Why The 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI Might Surprise You

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Volkswagen Passat
The 2014 Volkswagen Passat

Here is how good modern diesels are:  It was six days into driving the 2014 Passat TDI before I realized it had one.

It was a busy week. There was not any time to think, only to drive.  The day before the car was due to go back, I realized there was something missing.  One, maybe two trips to the gas station.  The car was getting phenomenal mileage.  The suggestion came from Sacramento that it might be a diesel.  Yes, it was.

Rear 3/4 view of 2014 Volkswagen Passat
2014 Volkswagen Passat.

Germans and Europeans in general have understood the diesel for a long, long time.  Americans, on the other hand, think of smelly buses and trucks.  They remember long warm-up times and clattering noises from under the hood.  None of that applies.

They also shun diesels because the cost per gallon is usually higher than the cost of a gallon of gasoline.  What they miss is the fact that they would make that up in the sheer mileage of the diesel.

The EPA says the Passat diesel should get 30 miles per gallon in the city and 40 on the highway. A combined 34.  That was, in our case, conservative. In a mix of urban streets and freeways, our average was closer to 36. With an 18.5 gallon fuel tank, that is a range of 666 miles.  And that is with the optional automatic transmission our test car had.  A six-speed manual is available, and the EPA rates that at 31 city/43 highway.

Interior view of 2014 Volkswagen Passat
2014 Volkswagen Passat interior.

Our test car was the SE with Sunroof. Base price $28,295, which includes V-Tex leatherette seating surfaces, air conditioning vents for the rear passengers, a premium touchscreen radio with a six-CD changer, SiriusXM satellite radio, cruise control, heated front seats, and a rearview camera. There were no options, so with $820 destination charge, the as-tested price came to $29,115.

The 140 horsepower of the diesel engine is not ovewhelming, nor is it inadequate. The strong torque is typical of diesels. The other big plus is longevity. A good diesel engine will last 300,000 or more miles. Sometimes much more.

Volkswagen's current generation of Passat and Jetta have removed some of the German feel, replaced certain materials with lighter, cheaper alternatives. For those of us who have driven and/or owned older German cars, it is a disappointment.  But it allows Volkswagen to compete with the leaders in the family sedan segment---in this case, Toyota Camry and Honda Accord---on price.  And it is working.  Sales have gone up since the change.  The fact is, the Passat is no less solid-feeling than the Japanese competition.  And they don't offer a diesel. For those of us who appreciate them, even if it takes us a while to recognize we are driving one, that makes the Passat TDI a compelling alternative.