2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI
2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Simon Hill

It’s said that you can’t be all things to all people, but by packing nearly full-size interior space into a mid-size package, wrapping it in restrained European styling, and offering a choice of three different power plants with three very distinct personalities, Volkswagen’s Passat certainly makes a strong argument against that old chestnut of common wisdom.

The current-generation generation B8-platform Passat was introduced for the 2012 model year. Built for the North American market in Chattanooga, Tennessee, it was enlarged specifically for North American tastes, diverging from the slightly smaller B7 Passat now sold in Europe. And while purist Volkswagen aficionados might bemoan the “Americanization” of the Passat, I’d just like to point out that it’s not as if the Passat has become the equivalent of a pair of elastic waistband sweatpants. It’s more like a pair of relaxed-fit designer jeans, without any shiny bling on the back pockets that might scar your leather furniture or scratch your car’s paintwork. This Passat is comfortable, reasonably good looking (if perhaps a little bland), and superbly easy to live with. What’s not to like about that?

2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI
2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI. Click image to enlarge

Now, back to the engines. The base engine is a 2.5L five-cylinder mill that’s designed to appeal to a wide common denominator. It’s easy on the budget (the base 2.5 Passat Trendline clocks in at $25,370 including the $1,395 destination fee), it has decent power (it develops 170 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque, good for a 0-100 time of about 8.2 seconds) and it delivers reasonable fuel economy (official city/highway ratings are 9.6 / 6.7 L/100 km with the automatic transmission).

The sport-oriented engine is a direct-injected 3.6L V6 that’s designed to deliver power to the masses. In return for a higher initial price tag (the cheapest V6 starts at $32,970 destination in) and reduced economy (it’s rated at 10.9 / 7.4 L/100 km city/highway) the V6 cranks out a healthy 280 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque and will slingshot the Passat to 100 km/h in about 6.5 seconds.

Then there’s my test car’s 2.0 TDI turbodiesel, which is designed to be a fuel economy champ without adding the complexity of a hybrid drivetrain or making you suffer for the privilege. Sure, it’s priced a little higher than the base car (the TDI Trendline starts at $27,970 destination in), but it turns in phenomenal fuel economy ratings (6.9 / 4.9 L/100 km city/highway) and cranks out an impressive 236 lb-ft of torque and 140 horsepower, good enough to haul the Passat to 100 km/h in about 9.3 seconds. And yes, I deliberately reversed the power and torque numbers from their usual order of presentation because it’s really the torque that matters.

2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI
2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI. Click image to enlarge

Sure, horsepower is great if you’re pushing up against an increasingly high-speed wall of wind as you blast around a racetrack at triple-digit velocities. But torque is the quick-acting muscle that’ll snap you, your family and all your luggage away from the traffic lights with authority, or add an easy 15 km/h when you step on the throttle to make a highway pass at 90 km/h. And the Passat TDI has lots of quick-acting muscle. Big bulging biceps of the stuff. Not that it’s obnoxious about it, however – it flexes its muscles quietly, with only the faintest diesel clatter in the exhaust note and no discernible diesel smell from the car, even on cold startup in a parking garage.

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