2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI: Our Long-Term MPG Results May Shed Light on Future Emissions Recall Expectations
by Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing on September 23, 2015
A cloud hangs over Volkswagen and its TDI "clean diesel" engine offerings. The target is the 2.0-liter TDI engine, the US market's best-selling passenger car diesel engine. Volkswagen has been caught using illegal software that recognizes when the car is undergoing an emissions test and engages a special ECU calibration that meets all emissions standards.
All other times, including every mile anyone actually drives one of these, a second calibration takes over, one that apparently misses the Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) emission standard by a huge margin. The test group that initially uncovered this scheme reported NOx levels as much as 40 times above the legal limit.
That is not an insignificant amount.
All of the affected cars use the 2.0-liter TDI engine: the 2009-2014 Jetta, 2010-2014 Golf, 2012-2014 Beetle, the 2012-2014 Passat and the 2010-2014 Audi A3. Of these, the Passat is the lone example with Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR), a system that injects diesel exhaust fluid (DEF) into a special catalyst to control NOx.
The EPA hit-list also includes the 2015 TDI versions of all of these cars, and has refused to certify any 2016 versions for sale. But these use a totally new 2.0-liter TDI engine, one that belongs to a whole new engine family that goes by the name EA288. All of them have SCR systems that use DEF, not just the Passat.
VW's response includes a statement that says the bad software was limited to the older EA189 engine family, which only goes as far as the 2014 models. If true, the 2015 and later vehicles may fall off the EPA's list with no need for updated software or other recall measures to be in compliance. Time will tell.
A recall is inevitable, but current owners are worried about how the coming changes may affect the future performance of their vehicles.
What does that have to do with our long-term test fleet?
May 19, 2014
It's over. I've completed two identical 458-mile loops to Las Vegas and back in our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI. The only difference was the fuel: Diesel #2 on the first loop and a B5 biodiesel brew on the second loop.
I say "biodiesel brew" because I was forced to MacGyver my own B5 by blending B20 biodiesel with Diesel #2 right in the Passat's tank. There wasn't another station close enough to be of any use, and I had just learned (the hard way) that the biodiesel locator Web site I'd used to find this place wasn't much use for finding anything under B20, the prevailing blend carried by suppliers around here.
Here's what I learned.
May 16, 2014
Our time with the 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI is almost over, but we had one more service item to take care of before the car leaves. We powered through the 20,000-mile goal we set for all long-term test cars thanks to Dan Edmunds' biodiesel experiment. The Passat requires maintenance at 10,000-mile intervals, so the timing was perfect to get the car all freshened up before we return it to Volkswagen.
May 14, 2014
It happened on Interstate 15 on the first of two Las Vegas diesel fuel economy runs. Our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI was barely 5 miles inside California and drawing abreast of the Ivanpah Solar Power facility.
This trio of power towers stands within easy sight of the Interstate. The three arrays of heliostat mirrors that encircle them consume a combined 5.5 square miles of desert. A weird and eerie plasmatic glow hovers in the air several yards removed from the impossibly bright surface of the receivers that top each tower. In the bright desert daylight it's still quite easy to make out the rays of light that converge on the receivers.
I'd hate to be a bird flying through there.
May 13, 2014
Here's something you don't see very often, and something that makes the 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI an even better bargain: diesel is less — way less — than gas. I used the numbers on this pump in Barstow, Calif., to do a comparison of what it would cost to drive to Las Vegas and back on both diesel and gas. It was a bigger savings than I expected.
May 12, 2014
I drove our long-term 2014 Volkswagen Passat TSI two weeks ago, and then took our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI to Las Vegas for three days. Out in the lonely desert, I had a lot of time to think about which V-Dub I liked best. While the two cars look similar, they drive quite differently, mainly because of the engines and transmissions. Here's my quick take on the differences.
May 9, 2014
Scott's recent experience at a biodiesel pump got us both thinking. Would biodiesel make a noticeable difference in the performance or MPG of our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI?
A test was in order, but it seemed to me that the 5-percent biodiesel fuel (B5) allowed by VW might produce small differences that would be difficult to quantify. If I was to make sense of this I needed to control as many variables as possible. And I needed a fairly long route that would burn enough fuel to nullify any pump-shutoff inconsistencies.
Fortunately, I had a business trip to Las Vegas coming up, one that I had planned to drive to anyway. My time was spoken for all day Friday and Saturday evening, but the bulk of Saturday was mine.
