Friday, August 7, 2015

Going Green: 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI

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 For 2015, the VW  Passat receives an update to the TDI engine that gives it 10 more horsepower, and slightly better fuel economy than the old engine.

     If you would like to drive a roomy midsize sedan with European flavor, you have one option: the 2015 VW Passat. With its neatly tailored like styling, nicely done cabin, composed handling and refined ride, the Passat will more than likely impress you when you take a test drive. The appeal might run even deeper than that, as it is the only car in its class to offer a diesel engine as an option.

     The Passat's roomy interior caters to the American tastes by allowing generous room for those in the front and rear seats, as well as quite a large trunk. Given the fact that VW builds the Passat in Tennessee just for the American market, this tailored to U.S. specs shouldn't really come as any surprise.

     The 2015 VW Passat is offered in 6 main trim levels: S, Wolfsburg, Limited Edition, SE, Sport, and SEL Premium. The TDI is offered in SE and SEL Premium trims.

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     The base S comes equipped with standard features like 16-inch steel wheels, auto headlamps, keyless entry, full power accessories, a/c, a height adjustable drivers seat, a 60/40 split folding rear seat, cloth seating surfaces, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, trip computer, Bluetooth, and a 6-speaker sound system.

     The Wolfsburg Edition adds 16-inch alloy wheels, leatherette seating surfaces, a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a 6 way power drivers seat, heated front seats, satellite radio, iPod interface, and Car-Net.

     With the Limited Edition you get 17-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a rear view camera, keyless entry and ignition, and an 8-speaker sound system with touchscreen interface. With the SE, you lose the keyless ignition, but gain heated mirrors, rear seat air vents, a sliding front armrest, and auto dimming rear view mirror, and upgraded gauges and displays.

     The Passat Sport is very much like the SE, but you get 19-inch alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters as long as you have the automatic transmission equipped, front sport seats, and faux carbon fiber interior accents.

     The top of the line SEL Premium trim includes all of the SE features as well as 18-inch alloy wheels, sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, a six way power passenger seat, driver memory functions, leather seating surfaces, wood grain interior trim, dual zone auto a/c, navigation, upgraded audio system, and a separate ski pass for the 60/40 split folding rear seat.

     The 2015 VW Passat is front wheel drive, and comes with 3 rather different engine choices.

     All trim levels except the TDI have a 1.8 liter 4 cylinder turbocharged engine rated at a stout 170 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft of torque. The Sport and S trims can be had with either a 5 speed manual, or a 6 speed automatic transmission, while the Wolfsburg, SE, and SEL Premium come only with the automatic. In performance testing, the Passat 1.8T SEL Premium did the 0-60 mph run in a quick 7.8 seconds. EPA numbers stand at 28 mpg combined for the manual transmission, and 28 mpg combined for the automatic.

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 The TDI, available in SE and SEL Premium trims, comes with a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder turbocharged diesel engine, rated at 150 horsepower, and 236 lb.ft of torque. The SE can be had with either a 6-speed manual like the tester provided for this review, or a 6-speed DSG, while the SEL Premium is DSG only. The EPA numbers stand at 34 mpg combined for the automatic, and 35 mpg combined for the manual. In testing, these numbers were easily beatable, a feat that can't be said for most hybrids.

     The strongest possible engine on the 2015 VW Passat is a 3.5 liter V6, which thumps out 280 horsepower, and 258 lb.-ft of torque. It's optional on the SEL Premium, and comes with the DSG transmission. In testing of a previous Passat, the V6 equipped Passat did the 0-60 mph dash in a respectable 6.4 seconds, and EPA numbers came in at 23 mpg combined.

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     Standard safety features for the 2015 VW Passat include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags. A rear view camera is standard on SE, Sport, and SEL Premium trims. VW's Car-Net, which is their version of OnStar, is standard from the Wolfsburg on up. However, features that are found on many other family sedans like blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning and forward collision warning aren't even offered as options.

     In government crash testing, the 2015 VW Passat scored a perfect overall score of 5 stars. In brake testing, the Passat equipped with a V6 came to a stop from 60 mph in 133 feet, which is a little bit longer than usual. However, a 1.8 SEL stopped in a class-average 123 feet, and a TDI in 124 feet.

     Super roomy is the operative word you could use when describing the cabin of the 2015 VW Passat. Space upfront is good, however, even with the power seats, there is no seat bottom tilt adjustment that is found in many other competitors. In back, the Passat verges on full-size sedan measurements, as even 6 foot tall passengers will have room to stretch their legs. The seat back cushion is rather upright however, which can result in your head possibly touching the roof if you are someone of a taller height. The rather large trunk can swallow 16 cubic feet of stuff, and you can haul even more if you fold the the 60/40 split folding rear seat.

     The quality of the interior materials is among the best in the class. The overall design is borderline upscale, while the layout of the gauges and controls are pretty simple. The premium Fender audio system should please even the most hardcore audiophile. My only major complaint with the interior is the navigation systems. The SE models have a lower cost unit with a small touchscreen. You got a much larger screen in the SEL, but the interface is slower to commands, even if its just changing a radio station.

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 It's safe to say that most buyers will be happy with the 1.8T engine. It's quick and smooth, and provides rather good fuel economy. It is quicker than the TDI, but the latter boasts much more low end torque and returns quite stunning fuel economy and range. If you care more about horsepower than fuel economy, you still have the option of the 3.6 liter V6.

     The DSG transmission that is available with the TDI engine and standard with the V6 generally feels like a normal automatic, and in some cases it's even better, it provides super quick downshifts in highway passing situations. A negative of the DSG is the otherwise unresponsiveness. Unless you put it in Sport mode, there is a slight, however noticeable, delay between when you press the gas pedal, and when the engine responds. Most owners get used to this, or they just put it in Sport mode.

     On the highway, the 2015 VW Passat is super quite and comfortable, snuffing out bumps large and small. Around turns, the steering is precise enough, although there isn't much feedback, and some people may find it a smidgen heavy at slow speeds. Overall, the Passat earns high praise for its relaxed, refined demeanor in everyday driving.

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