2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T Highline, dashboard, seating, trunk. Click image to enlarge
Review and photos by Jeff Wilson
How very European of Volkswagen to sell a great big five-passenger sedan with only a teeny-tiny four-cylinder engine.
With motivation coming from a diminutive 1.8 litres this 2014 Volkswagen Passat tester is decidedly Euro-chic. Ironically so given that this version of the Passat is built in Chattanooga, Tennessee and will never see European roads (only North American, Chinese and Korean byways for this cruiser, thank-you-very-much).
And while in Europe it’s perfectly excusable to have a minivan, work truck or limousine powered by a diesel engine displacing roughly the same volume as a toddler’s sippy-cup, here in North America we’re a hurried bunch and demand our horsepower to have a little giddy-up.
Of course, over the pond, fuel costs are of far greater concern than they are here so reaching highway speeds within minutes (instead of seconds) is perfectly acceptable, hence the propensity for miniature motivation devices.
All of this is to say that the expectation for Volkswagen’s large sedan powered by an itty-bitty engine was to be underwhelmed at best; especially since the engine being replaced was greater in size and cylinder count.
Last year’s entry level Passat engine was a 2.5L inline five dating back to approximately the Mesozoic geological era. It was slow-revving, inefficient and largely unloved by those with a pulse. It lazily dispensed with 170 hp at 5,700 rpm, and revved beyond that, mostly unpleasant noise.
By comparison, the new 1.8T (the “T” meaning it is turbocharged) is a zippy thing, revving freely and issuing a much more agreeable 170 hp at 6,200 rpm.
Wait… Same power, higher revs to get it? As they say in Chattanooga, “That ain’t right, y’all.”
But the fun comes from the torque and there’s more of it, 184 lb-ft between 1,500 and 4,750 rpms, and while sensible folk won’t try drag racing Audi R8s with their Passats, this car has absolutely no problem getting up to highway speeds, and even offering up more should you need to execute a passing maneuver.
At 120 km/h, the 1.8T is surprisingly smooth and barely breaks a sweat, revving at a very relaxed pace. This is of course thanks largely to the optional six-speed automatic fitted to my press car (a five speed manual is standard). This automatic is a decent unit with shifts that balance smoothness with crispness, though there is some reluctance to downshift unless really goaded when left in “D” mode. In “S”, the Passat becomes more willing to play. A sport package option is available which adds Tiptronic paddles to the wheel.
Volkswagen’s greater motivation in switching from the 2.5L to this new 1.8T (or TSI as the car is badged) is fuel efficiency and here too the new engine delivers. The updated 2015 figures for the 2.5L show 11 L/100 km city and 8 highway. For the 1.8T the city figure drops to 9.9 and 6.9 for the highway.