I decided to drive the TDI to Vegas Thursday afternoon on diesel #2 and park it in the hotel parking garage while I attended to my Friday obligations. Then, since I despise gambling and I'm behind on my audiobooks, I figured I'd use my free Saturday to drive BACK to my southern California starting point.
Once there I'd fill it with B5 biodiesel, turn straight around and retrace my route back to Vegas in time to make my evening appointment. After another overnight stay I'd head home and finish the B5 loop on Sunday morning.
It was a good plan, if not a bit insane, but then a fuel supply problem cropped up at the 11th hour.
May 5, 2014
We logged our best fuel economy ever at 46.5 mpg on an all-highway run of 168.3 miles. This might have been because we filled up in Barstow, California, elevation 2,178, and then again in Los Angeles, at sea level. The new data changed the lifetime average to an even more impressive 36.9 mpg, which is 2.9 mpg better than the EPA combined rating.
May 2, 2014
I'm sitting in my brother-in-law's San Jose, CA living room looking for any excuse to bail. After five hours of extended family time, I need a break. So I ask if there's a gas station around that sells diesel. Yesterday I had driven our long-term 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI up to his house from Los Angeles and we were making the return run later today.
"There's one about a mile away", he says. "But we should fill it with biodiesel."
April 28, 2014
I spent the weekend with our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI. This was the first time I drove a diesel-fueled car for more than a few hours, and I was excited to see if it behaved any differently than the hundreds of gasoline-powered sedans I've driven over the years.
I noticed two things: The turbo lag at acceleration and the Passat's sound while idling after a cold start. Neither of these things bothered me. I picked up the car on Thursday afternoon, and was used to these quirks by Friday evening.
April 15, 2014
A friend of mine is in the market for a new car, and specifically a midsize family sedan with good fuel economy. I suggested he take a look at our long-term 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI and he was quite impressed when I brought it by. Mainly, the enormous back seat means he can set the front seats as far back as he wants without worrying about bumping up against his rear-facing child seat. When you're 6-foot-4 like he is, that matters. The cavernous trunk was another attraction. His wife was almost in shock at how deep it was.
However, the Ford Fusion Hybrid has also caught his eye. Although I was quite impressed with it during our hybrid sedan comparison test, my gut reaction was that it would be considerably more expensive than the Passat TDI. I was wrong.
April 9, 2014
The knock against diesels used to be that they were noisy, slow and smelly. Driving our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI the other day, it struck me as so refined, and so responsive, that a strange thought occurred to me. I began to wonder what would happen if a person was somehow plunked down behind the wheel of this car, with no prior knowledge of what they were driving. Could they tell it was a diesel?
I know what many of you are thinking you would know instantly. But you're enthusiasts and you pay attention to detail. But what about a completely ordinary person only wanting to reliably get from Point A to Point B? Well, I had a chance to run a blind taste test and you might be surprised at the result.
April 7, 2014
Having taken our long-term 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI on a weeklong road trip to Sacramento and Sonoma with my dog, I was really able to put it through the paces for this dog report. And I didn't just dump Mya at my parents' house once I got to Sacramento. I took her EVERYwhere with me, even to the hospital to visit my dad. (So cool that they allowed dogs there. Really cheered him up to see her.)
April 3, 2014
In the month of March we added over 2,400 miles to our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI. That's 700 miles more than our monthly goal for long-term cars. A trip to Sacramento accounted for most of it. Our Passat trekked northbound 424 miles on a partial tank and 638 more on a second tank. That's some great range, but it still isn't our best.
March 31, 2014
Nothing makes you feel more helpless than when there's a family emergency and you're 400 miles away. At that moment, you don't need a fast car (speeding will just result in tickets or worse). You need a car like the 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI to get you there. If my dog and I had the bladder capacity we totally could have made the last-minute trek from L.A. to Sacramento in our long-term TDI without any stops. We usually average about three stops on that road trip; if only for gas, it can range from one to two stops, obviously depending on the car.
March 14, 2014
There are a lot of things to like about our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI. Here are seven I noted after a weekend with the car. I hardly drove anywhere, so the car's astonishing range is not in the list:
1. Feels big, drives small: The 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI is plenty roomy on the inside, but it drives and parks like a much smaller car.
