Jan 192018
 

With the majestic Colorado Rockies as a backdrop, Volkswagen launched the second generation of its popular compact sport utility vehicle (SUV), the 2018 Tiguan. Latino Traffic Report attended the event in Denver, Colorado, where the Tiguan tackled the terrain and the altitude.

On the outside, the all-new Tiguan shares several design cues with its larger sibling, the 2018 Atlas, namely, the grille, headlamps, and taillights.

Powered by an updated 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbocharged TSI engine, with 184 horsepower and 221 lb.–ft. of torque, and matched to an eight-speed automatic transmission, the compact SUV should gain an EPA estimated fuel economy of 22 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 27 mpg on the highway. Tiguans equipped with 4Motion all-wheel drive (AWD) will earn just one mpg less in the city. At the launch, I averaged 26.1 mpg in the SEL Premium AWD. The 2.0-liter turbo did struggle on inclines and there was some turbo lag. Of course, the elevation certainly didn’t help.

Active Control, a unique feature with 4Motion, also allows more intrepid drivers to chose among four driving modes—On-road, Snow, Off-road, and Custom Off-road. To fine tune the On-road experience further, four additional modes—Normal, Sport, Eco, and Custom—can be engaged with the push of a button. Along curvy mountain climbs and descents, I tested the Sport mode. It improved handling via tighter steering but didn’t offer a noticeable increase in power.

The new Tiguan tackles the versatility challenge by adding 10.6 inches in length, giving it up to 58 percent more cargo space than the current model. It also includes a 50/50 split third row third-row seat, suitable for children, on entry-level trims with front-wheel drive (FWD) and makes it available on models with VW 4Motion AWD technology. The 40/20/40 split second-row bench can recline and slide seven inches fore and aft. Both rows fold down to create a maximum of 65.7 cubic feet of cargo room.

With four available trim levels, S, SE, SEL, and SEL Premium, there’s quite a gap between standard features from the base to the top-of-the-line model, amounting to a difference in value of more than $10,000.

On the outside, the base has halogen headlights, LED daytime running lights and taillights, foglights with a cornering function, heated exterior mirrors with integrated turn-signal indicators, and 17-inch wheels. By comparison, the SEL Premium comes with 19-inch wheels, LED headlights with the Adaptive Front-lighting System, rain-sensing wipers, and power-folding exterior mirrors with puddle lights. For added convenience, the SEL Premium also includes the foot-activated, hands-free Easy Open power liftgate.

Standard cloth seats in the all-new Tiguan

Standard safety features on all models include a rearview camera and Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, unique to VW. The Premium SEL adds an overhead view camera, Active Blind Spot Monitor w/ Rear Traffic Alert, Lane Departure Warning, and Park Distance Control among other features.

Standard creature comforts include a multi-function steering wheel, cloth seats with a nice quilted pattern, cruise control, a 6.5-inch capacitive touchscreen with AM/FM radio and one USB port, Bluetooth, VW Car-Net App-Connect, and the MIB II infotainment system.

The SEL Premium adds a panoramic sunroof, an eight-inch touchscreen, heated leather seats and steering wheel, two more USB ports, a power driver’s seat with memory, keyless start, and the Fender premium audio system.

With a bolder design on the outside, the 2018 Tiguan bears the new face of VW, but it also improves on essentials with more room and technology.

Pricing for the 2018 Tiguan starts at $25,495 and $37,150 for the SEL Premium.

 

Mar 142017
 

Chevy Cruze

Available at all ends of the price spectrum, the ubiquitous sedan comes in an assortment of incarnations, from a comfortable, affordable commuter to a sumptuous performance machine. Here’s an overview of the sedans tested by Latino Traffic Report (LTR) and what makes them stand out in a crowded field.

Chevy Cruze

Redesigned in 2016, the Chevy Cruze compact sedan continues to compete in one of the toughest automotive segments by ramping up both its style and amenities.

For starters, the new version is larger and lighter, increasing its EPA estimated fuel economy to 30 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 40 mpg on the highway.

