By JIM MACPHERSON
2:14 PM EDT, October 15, 2013
After seeing impressive results following the introduction of the redesigned Passat in 2012, Volkswagen isn’t resting on its laurels for 2014.
The 2014 Passat offers a new base engine, a 1.8-liter, 170-horsepower, direct injection, turbocharged four-cylinder that is also offered in 2014 Golfs and Jettas. It’s gradually taking the place of the previously standard 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, starting in the top-shelf SEL Premium trim level.
The power ratings of these two engines are identical, but the new four-cylinder engine delivers seven lbs-ft more torque and its 35-mile-per-gallon EPA highway rating is three miles per gallon better than that of the five-cylinder engine. However, the changeover to the new engine will be gradual, meaning that many 2014 Passat buyers, especially those seeking the base “S” or “SE” versions will get cars with the five-cylinder engine.
Returning for 2014 is the 2.0-liter TDI “Clean Diesel” option and the 3.6-liter VR-6 with its 280-horsepower rating. This engine, paired with a six-speed dual-clutch automated transmission, was the version Volkswagen loaned my wife Paula and me for review.
Performance with the VR-6 is first rate. Sixty miles per hour arrives in 6.5-seconds with the transmission delivering amazingly fast shifts. The tachometer needle reflects the speed of the transmission’s gear changes, snapping crisply from one reading to the next with each ratio change.
The transmission works just like a conventional automatic from the perspective of the driver, with one exception. There can be a slight delay in engagement when first starting out. This might tempt a driver to press harder on the accelerator so that when the car does begin moving, it does so with a lurch. This is only mildly irritating under most circumstances, but can be a bit disconcerting when maneuvering in tight quarters, such as pulling into the garage or parallel parking with other vehicles close by.
When designing this Passat specifically for North America (and South Korea and China), Volkswagen took note of our less-than-perfect roads. The suspension seems softer than in previous Passats and it absorbs bumps nicely. But the handling retains its European feel and the car is both responsive and nicely balanced on secondary roads. Braking is reassuringly strong.
The interior is exceptionally spacious and comfortable for the class, with rear seating a standout feature. Adults fit comfortably in the aft cabin. Trunk room is also quite good.
The Passat is also a standout in the latest safety tests, garnering the top score of “Good” in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s frontal, side and rear crash tests. It was also rated “Good” for roof strength and it picked up an “Acceptable” score in the difficult small overlap frontal crash test. That means the new Passat is one of the few cars to earn the “Top Safety Pick +” rating from the Institute.
If there’s one problem facing the 3.6-liter version of the Passat, it’s the new 1.8-liter standard engine. It’s satisfyingly quick despite being about two seconds slower to 60 miles per hour and it is noticeably more refined than the 2.5-liter five that it is replacing. Its fuel economy should also be better than either the five-cylinder or our test VR-6. Brief trials earlier this month on the West Coast suggest the 1.8-liter or the diesel are the versions that should please most customers. Either way, the 2014 Passat is a worthy competitor in the family sedan arena.
Driving the 2014 Volkswagen Passat gave me my first chance to try this latest version of the car with the VR-6 cylinder engine. It turns out to be a very nice package.
I was initially impressed by the wide range of adjustments from the power seat and the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. This, and the supportive driver’s seat, made getting comfortable quite easy. Both my taller husband Jim and I agreed on the seating comfort up front. We also agreed that the rear seat was exceptionally good for adults.
As a current Volkswagen owner, I noticed that the ease of reading the gauges is markedly improved, especially at night where the white lighting is much more legible compared to my car’s purple-blue lighting. The heater and air conditioner controls are low but simple to use. Other manufacturers might want to copy our SE trim level Passat’s classic design. However, they shouldn’t copy the tiny symbols on the control that regulates the air vents. They also shouldn’t copy the lack of any rear seat vents.
The Passat rides and drives beautifully. It features plenty of power, a responsive throttle and steering, a smooth ride and very good isolation from noise. It would be a great long-distance car.
While we ultimately averaged 25 miles per gallon, the trip computer did soar above the 30 mile-per gallon point on an extended highway jaunt. Unfortunately, premium gasoline is called for by Volkswagen. The new four- and five-cylinder engines burn regular gas.
The Passat shouldn’t be ignored by power shoppers. The trunk measures approximately 16 cubic feet, more than enough to carry the booty from a group outing at a discount mall. Access is also easy and the rear seat is split and fold to increase the car’s cargo capacity.
As much as I enjoyed the VR6’s power, I agree with my husband and would opt for either the gasoline or diesel four-cylinder model. Performance would be more than sufficient for me and the fuel economy would be better.
Engines: 1.8 2.5 2.0 diesel 3.6 VR-6
HP: 170 170 140 280
Torque (lb/ft): 184 177 236 258
EPA Manual: 24/35 22/32 31/43 Not offered
EPA Auto: 24/34 22/31 30/40 20/28
Starts at: $20,845
Jim MacPherson is the host of "The Car Doctor" show airing Sundays at noon on WTIC-AM. Paula MacPherson is his wife and new-car review partner. Send comments, questions, suggestions in care of Special Publications, Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115, or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2014, The Hartford Courant