2. Easy Bluetooth Audio. Many cars have fussy steps for instituting Bluetooth Audio. Not this car. It's a snap.
3. Ginormous trunk space. I can't fill it up, even at Costco. I keep trying.
March 7, 2014
Our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI crossed the 15,000-mile mark.
March 4, 2014
In the month of February, our long-term 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI added nearly 1,400 miles to its odometer and averaged 36.9 miles per gallon. This brings its lifetime fuel economy average up a tick to 36.6 mpg. A freeway road trip to northern California is partially responsible for the increase during this month.
These results continue to surpass its EPA combined rating of 34 mpg.
February 24, 2014
As you can see, our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI wasn't built in Germany. It was assembled by some well trained workers at a plant in Tennessee. This is not only a big deal for the people in and around Chattanooga, it was a big deal for Volkswagen, too.
February 21, 2014
Any car equipped with an automatic transmission should have a good dead pedal, otherwise known as a good place to put your left foot. You'd be surprised how many cars don't bother with one.
February 20, 2014
Yes, this is super nitpicky. But I was surprised that it took me multiple tries to get two dry-cleaning hangers onto a hook in our 2013 VW Passat TDI's rear seat area.
February 18, 2014
As you can see here, our navigation system-equipped 2013 VW Passat TDI has a secondary navigation display located dead center in the instrument cluster. This small, multi-function display screen provides other information too, such as phone, audio and trip data. But while tooling around over the weekend to parts unknown, this no frills display proved helpful.
February 14, 2014
Not only do I find the sport seats in our 2013 VW Passat TDI SEL Premium super comfortable, I also really like the quality of the materials.
February 10, 2014
It's no fun carting a very sick cat from one veterinarian to another. Our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI handled the job admirably, though.
When I had to take the cat from our local vet to a specialist in Culver City that I hadn't been to before, the Passat TDI's navigation system proved handy. The turn-by-turn directions in the center MFI display were easy to follow, even for a preoccupied driver. And I didn't have to worry about stopping for gas.
February 3, 2014
Our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI continued its fuel-thrifty ways in January. It still only requires about three fill-ups a month, and is averaging 36.5 miles per gallon. Its lifetime best and worst fills continue unchanged from last month, at 44.4 gallons and 25.2 respectively. It spent most of the month with Edmunds Senior Automotive Editor Brent Romans, roaming California's Central Valley.
On my short stay with the car this week, I was doing a mix of freeway and around-town driving and I loved seeing the nice, fat 35-36 mpg averages on the Passat's MFI display.
January 27, 2014
Volkswagen installs a Fender-branded, nine-speaker upgraded sound system on some of the Passat's top trim levels, including our 2013 TDI SEL. It's kind of too bad VW doesn't offer it on more versions of the Passat (as an option), as it's one of the better sound systems that I've heard in a moderately priced vehicle.
January 23, 2014
Overall, our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI is well suited for long-distance drives. But there's one thing missing that I think would help improve driver comfort even more: an eight-way power driver seat. As it is, the Passat SEL has just six-way power (minus lumbar) and lacks a seat bottom tilt.
January 17, 2014
If you're shopping for a midsize sedan, I suspect one of the trickier aspects is just figuring out which model is going to be best for you. Once you get past the obvious Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, the array of choices can be rather intimidating, especially if you don't often pay attention to what's new these days.
January 16, 2014
We were behind schedule, but at 11,247 miles we finally got our 2013 VW Passat TDI in for its 10,000-mile service. We took it to Volkswagen Santa Monica a few blocks from our office for the Service Express package. No appointment needed and promised in about an hour, so we walked back to the office.
January 15, 2014
We've written plenty of updates about our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI's impressive fuel economy and range. But one other thing about the TDI engine that I happen to like is that its character is so different than the norm for four-cylinder midsize family sedans.
January 07, 2014
Our 2013 Volkswagen Passat diesel worked hard in December, logging over 2,000 miles for the final month of 2013. Average lifetime MPG was down a smidge from November's figure, falling from 36.7 to 36.2 (note that the mileage shown in the photo above is not a lifetime average). The Passat's lifetime best and worst fills currently stand at 44.4 and 25.2 mpg, respectively.
January 2, 2014
I haven't spent much time in our long-term 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI. I'm going to try to correct that over its final 8,000 miles or so.
There's a lot to like here.
For instance, this turbodiesel can effortlessly rack up over 600 miles between fill-ups.
