Expert Reviews

Day-by-Day Review: 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI

Day 1

I do realize that most consumers are shopping categories and not class of vehicle, but it did strike me as interesting that this week's tester is within a few hundred dollars less than last week's Buick Encore. On the surface my Passat TDI Highline is similarly equipped, is much larger and offers a fuel efficient TDI engine. It is missing all-wheel drive and a little ground clearance though.

The Highline Passat is very well equipped with 18-inch wheels, leather seating on eight-way power adjustable front seats, keyless access and start, navigation, Fender Premium audio system and more. The 2.0L turbo diesel engine is mated to a six-speed DSG (dual-clutch automated manual) transmission and is front wheel drive.

More comparable perhaps to the Toyota Camry I tested just two weeks ago that was around $2,000 less expensive. The Passat seems well optioned and well equipped for the price and certainly is a lot of vehicle if you need or want the space.

My first impressions are good so far, the wood trim looks upscale even if it may be fake but in typical VW fashion everything feels solid and well put together. My first impression on the road though was a dislike for the very vague and light steering -- hopefully that was just that, a first impression, I need more seat time to know for sure.

Pricing: 2015 Volkswagen Passat Highline TDI
Base Price (TDI Highline): $35,570
Destination: $1,605
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $37,215

Chevrolet Malibu
Chrysler 200
Ford Fusion
Honda Accord
Hyundai Sonata
Kia Optima
Subaru Legacy
Toyota Camry


Day 2

The first thing I noticed about the interior in the Passat was that the steering wheel was slightly off-centre. Now I know others have mentioned this before on other cars, but I've never really noticed. In the Passat I noticed, but once you start driving it doesn't seem out of place or odd, it's just not perfectly centred, at least it seems like it isn't for some reason.

Besides that the interior is great, the fake wood that some mentioned on the forums as looking cheap actually looks fine to me, good in fact. The analog clock on the upper dash adds that bit of class to the interior as well. The seats are comfortable and supportive enough for the class of vehicle, the adjustable lumber fits me perfectly.

The rear seats offer a ton of leg room, behind my driver seat you could easily fit if you were over six feet tall. And although the leg room in the rear is massive the trunk space is equally so, with a trunk passthrough, and 60/40 split fold flat seats unless you have an overly large item, most likely you'll get it into the Passat's trunk.

A few things are missing from this vehicle that were on the Camry I tested at a similar price. I noticed today that no blind spot monitoring or cross traffic alert is present on this car and that is a nice feature to have, especially when the competition offers it. That said visibility is great in the Passat, there is a lot of greenhouse area and the mirrors are a decent size, I never feel like I can't see. In fact I backed up the car today rather quickly and efficiently without using the back-up camera; something I feel a lot of cars these days require because of the small windows. The Passat was easy to position with a glance over the shoulder.


Day 3

The 2.0L turbo diesel engine only puts out 150 hp in the Passat but it does have an impressive 236 lb-ft of torque. What this means is that if you are cruising along on the highway and you want to increase your speed slightly, there is no need for the transmission to downshift. It also means that the car can cruise around at 1,200 rpm at pretty much any speed and you will rarely feel like you need more.

But it does mean that if you are trying to out drag a car in the other lane and you are already rolling, most likely you will lose. The Passat doesn't feel fast by any means, but it feels ultra comfortable and contained when on the highway due to its relaxed low-rpm cruising.

I'm a little shocked at the suspension feel in this Passat though. When I think of Volkswagen I usually think, Euro-tuned suspension, which is typically on the firm controlled side. But the Passat is anything but, this car is floaty, more so than any car I can think of that I have driven in a long time. The steering is also extremely vague, so vague in fact that if you hit some very uneven pavement the car starts to yaw and roll and bounce from the undulation and now the steering wheel just feels like a wet noodle -- result, you have no idea where the car is going until it settles.

But hey, the brakes are awesome! You'll eat your steering wheel first thing in the morning if you are not careful, especially coupled with the six-speed DSG transmission that tends to stop the flow of power at slow speeds abruptly -- the DSG is an acquired taste for those not use to it.


Day 4

You can make the argument that the diesel might be more maintenance than a regular gas engine. You can also make the argument that diesel fuel is more expensive than regular (about 14% currently in my area). But you certainly can't argue with the efficiency and range the Volkswagen Passat delivers.

Normally I go through at least one tank of fuel in my test vehicles, or close to it just around town. If I take a drive to Cornwall to visit my parents, add another half tank or more. The Passat just keeps giving, with nearly 600 km on the trip meter and the remaining range until empty is still around 600 km as well. It seems like I could easily get 1000 km on the tank if not 1200 km.

Average fuel consumption in my daily driving was 5.6 L/100 km this week and my trip to Cornwall on a separate trip display showed 5.2 L/100 km. I was hoping to get into the 4's, but this was impressive in the cool weather, which finally is warming up. Including some city driving, 5.6 L/100 km is impressive in a vehicle of this size for sure. Add in the 14% surcharge for the diesel fuel and the equivalent regular gas average would be approximately 6.2 L/100 km.

The TDI Passat is no question a long haul champion; it's comfortable, quiet and amazing on fuel.