The new 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder turbo engine with 153 horses is matched to a six-speed manual or available six-speed automatic transmission (North America). I drove the automatic and earned an average 35 mpg. A diesel engine becomes available in the spring of 2017.

As mentioned, it comes with a healthy list of standard features including keyless entry, XM Satellite radio (three months), OnStar (six months), OnStar Basic Plan (five years), and a rearview camera. New available features include wireless phone charging, heated rear seats and heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Happily, I drove the Premier or top-of-the-line model that included the available OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot and keyless start plus all the above via the Enhanced Convenience Package ($865), as well as the Driver Convenience Package ($790) that added essentials like rear park assist, forward collision, rear cross traffic, and lane change alert with a blind zone warning. Oddly, neither a sunroof nor leather seats are available.

Still, the fit and finish inside this model was quite impressive, definitely a step up from the outgoing model.

The as-tested pricing for the Cruze Premier came to $26,045.

 

Toyota Camry

The Camry is a top seller among Latinos as well as the nation. It’s been a leader in the midsize segment for the last 14 years. So if it ain’t broke, perhaps the task for Toyota is just to make more versions? The LTR test drive featured the Camry SE Special Edition. While many manufacturers have joined the darkened trend for special editions, Toyota chose to go blue.

Powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder matched to six-speed automatic transmission, it should achieve an impressive EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy of 25/35 mpg. I averaged 26.3 mpg. A 3.5-liter V6 is available on other Camrys.

Toyota applied the Special Edition to the SE trim as it’s already distinguished by a sporty design, from the grille to the suspension. On the inside, the sport fabric Softex seats featured blue accent stitching and blue seat inserts. Blue accents were also included in the gauge cluster, as well as a power moonroof.

Specific technology on this trim included a Smart Key System and Qi wireless charging for compatible smart phones, enabling navigation from a smart phone.

Exclusive design features include a smoked treatment on the taillights and 18-inch alloy wheels in a machined finish and gloss black-painted accents. For a mere $525, the Camry also included a ramped up Entune premium audio with navigation, a seven-inch high-resolution touch screen with split-screen display, and a CD player.

While a redesigned 2018 version of the Camry is currently touring auto shows, there’s still time to grab the current generation.

The as-tested Camry Special Edition pricing came to $27,075.

 

 

Kia Optima

Kia ramped up the 2016 version of the Optima with a redesign, giving its top-selling nameplate a more refined exterior look, new technology, and creature comforts offered at the same starting price as the outgoing model. The 2017 model receives a few tweaks and upgraded trims.

Optima rear view camera with multiple angles.

There are three available four-cylinder engines to power the Optima, distributed among five trim levels. The test model, Optima SX Turbo, came equipped with 2.0-liter turbo-powered four-cylinder engine matched to a six-speed automatic transmission. A seven-speed dual clutch transmission is also available.

All three engines include the Active Eco System and Driver Mode Select with an Eco option to conserve gas. The EPA estimated fuel economy for the test model is 22 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway. I averaged 31 mpg.

As a midsize sedan, Kia competes in a tough segment. It has an edge, however, with an exceptional bumper-to-bumper warranty (five years or 60,000 miles) and with a healthy list of standard features. Situated near the top of the line, second to the Optima SXL, the test model included extra technology and creature comforts. Standard features on the test model included dual-zone air conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM/MP3 audio unit with satellite radio, an eight-inch LCD rear-camera display, and Bluetooth.

Additionally, the test model added the SXT Premium Technology Package ($4,800) brought a slew of features like a panoramic sunroof, Harman Kardon Surround Sound system, heated and cooled front seats, Blind spot Detection and Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

The as-tested price for the Optima, built in West Point, GA, was $35,315.

Acura ILX

Considered a gateway to the Acura brand, the ILX is the most affordable Acura model available. The test model, ILX Tech Plus A-SPEC, however, included multiple packages that ramped up its appeal and price.

The sporty ILX gets its oomph from a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 201 horsepower and 180 lb.–ft. of torque. Matched to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, the powertrain should achieve an EPA city/highway estimated fuel economy of 25/36 mpg. I averaged 29.9 mpg.