December 26, 2013
I like our long-term 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI's interior. It stays quiet on the highway, the seats are comfortable, and the switchgear is made from dense, high-quality materials.
The controls on the gear lever, instrument stalks, steering wheel and radio feel good to touch and are pleasant to look at, but ultimately, I find them all a bit frustrating to use.
December 23, 2013
At first glance it might look as though our two Passats are identical. They are, in fact, the same color and trim, but they have one major distinction: their engines.
The only way to tell them apart on the outside is by the badges on their respective trunklids. The gasoline-powered Passat is badged as a "TSI" while the diesel-powered car is labeled "TDI". What do they mean exactly?
December 10, 2013
It's always a bit anticlimactic writing about our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI's fuel economy. There's usually not much to tell: "Went a few places. Filled up twice."
That's about how November went. We took it to Vegas, did that round-trip (approximately 560 miles) on a single tank. Drove it around town. Crossed the 10,000-mile milestone. Filled it up three times, about 32 gallons total. Our best range this month was 576.2 miles.
Whatever else you think about the Passat, there's something pretty damn special about a car that will take you 500, even 700, miles on a single tank of diesel. It makes all those daydreams about getting way, way out of town on a Friday afternoon suddenly that much more tangible. This car would fill arena parking lots if the Grateful Dead were still touring.
December 05, 2013
This morning our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI came to the aid of a car with a dead battery. We used the Passat to jump start a Ford C-Max Energi plug-in hybrid, whose battery had died while the car was plugged in charging. Yep, we got a laugh out of that one, too.
November 29, 2013
I found myself sitting in our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI the other morning admiring the sunrise. So I climbed out and started taking pictures. The Passat certainly isn't the most striking of designs, but I like it. There is something about its lines that I find soothing. I could get used to seeing it every morning. Or do I need to get my eyes checked?
November 20, 2013
Our 2013 Volkswagen Passat utilizes two of these plastic snap-lock devices to keep its driver's side floor mat from sliding up into the pedal area. And they work brilliantly.
November 13, 2013
This update was originally going to commend Volkswagen for providing an actual knob for radio tuning. Then I tried to tune with it.
November 12, 2013
I just drove our long-term 2013 VW Passat TDI from Tinsel Town to Sin City and back. If you're under 75 years old, you probably have no idea what I just said, so let me start over.
I just drove our long-term VW Passat TDI from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back. That's 576.2 miles. But here's the cool part. I did it on a single tank of fuel. Actually, I did it on three-quarters of a tank of fuel. When I returned home the Passat was still packing 155 miles worth of fuel range. Wow.
Trust me, I'm no hypermiler. But I did use the Passat's cruise control for most of the trip, and I hit zero traffic along the way. My average fuel economy was 40.7 mpg, which is just ahead of the Passat's EPA highway rating of 40 mpg.
November 11, 2013
Since May, we've driven our long-term 2013 VW Passat TDI 10,000 very satisfying miles. In that time we've averaged 36.8 miles per gallon of fuel and have yet to experience any unreliability or mechanical issues. In fact, the Passat is only now due for its very first scheduled oil change and maintenance, which we will take care of shortly.
November 7, 2013
Our 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI has developed an air leak. No, not from a tire or intake, it's coming from the passenger-side rear window or door.
November 6, 2013
In the 31 days of October we drove our long-term 2013 VW Passat TDI 1,079.4 miles and used 27.7 gallons of diesel in the process. That's an average of 39 mpg, which is much higher than the Passat's combined EPA rating of 34 mpg.
October 28, 2013
As we've been reporting since we got our 2013 Volkswagen Passat as a long-term test, the TDI diesel engine is pretty cool. It's fuel efficient, suitably powered for everyday driving and provides a very impressive amount of fuel range. It's got some character, too.
But if I were thinking about buying a Passat for the 2014 model year, I'd have a harder time immediately making the TDI my engine of choice.
October 23, 2013
One of the 2013 Volkswagen Passat's attributes for the latest generation car is its generous amount of rear seat space. Normally, you think of this helping out with fitting a car-load of adults, but it's actually quite handy if you're installing bulky child safety seats, too.
October 21, 2013
A couple of days ago the tire pressure warning light illuminated in our 2013 Volkswagen Passat. It happened in the morning, and I thought it might be due to the colder temperatures recently. But no such luck. The Passat had a screw firmly implanted in its front passenger-side tire.