Words by Brian Armstead
With rising costs for travel, a lot of Americans now drive from one destination to another. Yes, there are discounts available for air travel, but they usually involve advance planning — several months out from your intended travel date — to really get good discounts. And pick the wrong airline, and those discounts can quickly be chewed up by $75 bag fees and $12 meals onboard. Let’s say you wanted to travel to St. Louis, Missouri from Washington, D.C., a distance of just over 800 miles. At the time of this writing, book a flight on a popular airline (United) with two week’s notice, and the round trip fare was $712. Also at the time of writing the lowest price for diesel fuel in Washington, D.C. was $3.69 a gallon.
So if you were wise enough to purchase the subject of this road test review, the 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI, you could travel the same route for $68.26 each way for a total of $136.53 round trip. How is this possible? The Passat has an available turbodiesel engine that gets a very impressive 44 mpg in highway driving with the standard manual transmission. Couple this with the Passat’s 18.5 gallon fuel tank, and 814 miles out of a tankful of fuel is within easy reach. What is even more impressive is that with special tires and special driving techniques, so called “Hypermilers” have achieved an astonishing 77.99 mpg with the same Passat TDI you and I can buy at local VW dealerships.
Passat TDI prices start at $26,825 and feature a six-speed manual transmission, 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, leatherette seating surfaces, eight-way power driver seat, heated front seats, premium touchscreen radio, rearview camera, multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel, VW’s “Car-Net” telematics, sliding front center armrest, and rear passenger air vents. The SE with Sunroof ($28,840) adds a six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission, 18-inch wheels, and a power tilt and slide sunroof. The SE with Sunroof and Navigation ($30,545) includes side moldings with chrome accents, navigation system, keyless access with push-button start, comfort sport seats, and front foglights. The top-of-the-line TDI SEL Premium starts at 33,585 and includes leather seating surfaces, comfort sport seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, upgraded navigation, Fender premium audio, driver seat memory, wood grain interior trim, and an eight-way power passenger seat.
All Passat models, gasoline or diesel, are covered by a comprehensive warranty with 3 years/36,000 miles of powertrain protection, 5 years/60,000 miles of corrosion protection, 3 years/36,000 miles of 24 hour roadside assistance and two years/24,000 miles of free scheduled maintenance.
The Passat competes in a crowded entry level luxury market that includes the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Maxima, Mazda6, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima. All of the aforementioned models have legions of consumers who loyally stick with their respective brands. The same is true for Passat owners, who appreciate the difference between the German, Japanese, American and Korean driving experiences. To me, German cars like the Passat are tight and precise on the road, contributing to the fun factor behind the wheel. The 2015 Passat TDI is no exception, as it handles well, and is very quiet. Gone are the days when diesel engines sounded like a mess of pots and pans clanking against each other. The Passat TDI is almost whisper quiet. Acceleration is quite impressive with loads of torque available when you press the accelerator with force. This car moves out quite smartly.
On the safety front, German cars are also traditionally safe, with high marks from U.S. Government and private safety organizations like the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In USG crash testing, the Passat earns a four star frontal, five star side impact and four star rollover rating. In IIHS testing, it earns “Top Safety Pick” honors.
Standard Passat safety gear includes Electronic Stability Control that helps compensate for oversteer or understeer by applying corrective forces to each of the wheels. Also standard is an anti-lock braking system, hydraulic brake assist, tire pressure monitor, and Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System. In the event of a collision it automatically unlocks the doors, shuts off the fuel pump to minimize the risk of a fuel-fed fire, and turns on the hazard warning lights. Six standard airbags include front and side thorax airbags for front-seat occupants, and front to rear side curtain protection airbags.
For those who may not know, Volkswagen designs and executes some of the best interiors in the business. Everything fits just right, and is of the highest quality. Remember, VW is the “budget” brand of the Volkswagen Group, which in the U.S. also sells Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Lamborghini and Bugatti motorcars. How’s that for a super group of technology to trickle down to VW?