Nuts & Bolts: 2012 Volkswagen Passat SEL

October 28, 2011

Bottom line: The new Passat is here. The people at Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota had better take this one seriously. It can upset one or all of them.

Ride, handling and acceleration: Ride and handling are excellent, everything you could ask for in a midsize family sedan. Acceleration is acceptable for people who are accustomed to obeying speed limits. It will not satisfy habitual speed freaks, most of whom would deem it “underpowered.”

Body style/layout: The 2012 VW Passat is a front-engine, front-wheel-drive midsize family sedan that offers more interior space than the Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. The new Passat is offered in 12 — that’s right, 12 — iterations, including PZEV (partial zero-emissions vehicle) and diesel models.

Engine/transmission for the Passat SEL: Standard here is VW’s 2.5-liter, 20-valve, double-overhead-cam in-line five-cylinder engine (170 horsepower, 177 foot-pounds of torque). It is linked to a six-speed automatic transmission that also can be operated manually.

Capacities: There are seats for five people. Cargo space with both 60-40 split rear seats in place is 15.9 cubic feet. With those seats down, cargo capacity increases to 117.9 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 18.5 gallons of gasoline (regular is fine).

Mileage: You get 21 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on the highway. With the diesel engine, that mileage rises to 28 city and 43 highway.

Safety: Standard safety equipment includes rigid body construction, including reinforced B (front) pillars; four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear); emergency braking assistance; emergency brake-force distribution; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; electronic stability and traction control; side and head air bags; post-collision safety system.

Price: The base price of the VW Passat SEL is $28,395. Dealer’s invoice price on that model is $27,230. Price as tested is $29, 165, including a $770 destination charge. Dealer’s price as tested is $28,000.

VW has done something remarkable. It has lowered the overall consumer price for the Passat by about $7,000, thus making the car extremely price-competitive with rivals, while increasing the quality and standard content of the automobile. It shows what can happen when a foreign car manufacturer decides to deep-six harmful currency-exchange rates and overseas transportation fees by building in the country where it sells.

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