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NAIAS 2011: 2012 Volkswagen Passat

      For more than a year Volkswagen has promised a larger midsize sedan to replace the long lived Passat name. The car was to be designed to fit US consumer’s tastes and buying habits and be built in a brand new plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Code named the NMS (for New Midsize Sedan) Volkswagen had the industry waiting with baited breath for the official name of the Passat replacement. Our collective breath was held in vain only for VW to reveal that the NMS would be designated – wait for it – the Passat.
     The new American Passat proves to be both larger and significantly less expensive than the outgoing model. With a 110.4” wheelbase and 191.7” overall length, the Passat lives up to the expectations of American midsize car buyers. While the new Passat fails to make a dramatic styling statement, the car successfully re-introduces its signature 6-window greenhouse that has been present on all generations excluding the outgoing 2010 model.
     On the powertrain side VW offers up the unloved 2.5-liter five-cylinder (available with 5-speed manual or 6-speed automatic), the 2.0-liter TDI diesel (with optional 6-speed dual clutch transmission) and 3.6-liter VR6 (with standard 6-speed dual clutch transmission). While the 280 hp 3.6-liter may be the model’s most powerful engine, Volkswagen claims an estimated 28 mpg on the highway. Nearly 30 mpg may sound great, but the 2.0-liter TDI diesel is rated at an impressive 43 mpg. Maybe this will be the car that wakes America out of its gasoline induced coma and into the world of oil burners.
     Pricing was not specifically designated for the new Passat but was promised to come in close to $20,000. The quality of materials appears to be reasonable, though much of the switchgear looks like carryover from the outgoing VW models. It remains to be seen whether America is willing to sacrifice the cutting edge designs found in such cars as Buick’s LaCrosse and Regal in exchange for an impossibly low price point or diesel technology. Perhaps the allure of German engineering will be enough to keep long-time Passat buyers and persuade others to enter into VW ownership.

Photos by Jason Muxlow

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