Expect to feel the road with the ILX which lacks adjustable drive mode select technology to adjust ride and handling.

With refreshed looks on the outside for 2016, including restyled front and rear fasciae, front grille, and rear LED combination lights, the A-SPEC package also added sporty side sill garnishes, a trunk spoiler, front fog lights, new 18-inch, ten-spoke machined alloy wheels, sport pedals, and sport seats with suede inserts.

As the name implied, the ILX Tech Plus A-SPEC was packed with packages that brought a long list of features starting with the Premium Package that included XM Satellite radio, a blind spot monitor and rear cross traffic monitor among other features. The Tech Package added navigation, multi-view rear camera, and the Acura ELS AM/FM/CD sound system. Finally, the Acura Watch Plus Package completed the picture with adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, and braking among other features.

As tested pricing for the top-of-the-line ILX Tech Plus A-SPEC came to $35,810.

 

Volkswagen Passat

Passat 1.8T SE

With a base price of $23,260, the Passat is more affordable than expected for a European mid-size sedan, one that happens to be built at VW’s Chattanooga, TN plant. LTR tested two Passat trim levels, the sporty 1.8T SE with Technology and the SEL Premium.

Updated inside and out for 2016, the Passat remains understated but sophisticated in appearance.

Powered by the four-cylinder 1.8-liter turbocharged engine matched to a six-speed automatic transmission should help the Passat SE achieve an impressive EPA city/highway estimated fuel economy of 25/38 mpg. I averaged 27.4 mpg.

Passat SEL Premium

The more affordable trim level of the two I drove included important technology like the intelligent crash response system, but also comfort features like heated front seats and MIB II, the new generation of Volkswagen’s infotainment system, adaptive cruise control and a rearview camera for added convenience.

As the name implies the SEL Premium is the higher-end version of the Passat and replete with more bells and whistles that do come at a high price, nearly $10,000 more.

Powered by a 3.6-liter V6 and a six-speed transmission, it has an EPA city/highway estimated fuel economy of 20/28 mpg. I averaged 24.3 mpg.

It had heated front and rear leather seats, a Fender premium audio system, a power sunroof, parking sensor, and a blind spot monitor.

Both models had a massive truck with 15.9 cubic feet of storage and 60/40-split rear seat that easily deploys to expand cargo room inside.

As-tested pricing for the SE and SEL came to $28,195 and $37,655 respectively.

 

Audi A3

Audi A3 Sedan

Believe it or not, there’s actually an entry-level Audi and it’s called the A3. On this test for LTR, there were two models for review, the Sedan and the Cabriolet (convertible).

The Sedan offers three engine options and the Cabriolet two. Both test models shared the same one, a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produced 220 horsepower and 258 lb.–ft. of torque matched to a six-speed S tronic transmission. Both also came with quattro all-wheel drive, but the sedan should manage to achieve one more mile per gallon in the city and highway, with an EPA estimated fuel economy of 24/33 mpg. I averaged 23.7 mpg with the Sedan and 21.4 mpg with the Cabriolet.

What the Cabriolet did excel at was fun, starting with the canvas top that deployed with the push of a button at speeds of up to 31 mph and, ideally, in 18 seconds—it took 24 seconds when I tried.

Audi A3 Cabriolet

Standard safety technology on all A3s includes, a rear view camera, and parking system. To get advanced systems like Audi Side Assist (blind spot warning) requires purchasing the Technology Package ($2,700), which also adds a CD/DVD player, Audi MMI touch, and navigation, among other features.

The A3 may be considered “entry level” but it’s still an Audi, and as such, standard creature comforts include dual-zone climate control, leather seating, and SiriusXM Satellite radio. The sedan also came with a panoramic sunroof.

Both added extra packages to get features like heated front seats, Audi advanced Key, and Audi music interface with iPod cable.

As tested pricing for the Sedan came to $41,325 and $46,500 for the Cabriolet.

