Volkswagen Unveils All-New Passat Sedan to Headline Detroit Auto Show

By Bill Visnic January 10, 2011

At the Detroit auto show, opening to the media today, Volkswagen of America Inc. launches the first crucial new model to underpin an ambitious plan to triple U.S. sales and lead all automakers in global sales by 2018, the 2012 Passat midsize sedan.

Volkswagen Passat 2012 front three-quarter.jpgBuilt at the company's new $1-billion assembly plant in Chattanooga, TN, the Passat's chief calling card is "accessible German engineering for the midsize segment," that will start at a  price "around $20,000" when the car goes on sale later this year.

Volkswagen has identified its generally higher price points as a primary impediment to competitiveness in the U.S. market, but initial reaction to the new Passat's styling may mean another problem at hand. After VW released images last night prior to the car's official unveiling at the Detroit show today, the new Passat's styling was largely criticized at enthusiast websites such as's Inside Line as conservative and bland.

Three Engines, More Size, More Value

Although some family-sedan competitors such as the Hyundai Sonata whittled down the engine lineup to debut with a single choice - the Sonata since has added a turbocharged 4-cylnder and a hybrid - the 2012 Passat will offer three available drivetrain arrangements: a base 2.5-liter inline 5-cylinder making 170 horsepower and 177 pound-feet of torque connected to either a 5-speed manual or 6-speeed automatic transmission; VW's narrow-angle 3.6-liter V6 at 280 horsepower and 258 pound-feet and paired only with the company's now-renowned 6-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) dual-clutch automated manual or the 140-horsepower 2-liter 4-cylinder turbodiesel backed be either a 6-speed manual or the DSG automatic.

Volkswagen Passat 2012 rear three-quarter.jpgWith a wheelbase of 110.4 inches and 191.7 inches of total length, the new Passat has almost a 4-inch longer wheelbase and is more than 3 inches longer overall than current-generation Passat, now mimicing the sized-up proportions of the current Toyota Camry (wheelbase: 109.3, length 189.2 inches) and Honda Accord (wheelbase: 110.2 inches, overall length: 194.1 inches).

Its new U.S. assembly plant, where starting wages are about $14.50 per hour and efficiency is expected to be the best of any global VW assembly site, along with local parts and components accounting for about 85 percent of total content, means the 2012 Passat can start at around $20,000, the company said, substantially lower than the $27,195 starting price of the 2010 Passat, although today's model has a more power and more expensive 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder as standard, among other equipment differences.

Volkswagen Passat 2012 interior.jpg

Photos by Volkswagen of America Inc.

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Click here to comment on this entry.
andydo says: 9:38 AM, 01.10.11

Blandtastic... it looks like VW forgot what their brand was all about. How exactly is this supposed to attract people looking at the gorgeous 200 hp Sonata?

dg0472 says: 10:48 AM, 01.10.11

The Sonata has only one powertrain choice? Someone had better tell Hyundai. There are three mentioned on their media site.

moparbad says: 11:29 AM, 01.10.11

Passat conveys conservative functional elegance.

steve_ says: 5:10 PM, 01.10.11

Fun to see the Hunter Museum in the background. I'm guessing that's the Chattanooga airport in the middle shot, but there weren't any mountains like that when I lived there back in the 70s.

carguy58 says: 11:56 AM, 01.11.11

Kinda looks conservative for a VW. The problem with VW was always quality/reliability but than again the Passat was a never a big player in its segment although the 2002-2005 model was kinda popular.

ed124c says: 12:01 PM, 01.13.11

I guess VW thought bringing out a midsize car would automatically put them in with the big guys. Not gonna happen. None of the engine choices will be all that satisfying for potential buyers. The base 2.5 and the turbo will seem underpowered. and the V6 model will be too expensive. If the base engine was the 2.0T, and if it ran on regular gas, and if it had the HP of the Audi version, buyers would love it at whatever premium VW might charge. By dumping the Passat into the low-priced midsize market, using underwhelming engines, VW has not done itself any favors.


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