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 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.
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.
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.
September 9, 2013
A couple of us had noticed recently that our long-term 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI was pulling to the right. And during my recent 900-mile road trip to the Napa Valley, it was undeniable. I always had the steering wheel cocked slightly to the left as I cruised up Interstate 5.
Upon my return to Los Angeles, I took the Passat to our local Santa Monica shop, Stokes Tire Pros, for an alignment.
August 14, 2013
Our 2013 VW Passat TDI has crossed the 5,000-mile mark after about 2.5 months. So far it's had an unfortunate run-in with a nail and the touchscreen interface can be awfully slow to respond to the point that something may be wrong. I flat-out couldn't get the iPhone interface to work while paired to Bluetooth. Given that this same interface in our long-term Beetle and other VW's worked without such issues, this could require a dealer visit at some point.
June 24, 2013
We've had a lot of Volkswagen test vehicles with the TDI engine come through the Edmunds long-term program over the years. (Most recently, and the only one currently available to read about, was a 2011 Jetta TDI.) For our new Passat TDI, the driving experience is pleasingly familiar, and I'm sure we'll have a lot of updates during the next year about that.
But one new thing that is different about the Passat TDI is that for emissions purposes it requires the use of a diesel exhaust fluid additive (DEF).
June 5, 2013
You've heard this story before. I merge onto Interstate 10 heading east one evening last week. Almost immediately, I hear a warning chime from our long-term 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI's tire pressure monitoring system. There's also a visual message in the trip computer advising me to check the tires.
I can feel a loss of pressure in the driver-side rear tire. I take the next exit and pull over at a fuel station.