2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI Long-Term Road Test - Wrap-Up

2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI Long-Term Road Test

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Read the 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI's introduction to our long-term fleet.

See all of the 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI's long-term updates.

What We Got
The 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI starts at $26,225. This price includes the 140-horsepower 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine, 17-inch wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry, a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, upgraded gauges and an eight-speaker stereo with a touchscreen interface.

That makes for a well-equipped base sedan, but we elected to go for the top-trim SEL Premium version, which adds additional equipment.

Upgrades included with the SEL Premium trim are suede seat inserts, dual-zone climate control, a rearview camera, keyless ignition and power front seats with memory and a six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission. As tested, our Passat had an MSRP of $33,710. Volkswagen provided the car for this long-term road test.

Our Impressions

  • "I just drove our long-term 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 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.... But this trip wasn't just about great fuel mileage and range. The Passat showed me something out there in the deserts of California and Nevada. This is a great car on the open road. It's supremely comfortable. Outstandingly quiet. And its highway ride is exceptional. Hours behind the wheel seem like nothing....  I really like the Passat around town. But out on the interstate, this big sedan is hard to beat." — Scott Oldham

  • "Earlier this week, I made a road trip from Los Angeles to California's Napa Valley and back in 30 hours. Needless to say, there was little time to linger in the tasting rooms, but it was a relaxing trip in our long-term Passat TDI.... The driver seat ranks above average in my book. I rarely got uncomfortable, even on the return leg when I hopped into the Passat for the 450-mile trip after a day of driving other cars around Napa. It's also a quiet ride. I'm not thrilled with the sealing properties of the driver door's weather stripping, which lets in more wind than I'd like, but there's minimal noise from the tires. There were times when I wished the Passat TDI's 2.0-liter turbodiesel four-cylinder packed a meaner punch.... However, there's plenty to like about our diesel Passat's automated manual transmission, which swaps gears quickly once you're on the move. Finally, I hate stopping to refuel when I'm in a hurry, and I only had to stop one time on this trip." — Erin Riches

  • "Diesels are torquey. This isn't news. However, the diesel in our long-term Passat TDI really squirts when you give the right pedal a healthy roll-on from a standstill. In fact, after a very brief pause as the variable-nozzle turbo works up enough steam, the boost comes on and the torque hits so hard that this big sedan will actually rip a tire loose momentarily before the traction control intervenes. Again, this is not even using full 'throttle.' I'm loving this engine already." — Jason Kavanagh

  • "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 sizable 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. 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?... 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 is the perfect car for a road trip with four adults." — James Riswick

  • "One of the 2013 Passat's attributes is a generous amount of rear seat space. Normally, you think of this helping out with fitting a carload of adults, but it's actually quite handy if you're installing bulky child safety seats, too. The safety seats for infants and very small children typically install in a rear-facing position. Consequently, they take up a lot of room. And if you're installing one in an outboard seating position, you can encounter clearance problems with the front seats. In the Passat, though, there's so much rear legroom available that rear-facing seats aren't a problem." — Brent Romans

  • "Great fuel economy is why you buy a 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI. But if you happen to find yourself on a curvy two-lane road, the handling capabilities of this fuel miser are still on par for a family sedan. It feels secure when driving around turns, not floppy or loose. At least that's my opinion after driving our long-term car on about 20 miles of twisty road. The steering doesn't convey much information to the driver, but few family sedans these days really do anyway." — Brent Romans

  • "You can fit the starting midfield for the German national soccer team in the Passat's rear seat, yet the front-center console is this skinny, inefficient space. I think even the Focus ST's is larger. Lame. Look, no one's gonna mistake the Passat for a driver's car. It's a nice, big utility sedan with a premium sheen. As such, give me big bins and compartments.... In the Passat, you get the glovebox, low side-door pockets and this console. Armrest is nice, though." — Dan Frio

  • "When you buy the top-of-the-line SEL Passat TDI, you get a variety of exclusive upgrades... (including) an upgraded navigation system with traffic and Travel Link information.... VW's RNS 510 navigation system comes with a touchscreen and iPod interface that can be finicky to use.... the iPod/music interface can really be distracting. Sometimes you get a quick response to your touch, sometimes you'll get a slow response (2-3 seconds) and sometimes you get no response. And while these qualities seem mostly related to when I have the Media input selected (my iPhone/iPod, in this case), I've experienced it at least once with the radio stations, too.... It really is a driving distraction, and it's made even worse by the lack of a tuning knob for iPod control." — Brent Romans

  • "The VW's trunk measures 15.9 cubic feet. That's a healthy number for a family sedan, but what really makes this car useful is the huge pass-through space when you fold down the 60/40 split rear seats. There's not so much space that you're going to be loading up your Passat with 4-by-8-foot sheets of plywood, but the 3-by-6-foot piece of wood that I had cut at the hardware store fit easily." — Erin Riches

  • Maintenance & Repairs

    Regular Maintenance:
    The Passat TDI calls for routine service at 10,000-mile intervals. And the Volkswagen Carefree Maintenance plan picks up the tab for three years or 36,000 miles, whichever occurs first. Service at 10,000 miles was straightforward, with one exception. A nail. The tire was patched up easily enough, but it marked our third nail encounter. A patch fixed the prior occurrence, while another required a new tire. Our only other out-of-pocket expense was for a four-wheel alignment.

    Service Campaigns:
    Our Passat was not affected by any recalls or TSBs during our test.

    Fuel Economy and Resale Value

    Observed Fuel Economy:
    Fuel economy projections for the Passat are 34 mpg combined (30 city/40 highway) according to the EPA. We averaged a total of 37.2 mpg over 20,736 miles. Our best single tank was 46.5 mpg, while the least efficient stretch resulted in 25.2 mpg. The best range we managed on one tank was 733.5 miles.

    Resale and Depreciation:
    Our Passat TDI had an MSRP of $33,710. After one year and 21,000 miles, Edmunds' TMV® Calculator valued the sedan at $25,110, based on a private-party sale. This equated to 25.6 percent depreciation from its original MSRP.

    Summing Up

    Pros: Outstanding mileage and range, strong acceleration around town, quiet cabin on the highway, supportive front seats, spacious rear seats, plenty of usable trunk space, high-quality interior trim, simple cabin controls.

    Cons: Diesel engine gets winded at highway speeds, brakes feel grabby at low speeds, radio interface can be slow to respond, meager interior storage space.

    Bottom Line: This is one of the best long-range midsize sedans on the road today. It's impressive around town as well thanks to solid off-the-line acceleration and sharp handling. If you're looking for a straightforward sedan with plenty of passenger room, the Passat TDI is one of the best sedans in the midsize class.

    Total Body Repair Costs: None
    Total Routine Maintenance Costs: None (over 12 months)
    Additional Maintenance Costs: $424.23
    Warranty Repairs: None
    Non-Warranty Repairs: Patched two leaking tires, replaced one tire
    Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
    Unscheduled Dealer Visits: None
    Days Out of Service: None
    Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
    Best Fuel Economy NA: 46.5 mpg
    Worst Fuel Economy NA: 25.2 mpg
    Average Fuel Economy NA: 37.2 mpg
    True Market Value at service end: $26,110 (private-party sale)
    Depreciation: $8,700 (25.6% of original MSRP)
    Final Odometer Reading: 20,736 miles

    The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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