2012 Volkswagen Passat: Up Close

In the media scrum after Volkswagen’s Passat unveiling today, I’m tapping away on my laptop in the backseat. A 6-foot man in the driver’s seat says he has it adjusted to a comfortable driving position. I have enough room to sit with my legs comfortably extended, the laptop perched on my knees. There are 6 or 8 inches between my knees and the front seatbacks. Up front, sitting where I would drive, I could move the seat back another 4 or 5 inches before it runs out of track. LeBron James could drive this thing (just not to Cleveland).

More details and photos of the 2012 Volkswagen Passat

Suffice it to say, the new Passat is roomy. Cavernous. Friggin’ huge.

But we suspected as much when the automaker made it clear it would create a sedan just for American tastes. The looming question: Could VW trim the family sedan down to $20,000 — a price that’s competitive with the Camrys and Accords of the world, but one the Passat hasn’t cost since 1998 — while maintaining the cabin quality for which the automaker is known?

In the largest sense, yes. The cabin loses a few amenities that set the old Passat apart — the center armrest is no longer height-adjustable, the backseat lacks center air vents, the B- and C-pillars are now plastic — but it’s competitive with other family cars, and the roomy-as-hell backseat should draw a number of parents who can’t stuff their plus-sized child seats into a Ford Fusion.

Styling similarities to the Jetta are not a knock on the Passat. This is a sharp car. The cabin has an appealing rear-set profile, and the tail mimics many of Audi’s sedans. I see some of Honda’s refreshed 2011 Accord up front, particularly in the grille’s plunging horizontal strakes.

Product planner Brett Scott said the trunk is slightly larger than the outgoing Passat’s, which had 14.2 cubic feet. That’s not terribly impressive, but the trunk itself looks large enough, with a rectangular bay for full-size luggage. The standard 60/40-split rear seat folds nearly flat, and the resulting opening is pretty huge.

Still, I can’t abide by the five-cylinder engine replacing last year’s beloved turbo four. Scott defended the decision: “In this segment, we found 170 horsepower is enough,” he said.

Perhaps, but that five-cylinder isn’t the most refined engine — and the Passat will likely be the heaviest car to carry it yet. Scott characterized the car’s chassis tuning as very similar to the outgoing Passat’s; all-wheel-drive won’t be offered. We’ll report more on all the drivetrain variants, including the 43-mpg-highway Passat TDI, once we're behind the wheel.



Why would VW put out a new car with an old engine!? I guess that's where they're cutting corners to save money. I think the new design looks bland and with the bean-counter cost cutting move I'm beginning to wonder if GM mgt has moved over to VW. Unfortunately this new Passat has failure written all over it.


I am not understanding the hype over the styling at all. Looks very dated and the trunk has cheap cargo crushing hinges which werent on older VW products. The trunk also looks cheaply finished. This was a very kind up close review of this car. Also, why is the trunk so small on such a large sedan?


aw c'mon VW, use this opportunity to make the 2.5L more refined and powerful. with 200 hp and 200 lb-ft, this engine could potentially shine in this vehicle. Hyundai doesnt have any problem getting 200 horses out of their I4, and Lexus can get a bit more than 200 out of their 2.5L V6. there isnt any reason that a 2.5L I5 can't do the same. either that, or put the 2.0T back in under the hood.


Looks like an early 90s camry or Cadillac Catera.


somebody wake me up when VW either offers an interesting car for the US/Canadian market (skoda anyone?), or throws in the towel.


Really, why can't we get any reviewers to do a ranking of the look of the inside of the trunk of a car. I mean it is what everyone is waiting for.


Will they offer a TDI Wagon version in Canada?



If you like it buy it. At this point the car offers nothing you cant get in a generic Japanese midsize sedan, except the diesel engine. Its even as forgettable to look at as the Accord now. The CC looks MUCH better than this. Of course, this is exactly what VW wanted and this will probably appeal to camry/accord owners.

Curtis H

I think VW designers took direction from the same designers who gave us the last generation Malibu...so bland it puts one to sleep. Come on VW you are better than this!


Same problem with the new Jetta. New car, ancient engine.


