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2013 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL Premium - Long Term Report: 1 of 4

Diesel Power’s First Long-Termer Hits The Road

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Ever since the first issue of Diesel Power magazine hit newsstands in 2005, we’ve had a plan to eventually include long-term tests as part of the magazine package. Our goal is to deliver real-world experience, fuel economy numbers, and cost-of-ownership info regarding new diesel vehicles to better educate our readers.

It took a while to get the ball rolling, but Volkswagen of America was the first manufacturer to get involved, and we recently welcomed a 2013 VW Passat TDI into our fleet for the next year. Our Night Blue Metallic Passat arrived—fully loaded—in SEL Premium trim, which includes heated leather seating, an upgraded Fender audio system, premium navigation, and 18-inch wheels to name some of the standard features. With a base price of just $32,915 plus a $795 destination charge, the total of our optionless but well-equipped car came to $33,710. Our tester came outfitted with the DSG transmission and EPA mileage rating of 30 mpg city and 40 mpg highway.

We took delivery of our Passat just days before we were slated to head out to Diesel Power Challenge. With only 252 miles on the odometer, we pointed our new VW to Denver on a nonstop, 1,000-mile journey to the mile-high city. If it was a break-in we were after, we sure got it, as our drive brought us through five states, raging blizzards, big-time elevation changes, and varied highway speeds. Through it all we were incredibly impressed as our brand-new Passat returned almost 41 mpg with an average speed of more than 75 mph. Our return trip, with more favorable conditions, bumped that up to 42 mpg. Most impressively, we were able to make it from Denver to Las Vegas—a distance of 717 miles on just one tank of fuel.

While the Passat has great cruising range and highway economy, even our mixed driving commutes regularly register in the high 30s for fuel economy, giving us a practical range of more than 500 miles. The little 2.0L TDI engine is responsive and has plenty of passing power, although there is some momentary turbo lag you quickly adjust for. Unlike the 2.0L TDI in the Golf, Jetta, and Beetle, the Passat’s version of this engine does require DEF. The oil change interval is 10,000 miles, so no service was needed for this report.

So far, our first 5,000 miles have been pretty uneventful, with no warranty issues to speak of for this Tennessee-built sedan. The full size and good road manners make for a car that’s easy to live with. The Passat is a deceptively large car; its size is well disguised by the conservative shape. The most impressive part of the cabin is the expansive rear bench, which can fit three car seats across the back or three medium-sized adults. There is plenty of legroom and the backseat folds down to expand the cargo-carrying ability of the huge trunk. With the rear seat folded down, you can fit as much stuff as in a small SUV.

Our only complaints so far are a slow-to-respond head unit and annoying buzz from the trim piece at the base of the windshield. We’re told VW is working on a fix for the delay to inputs for the head unit and the buzzing trim is an issue common to Passats and one we’ve experienced before in other cars. We also noted in the logbook that the 18-inch Continental tires are awfully noisy on concrete, taking away from an otherwise quiet cabin.

Overall, we’ve been impressed with our experience with the VW Passat so far. We’d say the personality of the Passat is more of a relaxed cruiser than sports car, but that is what makes the car comfortable for those long days. With a highway range of more than 700 miles per tank and the ability to effortlessly chew up endless ribbons of asphalt, you can bet we’ll be taking the Passat on more road trips in time for the next report.

Report: 1 of 4
Previous reports: First report
Base price: $33,710
Price as tested: $33,710

Long-Term Numbers
Miles to date: 4,907
Miles since last report: First report

Average mpg (this report): 37.77
Test best tank: 42.27 mpg
Test worst tank: 31.44 mpg

Maintenance: None

Problem Areas: Creaky trim, slow head unit

Fast Look
We Like: Awesome fuel economy, long service intervals, plenty of room
We’d Change: Tires are noisy on concrete, creaky dash trim
We Say: The best choice for someone who needs fuel economy in a big car

Logbook Quotes:
“The lag on the head unit is most annoying when you first start the car. Nothing happens in a hurry.”
“The car has great range, but the bottom seat cushions could be a bit firmer. Rear end is numb after 8 hours.”
“I can’t believe we made it from Denver to Vegas on one tank, and we still had some fuel left in the tank.”
“Every time I get on the highway, this thing gets 40 mpg.”
“The upper dash creak is most noticeable during temperature changes.”

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