2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL Premium: Track Tested

40 MPG, but Is It Any Fun?

  • 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL - Action Front 3/4

    2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL - Action Front 3/4

    2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL. | June 18, 2013

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Edmunds tests hundreds of vehicles a year. Cars, trucks, SUVs, we run them all, and the numbers always tell a story. With that in mind we present "Edmunds Track Tested," a quick rundown of all the data we collect at the track, along with comments direct from the test drivers. Enjoy.

Ask any car guy why diesel cars are so cool and he'll tell you in one word: torque.

Torque is what makes things get up and go. Torque is what sits you back in your seat. And with 236 pound-feet of torque, our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL Premium can get away with having only 140 horsepower from its 2.0-liter turbodiesel.

The Volkswagen Passat TDI is known for its stellar fuel economy-to-size ratio. According to the EPA, the Passat TDI will deliver 40 mpg on the highway. But what happens when the initial torque wears off and the tach needle starts to edge toward that 5,000-rpm redline?

What sort of performance should we really expect from a full-size sedan that claims 40 mpg? Will 140 hp be enough? Will the torque satisfy beyond the initial 30 feet of acceleration? We took it to the track to find out.

Vehicle: 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL Premium
Odometer: 1,379
Date: 6/4/2013
Driver: Chris Walton
Price: $33,710

Drive Type: Front engine, front-wheel drive
Transmission Type: Six-speed auto-clutch manual
Engine Type: Turbocharged, four-cylinder diesel
Displacement (cc/cu-in): 1,968/120
Redline (rpm): 5,000
Horsepower (hp @ rpm): 140 @ 4,000
Torque (lb-ft @ rpm): 236 @ 1,500
Brake Type (front): 12.3-inch ventilated discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Brake Type (rear): 10.7-inch solid discs with single-piston sliding calipers
Suspension Type (front): Independent multilink, coil springs, twin-tube dampers, stabilizer bar
Suspension Type (rear): Independent multilink, coil springs, twin-tube dampers, stabilizer bar
Tire Size (front): 235/45R18 (94H) M+S
Tire Size (rear): 235/45R18 (94H) M+S
Tire Brand: Continental
Tire Model: ContiProContact
Tire Type: All-season
As Tested Curb Weight (lb): 3,501

Test Results:

0-30 (sec): 3.1 (3.7 w/ TC on)
0-45 (sec): 5.6 (6.4 w/ TC on)
0-60 (sec): 9.1 (10.0 w/ TC on)
0-60 with 1-ft Rollout (sec): 8.8 (9.5 w/ TC on)
0-75 (sec): 14.0 (15.0 w/ TC on)
1/4-Mile (sec @ mph): 16.7 @ 81.6 (17.2 @ 81.2 w/ TC on)

30-0 (ft): 31
60-0 (ft): 124

Slalom (mph): 63.1
Skid Pad Lateral Acceleration (g): 0.83

RPM @ 70: 2,050


Acceleration: Because the engine is so torque rich at nearly any rpm, this car feels faster than the data shows it is. The transmission also contributes to its seemingly effortless, seamless (albeit slow) acceleration. Interesting that despite any mode (D, S, Manual) that the transmission will auto upshift at 4,400 rpm, or well shy of the indicated redline. Power begins to wane right before the upshift, so it probably wouldn't help it anyway. There's no traction-control defeat button, but some pedal overlap and allowing manual mode to auto-upshift makes the time-to-speed drop by almost a full second. Too much brake torqueing is not permitted.

Braking: First stop was shortest and just average for this class of car, and the distances grew quickly with successive stops. Good directional control, yet pedal feels oddly soft and disconnected all the time. Also, in everyday driving, there's that freefall feeling after the transmission "pushes the clutch in" and before the brakes begin to slow the car. Odd.


Slalom: Neither traction nor stability control can be disabled, yet the Passat feels confident and darned capable. It takes a set well and tracks beautifully. Steering is somewhat distant-feeling but accurate.

Skid pad: Plenty of grip and confidence and balance despite its 60/40 weight distribution. ESC intervenes by cutting throttle. Steering load is appropriate, but not all that informative. I'm tempted to give it a "good" rating, but the numbers don't bear that out.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Most Recommended Comments

By duck87
on 06/19/13
6:44 AM PST

"Torque is what makes things get up and go. Torque is what sits you back in your seat" Sort of, but I like using horsepower as a better indicator for acceleration, since it's a product of torque X rpm (/5252, to be more specific) taking into account engine revs obviously... but in the end, they're all related. The diesel engine's prodigious low end torque means it has a lot of low end power (hence "get up and go"), and over the 4.5k rev band this power band is flatter than a gas engine. The downside is that since a gas engine holds a better torque curve at higher rpms (and it can reach those revs), a gas engine also makes greater peak power. Take advantage of shorter gearing and that's why your acceleration times are crap even if the car feels strong off the line. It's the same thing with all diesels... the initial rush of power falls off when you actually give it beans.

Recommend  (52) (48)

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