I am an owner of a 2008 Passat VR6 sport. I wish VW would not have called the 2012 a Passat. Honestly, the 2012 dash and the interior looks on-par, but its not room or utilitarian aspects of my car that I love. The little special features of my 2008 make me love it. The adjustable armrest, the trunk latch that you can hang bags from, it has the rear vents for heat and air. How storage bins are lined. It is a very tactile car. It has the upscale nature that I can take 3 business associates out to lunch in. The 2012 has 0 appeal in these areas--and cuts a boring stance (to be fair I think the new European version also looks more boring, personally!) I bought the Passat because it felt like a personal luxury car--with room for a few friends. I guess if I want an Audi, I'll have to buy one now--I got my Passat at a huge discount in late 2008..


I don't know what you guys are all complaining about. How many cars can you buy that get 40 mpg and you can actually fit in comfortably? I've been waiting since 1997 - my current TDI Passat is at 270k miles and it's begging to be replaced. Sadly, I fear that VW will follow its recent pricing habits and the TDI will be the most expensive version. I don't need a second BMW, just a comfortable car that's cheap to run.


the 2011 Jetta and the 2012 Passat taking a turn for shitville. They look the same, and eqaully look ugly.

Jeff M

I saw the new Passat at the Detroit show last week and really liked it and want one---love the 40+ mpg TDI.
It's supposed to be able to buy sometime this summer---can't wait to drive one---we ski so the flat folding rear seat will be great--planning on trading in an '06 Accord.


Check into the reliability of other recent TDIs before you buy. 29 mpg city and 40 highway doesn't look so good when you're staring at a $10,000 repair bill. Popular Mechanics bought a long term TDI last year and had to replace the entire fuel system, including the fuel tank, pump injectors, etc.


My wife and I just purchased the last two 2010 Passat's in Northern California, we bought a Wagon and a Sedan. The fit and finish is amazing and we got great deals for the cars. I test drove a Jetta with the 2.5 engine and it was in a word, harsh. Maybe VW need to sell more cars, maybe they need more money, but I, for one am glad I got the last two 2010's with the Turbo 4 2.0L before VW started dumbing down the brand. I am not sure I will be returning to this brand if this is what they are going to do with it.


I sat in the Jetta and Passat at the 2011 auto show and both are lacking, especially the Jetta which is full of hard plastics and cost cutting. The Jetta is a joke and its easy to see how they got the price to $16k after seeing it in person. The base car doesn't even have a center armrest. The door panels are hard, moulded plastic, the dash is hard and there are no extras in the cabin. The Passat was a little better and there were SOME soft touch materials on the upper dash. That said, the door panels were cheap looking, there are no rear vents, the trunk has gooseneck hinges and the doors feel like they weigh 10lbs or less. They close like the doors on a Corolla. Also, the car is so cheap it has a hood prop like an 80s American car.




Gooseneck hinges? Wow they really are going after Toyota market.

I've got an 02 Passat and it's going to be very difficult convincing myself to upgrade to a car that's worse in a lot of ways.


as for the guy with the tdI problems, consider the source. Here's one. My name is Joe, I live in Maine; i've owned 3 tdi's since 1999 - a 2000 jetta (125,000mi), a 2004 Passast tdi (170,000) miles, and a new 2010 Jetta TDI (40,000). 340,000 miles. What have I had to spend $$ on? Well, routine maintenance. Timing belts hurt. The splash pans on the first two rotted off and needed a new screw. That's it. Let me repeat. That's it. I've never gotten below 40 mpg with any of them. fit & finish on the new jetta is terrific. EVERYthing worked on the passat even til the day i traded it in. I'll buy a new tdi the day the passat comes on the market. It was almost as much fun to drive as my audi TT and the build quality was better than my Lexus RX300. So there.


It sounds like you're singlehandedly trying to ruin Maine's air quality. You should try car pooling sometime.

Albert C

To Joe, thank buddy I needed to hear something good. I'm looking at a TDI 2012 Jetta for my work. I'm an outside sales guy and 40 mpg is appealing to me, plus they have a 36,000 or 3 year bumper to bumber warrante so what the hell.

Wes kretzer

I own an 09 jetta with 90k miles and have experienced none of the afore mentioned problems. Love the car, regularly get mid 40's and can't wait to purchase a new tdi passat which will offer more room and even better mileage. Very excited about this car!!!!


I have a 2010 Passat and love it. I looked at the new Jetta and did not like the overall feel. The new jetta reminded me of many other "American made" cars in its class. I bought my 10 Passat because I like the quality of a German made and build car.

Peter G.

