Since relocating to its new Tennessee home from Germany a couple of years ago, the Passat has proven it can hang tough with the major players in the mid-size sedan category.
A new 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine will slowly take over from the 2.5 five-cylinder; turbo-diesel and V6 engines remain.
Some pundits scoffed at the idea of a U.S.-built Passat, but they’re not scoffing any more. The Passat has the chops to run with the likes of Toyota Camary, Honda Accord and Ford Fusion — the Big Three of the sedan world — and hold its own in the process. Interior styling, inspired by Volkswagen’s Touareg tall wagon, is clean, uncluttered and devoid of the trendy dashboard swoops and swirls found in competing vehicles. For 2014, Passat gets the same new turbocharged 170-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that the rest of VW’s passenger-car fleet will receive. Hitched to a five-speed manual transmission (a six-speed automatic is optional), the Passat gets 24 mpg in the city and 35 on the highway, compared to 22/32 for the outgoing five-cylinder base engine that continues to be offered until turbo production fully ramps up. A 280-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 remains optional, as does Volkswagen’s hybrid-challenging 140-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-diesel (TDI) that gives the mid-size sedan a rating of 31 mpg in the city and 43 on the highway, along with a range on a full tank of fuel approaching 800 miles.
The outgoing 2.5 has a five-speed manual transmission, or optional six-speed automatic. The V6 operates with a six-speed automated manual (DSG) transmission that’s also available with the turbo-diesel, although a six-speed manual is the base transmission with that engine. The Passat’s starting-point S model is equipped with automatic climate control, cruise control and Bluetooth short-range wireless connectivity. Also standard is Hill Climb Assist that helps keep manual-gearbox models from rolling backward when you let out the clutch on an incline.
For 2014, a Wolfsburg trim level is positioned between the base and SE models and contains a few extra ingredients and trim for an extra $2,000. An extensive list of options (some of which appear in the better-equipped SE and SEL sedans) includes a leather- and walnut-trimmed interior, 17- or 18-inch alloy wheels (17-inch steelies are standard), push-button start, fog lights and a premium Fender-brand audio system.
Base price (incl. destination): $21,700
Type: Four-door sedan
Base engine (hp): 2.5-liter DOHC I5 (170); 1.8-liter DOHC I4, turbocharged (170)
Optional engines (hp): 3.6-liter DOHC V6 (280); 2.0-liter DOHC I4, turbo-diesel (140)
Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmissions: Five-speed manual (1.8 and 2.5); six-speed automatic (opt. on 2.5, 1.8); six-speed manual (TDI); six-speed automated manual (opt. TDI, std. on V6)
MPG (city/hwy): 24/35 (1.8)
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control
Weight (lb.): 3,170