Perfect Road Trip Car? - 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI Long-Term Road Test

2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI Long-Term Road Test

2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI: Perfect Road Trip Car?

August 16, 2013

2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI

The perfect car for the journey. That pretty much sums up my experience with the Volkswagen Passat TDI as it transported two couples and a trunk filled with their stuff to Las Vegas and back. The only better cars would surely cost $90,000.

As a 6-foot-3 driver, it's not very often that a full-size adult can fit behind me over long distances without one of us feeling mushed. Yet with the giant Passat, I didn't have to (as usual) put my tiny wife behind me or even care how far I moved my seat back. As for the trunk, it managed three sizeable Roll-aboard suitcases, an overnight bag, my briefcase and a 36-liter roller cooler that impressively fit all the way rearward. No Tetris needed, it all went in without effort.

2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI

Big deal, you might say. A lot of full-size sedans could manage that. Perhaps, but how many could've achieved 41.2 mpg on the journey? That's not as good as the in-car meter reported (46.3 mpg) or an empty Passat TDI accomplished in our ironically named 40-MPG Challenge (51.3 mpg), but it's still better than the EPA's 40 estimate. Furthermore, driving the Passat TDI is vastly better than some equally fuel-sipping hybrid. Its torque-rich engine is definitely a boon when trying to pass left-lane automotive ruminants on southbound Interstate 15, which on a Sunday, has to be the most aggravating stretch of freeway on the planet. Seriously, how damn hard is it to maintain your speed on a hill? If you're having trouble, there's this thing called cruise control.

Where was I? Ah yes, the Passat TDI. I said in the beginning that the only better cars would cost $90,000, thinking about the Mercedes-Benz S350 Bluetec and Audi A8 TDI. On second thought, though, the A8 has a significantly smaller trunk than the Passat and the S350 is likely to fall 10 mpg short of the humble Volkswagen. So in that way, I feel safe in calling this one. The VW Passat TDI: the perfect car for a road trip with four adults.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 5,653 miles


  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    This is going to be where the Passat feels most at home I think. Crushing large highway distances with it's abundant space, storage, range, and reasonable power. As for people slowing down on the highway, its their road too, and as long as they don't slow down to under about 55 or 60mph (what I consider to be minimum safe speed on the highway when traffic is flowing normally) then I think you should be easier on them.

  • 10 mph under the speed limit can cause a lot of traffic issues and lead to angry drivers which is quite dangerous itself. It is their road too and I do realize the posted limit is the 'maximum' but like all things in society we have laws and then we have the way we as a group decide to function. When someone is doing 55 in a 65 zone that everyone else is gong 70 in it really isn't safe. Granted they may not have much of a choice between LA and Vegas but the rest of the time if you are going to go that slow then take surface streets and stay off the freeway. --------- I wish more people would either learn to go at a steady pace or use their cruise control. It isn't unusual for me to pass the same car a half dozen times in 30 minutes and not once alter my speed.

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    Oh please. Here are things that are unsafe while driving: Drinking alcohol, eating, texting, speeding. Yes doing 75 in a 70 is speeding. No, it doesn't matter if everybody else is doing 90. Now here are some safe things to do while driving: FOLLOWING TRAFFIC LAWS, not going past your own limits (if you're not comfortable at 70, then 60 is just fine), slowing down in adverse conditions. You know, I'm tired of this childish mentality that everyone should drive faster than is safe because people have rationalized it to themselves that getting where they going three minutes earlier is more important than posted speeds, acceptable following distances, and ultimately other people's safety and freedom to use the road in a safe, lawful manner.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    It never ceases to amaze me that the typical automotive consumer can't manage to safely drive a car without all manner of electronic aids to maintain traction and stability, to assist with visibility, to prevent brake lockup, and even to just stay in the correct lane, but resolutely refuses to use one very helpful aid - cruise control.

  • stovt001_ stovt001_ Posts:

    @quadri: It isn't the speed itself that's at issue, it is the inability to maintain a consistent speed. Few things are more infuriating on a long road trip than trying to maintain space (while properly using cruise control) behind a car that's constantly

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    @stovt001: Its not that kind of driving that I'm defending, or going slowly/staying in the fast lane, or going 50 mph on the highway, or any other behavior that tends to disrupt normal traffic flow. I'll definitely agree that unsteady driving speeds lend

  • agentorange agentorange Posts:

    @quadricycle Given that I-15 crosses the Mojave Desert, there are rarely any issues with road surface conditions or visibility except on rare occasions in winter. The speed up, slow down, left lane campers have absolutely no excuse. I also grew up in Euro

  • fordson1 fordson1 Posts:

    Sorry, quadricycle - the original complaint in the post was about people in the LEFT lane, and was about them not holding their speed (not their speed per se). This behavior is an indicator of distracted driving, which you cite as a danger. Also, you stated that as long as someone does not drop below 55 mph in a 70 zone, in the left lane, we should be easier on them - ? Really? You think that's OK and/or safe? Here is what the traffic engineers would tell you: ANYONE who causes a large speed differential in the traffic flow, either by going too far above, or too far beneath, the prevailing traffic speed in their lane OR even on the road in general, is causing a safety hazard. They will also tell you that people who insist upon following the yellow-diamond-shaped "suggested" speed signs on curves, exits and entrance lanes, are a similar danger. And they'll say that as traffic density goes up, this is a larger and larger factor in safety. This is not just my opinion - it's generally-accepted thinking on the subject. And of course this discussion is about a limited-access highway, where there are no scooters, bicyclists, pedestrians, tractors, etc.

  • pantherman5 pantherman5 Posts:

    Everyone has his/her own opinion of how fast or slow you should drive on fwy, but i think it's irrelevant in this discussion. This 4 banger diesel engine is capable to kick hybrid's butt any day, fwy or not, and it can haul cooler and luggage and a few big guys with comfort, and retain the feeling of driving a real car. I'm looking forward to my own long trip. I can't wait to see that 40+mpg figure display in my dash, and be able to brag about how little fuel it sips, yet still able to haul like a full size sedan!

  • quadricycle quadricycle Posts:

    @fordson1: Yes, you're right about what the original complaint was. I misread, and derailed into an entirely different argument. As for the rest, my (attempted) point concerned people driving slower in the correct/right (right as in not left) lane. They'r

  • metalmania metalmania Posts:

    I've never really considered diesels until now, so it's interesting reading these updates. I hope when the Mazda 6 diesel becomes available Edmunds picks one up for a long term test. I know it won't really be an issue for these guys in California, but is cold weather starting still a problem for modern diesels in cars like this? I live in New England, so we can have a few months per year where temperatures average below freezing.

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