September 21, 2011

Review: Volkswagen Passat

CelloMom was going to review the Toyota Camry, whose popularity in the US has been boosted by its hybrid version. But the Japanese versions have the same engines, with the same fuel economy, so CelloMom has had to look further afield, and came across the VW Passat.

This review is for CelloMom's friend Amy, who likes her Toyota Camry for its roominess, because she is a big-gesture kind of driver; this is meant both literally and figuratively, for she has a habit of using the big trunk and the back seat to carry goods for her friends, and camping gear when her son's class goes on a trip. CelloMom studied the toyota.jp website for a while, but found that all Toyota sedans of this size had similar fuel efficiencies; for the Camry (2.5L, 169hp) it is 22/33mpg (cty/hwy) and for its hybrid version 31/35mpg.

One possible alternative for the Camry is the Volkswagen Passat, which is just about the same size. Until 2010 you could buy it in the US with the 2.0L engine, but for 2011 Volkswagen has bumped it to a larger engine size, so now you can only get it with a 2.5L engine with 5 cylinders. (The world will have to get used to odd numbers of cylinders, but CelloMom thought it was reserved for tiny, 3-cylinder engines). The US Passat's fuel economy is 21/32 mpg, comparable to that of the non-hybrid Toyota Camry.

As is the case with many other makes and models, you cannot get a Passat with a 2.5L engine in Europe. Even in Autobahn-loving Germany, the biggest engine for the Passat is a 2.0L. But this is one sweet 2.0L engine! It runs on diesel, which has a higher energy density than gasoline to begin with, and it has a turbocharger which compresses the air before admitting it, so that more oxygen can react with the fuel inside the cylinders (and there is a reassuringly even number of them, four). The result is that you get a cleaner-running engine that gets a nice power boost, to 140hp. CelloMom loves win-win situations like this. Because of the nature of diesel, you cannot avoid soot particles, but they are scrubbed from the exhaust stream by a diesel filter. This 2.0L, 140hp engine gets 48mpg as logged by actual users. Don't miss the hilarious opening clip on the German Passat page ("More than one idea ahead").

As Amy has the inclinations of mechanical engineers who enjoy performance in their cars, CelloMom will refrain from trying to sell her the 1.6L TDI version. But you can bet it's even more gas-frugal in return for being less powerful. And its pretax price is € 2,000 lower than for the 2.0L TDI version, so CelloMom (who is not a mechanical engineer) would be quite satisfied with that.


VW Passat, Same-Model comparison, different engines.

US Europe
Type 2.5L S Trendline 2.0TDI BlueMotion
Year 2011 2011
Emissions rating Sedan EURO5 "A"
MSRP $ 19,995 € 23.405 (pre-tax)
(approx $ 31,800)
CelloMom Rating
Fuel Economy:
City/Hwy quoted 21 / 32 mpg 5.6 / 4.0 l/100km
(42 / 59 mpg)
Avg. quoted 4.6 l/100km (51 mpg)
Avg. actual 57.7 mpg_imp
(48mpgUS) HonestJohn
Engine 2.0L 20-valve DOCH 5-cyl inline 2.0L TDI Bluemotion
Power 170hp @ 5700 rpm 140hp @ 4200rpm
Gears 5-spd man 6-spd man
Fuel reg unleaded diesel
Length, mm(in) (191.6 in) 4769mm (187.8 in)
Width, mm(in) (72.2 in) 1820mm (71.7 in)
Height, mm(in) (58.5 in) 1470mm (57.9 in)
Weight, kg(lbs) (3166 lbs) 1432 kg (3157 lbs)
Trunk volume (15.9 cuft)
Turning radius, m(ft) (36.4ft) 11.4m (37.4)
Top speed, kph(mph) 213 kph (132mph)

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