For the sake of diversity and sanity (both for you our readers and our own) we try to keep our long-term test fleet as varied as possible. Cars, trucks, SUVs, sedans, coupes, domestics, imports: you name it, we test it. But every once in a while we hit a cycle where a new vehicle is so important that we'll accept a little redundancy.
This time around, that vehicle is the 2014 Volkswagen Passat SEL.
Eagle-eyed readers will spot the issue with this one right away. See, we already have a Volkswagen Passat in our Long-Term fleet: a lovely TDI SEL Premium that we introduced back in May. This new Passat, though, is a big deal. Volkswagen has ditched the clunky 2.5-liter five-cylinder in favor of an all-new 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that produces 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. It's a big deal, as this engine will eventually be the base engine for the Passat and thus warrants a closer, longer inspection. We've got 12 months with this 1.8 (five of which will overlap with our TDI) to see how it shapes up and compares against its oil-burning brother.
What We Got
The 2014 Volkswagen Passat SEL is still available with the 2.5-liter five-cylinder. On S, SE and Wolfsburg editions it produces 170 hp and 177 lb-ft of torque while returning 26 mpg combined (22 city/32 highway). Base price on the S is $20,845. This same engine is available all the way up to the SE with Sunroof and Navigation car, which still has vinyl seats and stickers for $26,995.
Stepping up to our 1.8-liter car requires jumping to the SEL Premium, which includes a sunroof, navigation, 18-inch wheels, touchscreen infotainment system, eight-way power front seats, remote start, a leather interior and a six-speed automatic transmission. As equipped, this engine produces 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque from 1,500-4,750 rpm and returns 28 mpg combined (24 city/34 highway). This car carries a base price of $30,895, and when destination and delivery are factored in stickers for $31,715.
Why We Got It
Right now, we're seven months into our Long-Term Road Test of a 2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI. We've got a good grip on the vehicle and what we like and dislike. Adding another one isn't a decision we took lightly. Like our LT TDI, this car is the top-tier SEL Premium and has all the bells and whistles. Unlike our TDI, this one has a normal, gasoline-powered engine that Americans won't have to adapt to.
A new engine is a huge deal for a company the size of VW, and this motor has broad implications. It's currently an option on both the Passat and the Jetta and should soon be the base motor for the Passat. This means that hundreds of thousands of Americans will soon have the opportunity to live with VW's new turbocharged 1.8 and we'd like to give them a taste of what they're in for. Is it better than the 2.5 it replaces? Do the EPA fuel economy gains pan out in the real world? Does this car, with its gasoline engine and conventional six-speed automatic, make for a better vehicle than the diesel TDI with its six-speed DSG?
We've got 12 months to put 20,000 miles on our new long-term 2014 Volkswagen Passat SEL to answer these questions. Follow along on our Long Term Road Test blog for more.
Best MPG: 27.6
Worst MPG: 25.2
Average MPG over 778.9 miles: 26.5
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.