I test drove a Jetta with the 2.5 engine and I have to say w/o the Turbo 4 2.0L I am not buying a Passat. I wanted to buy a Wagon for 2011 and of course they weren't available. I was just waiting until later in the year for that to come out. The engine is a portion of why I drive a VW, response, the 2.5 just ain't got it.


The 2012 TDI Passat looks great to me, but I have been totally spoiled by the reliability of my '97 (300k+ miles). Even my clutch and CV joints are original. I'll need to hear reliability reports before replacing my '97. Where's the TDI V6? If it's available in the Touareg why not the Passat?

Peter Anastopulos

I love this car and will trade my 2008 Passat which I bought but wanted a diesel which they dropped that year.I think this a handsome masculine car .Not feminine like the Japanese models.I am tall and have 50"shoulders on 32" waist.I need a proper car but with Fiesta like mileage .This car is meant for me and all you girlie men can have the Camry.

Paul Springer

They dropped the diesel in the USA when VW came out with the 2006 Passat. I know because I bought a 2006 and wqas very jealous of our European neighbors who could get a diesl Passat at close to 40mpg. I will buy the new diesel if the build quality is decent. Tennessee auto workers please do your best!


Don't believe the negative bull wrt tdi. My 2000 jetta tdi now has 335k miles & with no engine problems! Tdi is possibly the most reliable & durable engines made.


About a a year ago I read an auto magazine test drive report on the VW GTD, a diesel version of the Golf GTI with the TDI engine. The test drive was done in Europe. I was ready to buy after reading the test drive review and the soaring accolades about performance and top-notch quality of materials used, My desire increased , however upon investigating with a few VW dealers, I found this model would not be available in the US as far as anyone knows for the foreseeable future. .What a terrible disappointment this is. With rising fuel costs and retirement at hand with travel lust, I am very disappointed that VW will not export this model to the US.


Wonder if anyone knows if VW will make the Passat in a diesel wagon? I need the space to carry dogs.

Al B

Give me a TDI and more importantly AWD (requirement as I live in Colorado) and I will buy one immediately. Hell I might buy two with wagon variant.


Being a MINI owner of an 02 MCS I am well doo for a new car, I very interested on 335d but this Passat TDi seems go to me since we're looking at over $200k in savings!!!, Myabe I should wait who knows


Does anyone know when the tdi wagon will come out? The 2.5 is a klunker engine, the turbo was nice (i used to have 2 passat wagons) but premium fuel blows with todays prices!!And 32 mpg doent get done anymore not with 5.00 per gallon gas /fuel on the way


Sure, many have purchased Volkswagen vehicles for the brand's uniqueness, and the quirks that come along as well. However, I think this new Passat is a very good competitor to all the Japanese sedans people adore and cling to for some reason. The new Passat seems to be an excellent competitor to the Toyota Camry, and similar sedans. It might even give the Toyota Avalon a run for it's money. Nevertheless, it seems to be a spacious sedan, with a reasonable price, with the Volkswagen brand behind it. For me, and I'm assuming many others, this vehicle seems to be perfect for what it is... a family-sized sedan...


What a joke! Is this a retro car? This model looks so old. The 2 previous Passat models looked very stylish and this was a big selling point that set it apart from the competition. They always felt like a bit of luxury compared to other cars in this mid-size category. This is now over!

You made a step in the wrong direction VW. Even the new Honda, Toyota and now Hyundai look better than this.

Passat fans are just going to run away. I am a proud owner of a 03 Passat and was looking to upgrade but this new model isn't appealing at all. Bye Bye VW.


Popular Mechanics Jetta TDi had problems due to contaminated diesel - all fixed under warranty. Review is very positive about the car.

VW pat

I own a 2007 PAssat 2007 with the 2.oL turo..Th eonly thing I didn't like was the premium fuel. I feel that the 2.5L will not be powerful enough for ths size car. Not sure that I would spend the money on the V-6.. my 2007 looks much Better.

I bought new Passat TDI two months ago. I drive 40 - 50k a year. I have been Camry, Accord enthusiast for last 10 years. Passat has now 12k after two laps around USA. Awsome ride, handling and 46 -48 mpg at 72 mph. 725 miles per fill up (16 gallons). Some people will never be happy. Me, I will never have Camry or Accord again unless they go diesel. Keep it up VW, hats off to all of you in Chattannuga.


I bought the 2012 one month ago and love it. It is solid and fast. Sound system is good, not great. But compared to my 2009 Camry which I traded in, this car feels like a Mercedes.

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