Let's welcome the 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI to our long-term fleet -- this midsize sedan combines Volkswagen's familiar 40-year-old platform with the latest in clean diesel technology.
What does the Passat promise that its conventional gasoline-powered counterpart cannot, and why did we select the clean diesel version? Read on to find out.
What We Have
The subject of our latest long-term test is the 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL Premium, with an as-equipped MSRP of $32,995 (plus an $820 destination charge). Within the VW sedan lineup, the Passat is positioned above the Jetta, which starts at $16,895, and below the $32,495 CC, which wraps curvier sheet metal around the Passat platform.
The Passat TDI starts at $26,675 and slots between the 1.8T ($20,995) and Sport Edition 1.8T ($26,475) models, and the top-tier V6 model ($29,665). The TDI can be ordered in one of four trim levels: SE ($26,675), SE with sunroof ($28,675), SE with sunroof and navigation ($30,375) and SEL Premium ($33,395).
Spec'ing out our top-level SEL Premium model is easy, because Volkswagen's packaging has been simplified by making add-ons and options all but absent from their individual model lineups. As such, our tester comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, leather-trimmed seats with suede-like inserts, keyless access with remote and pushbutton start, and an 8-speaker Fender premium audio system.
The Passat TDI is powered by a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder diesel engine that produces a modest 140 horsepower but an impressive 236 lb-ft of torque. In contrast, the 1.8-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine makes 170 hp and 184 lb-ft, while the 3.6-liter V6 yields 280 hp and 258 lb-ft.
Though its torque figure far outweighs its hp rating, the TDI's most impressive numbers revolve around efficiency: Equipped with a 6-speed dual clutch transmission, the Passat TDI's window sticker indicates an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rating of 30 miles per gallon in the city and 40 mpg on the highway, and an even thriftier 31 mpg city/43 mpg highway on VW.com.
What We'll Be Looking For
The main goal of our 6-month test of the Passat TDI is to experience it during everyday driving, and evaluate the way it handles everything from grocery shopping and driving with kids to urban commutes and road trips. We'll also keep an eye on details like how its pale Cornsilk Beige interior handles wear, and how well the whole car withstands daily abuse. But thanks to its lofty EPA numbers, we'll be focusing a good amount of energy on the Passat TDI's fuel economy figures, and how it performs relative to its gasoline-powered counterparts.
With 7,508 miles already on the clock, our 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI loaner isn't exactly a brand-new car. But we think the 4-digit odometer reading is actually a good thing: rather than viewing this Passat as a slightly used car, we prefer to consider the mileage to be a head start on our exploration of how well Volkswagen's entry luxury sedan will hold up over the long haul.
Check in for regular updates on our long-term test of the 2014 Volksagen Passat TDI, and stay tuned to find out whether or not it realizes its fuel economy claims in real-world driving.