May 28, 2013
Our new 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL Premium is a remarkable full-size sedan. Remarkable not for its interior space, which is ample. Not for its coddling ride quality, which is appreciated. Not even for its EPA fuel economy rating of 30 city/40 highway mpg and its butt-busting 740-mile range.
No, our long-term 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI is remarkable for its ability to put all of these things together in a package that doesn't stand out at all. It's not flashy, overly expensive or outwardly suggestive of its green credentials. The 2013 Passat TDI is simply a big, solid sedan that will swallow four adults in leg-crossing comfort while delivering fuel economy that will let you drive from L.A. to Vegas and back on a single tank of fuel.
Sounds like a perfect candidate for our long-term fleet. Flashy is fun for a little while, but it's the day-in and day-out functionality of a car that makes it attractive in the long run. Now we have a year to find out if the practical charms of the Passat remain over the long haul. And given its monster range, it could be a very long haul.
What We Got
Unlike most cars with multiple powertrains, comparing the TDI Passat with a gas-powered model is misleading. People buy diesels for a number of reasons that can't be broken down on a fuel economy chart. So, with that in mind, we're going to use a base price of $26,225, which is where the Passat diesel model starts.
For that entry fee, however, the Passat is no slouch. On top of the 140-horsepower 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine, buyers get 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, upgraded gauges and an eight-speaker stereo with touchscreen interface.
Our car is not the base car.
Nope, we've got the full-zoot, 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL Premium. Decode Volkswagen's cypher and you'll see that this car gets better front seats with suede inserts, dual-zone climate control, rearview back-up camera, keyless entry and ignition and power front seats with memory. Because this is a Volkswagen product and it doesn't do that sort of thing, our test car has no further options. On this model, the six-speed six-speed dual-clutch automated manual was available at no charge.
And this added up to an as-tested price of $33,710, including destination. We didn't pay this, however, as Volkswagen provided this vehicle for our long-term road test.
Why We Got It
Of course, this is not our first time around the block with this powertrain. We've seen it before on our long-term 2011 Volkswagen Jetta TDI. That car, however, lacked the scale and sophistication that the Passat claims to offer. During the test of our Jetta, we averaged 35.7 mpg in notoriously rough L.A. traffic, and got a best tank of 46.1 mpg over a range of 642 miles. The Passat may have the same motor, but it's 9 inches longer and has a 4-inch-longer wheelbase than the Jetta and weighs a full 300 pounds more. Will the motor we found perfectly serviceable in the Jetta work in this larger, more luxurious car? Will the qualms about the Jetta's throttle persist?
And ignoring the diesel motor entirely, will the 2013 Volkswagen Passat hold up to our perceptions of what a Passat should be?
The space, features and ease of use add up to a compelling entry in the full-size segment. And given the price, the Passat can compete just as favorably in the midsize segment, too. We have 12 months to see if the 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI is a winner in either segment. Follow along on our Long-Term Road Tests page for daily updates on this and the rest of our long-term fleet.
Current Odometer: 594
Best Fuel Economy: 35.6
Worst Fuel Economy: 35.6
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 35.6
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.