of Earth, Wind & Power Magazine, the award determined by a field of longtime, well-known auto journalists goes to the production vehicle that contributes most to eliminating pollution and protecting the environment while providing the most exciting, pleasurable and useful driving experience around.
“The 2012 VW Passat TDI beat out its competition by a landslide,” said Caldwell. "The vehicle not only is fuel efficient and eco-friendly, but its styling, performance, power and pricing leaves one feeling like they’re driving a high performance vehicle with no tell tale signs of lag or noise that other diesel engine vehicles tend to still leave behind." [Full story]