 

Lexus GS F

Lexus’s new design DNA, including the signature spindle grille, signaled a new focus on sportiness. The manufacturer even created a special performance lineup under the F brand. New for 2016, the GS F performance sedan leaves little doubt that it’s a Lexus, particularly with its premium appointments on the inside, but its sportiness is certainly sets it apart.

Exterior design features get bolder on F models, including the fascia with race-inspired functional air inlets, triple-beam headlamps, low-slung wide stance, large brake calipers, carbon-fiber rear spoiler, and quad exhaust rear diffuser.

To show it means business, Lexus powers the GS F with a 5.0-liter V8 with 467 horses and 389 lb.–ft. of torque. It’s matched to an eight-speed Sport Direct Shift Automatic Transmission with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters.

Fuel economy will not be its strongest feature but it is respectable. The EPA estimated city/highway fuel economy is 16/24 mpg. I averaged 17.7 mpg.

For better performance and handling, the GS F sits on a double-wishbone in the front and rear multi-link suspension. Lexus adds Brembo disc brakes and Active Sound Control, to increase throatiness and rumble to the engine and exhaust notes. Drive Mode Select control further enhances performance by giving the driver the following options—NORMAL, ECO, SPORT S, SPORT S+—while Torque Vectoring Differential helps the GS F hug the road.

All new for 2016, improvements in 2017, like a new Linear Adaptive Variable Suspension, accentuate the positive, with more power and better responsiveness.

All this performance and power doesn’t come cheap. The as-tested pricing for the GS F was $87,175.

 

Nov 222016
 

img_0849

The auto industry has predicted the demise of manual transmissions for decades so when one gets delivered to Latino Traffic Report for a review, I’m thrilled. It’s even more exciting when the manual comes on a trim level that allows for more bells and whistles. That was the case with the 2016 Volkswagen Jetta GLI SEL that I drove.

Manual transmissions just make driving more fun, that’s why most sports cars still offer them. On economy cars, manual transmissions serve a different purpose. Reserved for entry-level models that can’t be upgraded and are basically sold as-is, they help lower the base price. Still, they do add oomph to little four-cylinder engines so it’s unfortunate that they really can’t compete with their siblings and are easily passed over.img_0852

Not surprisingly, the base model Jetta comes with a manual transmission, but so does the GLI SEL that sits just below the top-of-the-line Jetta hybrid. As such, it comes with advanced technology, particularly on the safety side, like a blind spot monitor, rear traffic alert, parking sensors, and a rearview camera.

Redesigned for 2015, the 2016 model adds a 1.4-liter turbocharged, direct-injection engine four-cylinder. I drove the 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder matched to a six–speed manual transmission. It had an EPA estimated fuel economy of 24 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 33 mpg on the highway. I averaged 24.9 mpg. A six-speed automatic is also available as well as a 1.8-liter turbo four-cylinder engine.

The GLI SEL also gets a bold new look for 2016, highlighted by an aggressive front fascia that incorporates a honeycomb grille and foglights, along with a new rear bumper design that has a diffuser and a pair of chrome-tipped exhausts, plus 18-inch Mallory design aluminum-alloy wheels.

img_0855On the inside, the GLI SEL continues to add features like dual-zone climate control, a 6.3-inch touchscreen for radio controls and navigation (it was a little clunky to operate), heated black leatherette front seats with red accent stitching, a power sunroof, a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and a Fender premium audio system developed through a collaboration between Fender and Panasonic. It includes 400 watts of power, nine speakers, a trunk-mounted subwoofer, and my favorite low-tech feature, a CD player.

Convenience features include a split rear seat with pass through to the trunk, a 60/40-split rear seatback offering 15.5 cubic feet of usable trunk space, a tilting and telescopic steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth, keyless access with push button start and a cooled glovebox.jetta-rear

Volkswagen’s most popular model, the Jetta has a starting price of $18,500. The as-tested price topped out at $30,100.

 

Sí: Always great to find manual transmissions on up-level trims and the Jetta GLI SEL includes nice bells and whistles.

No: The audio system was less intuitive than most, especially when programming preset stations.

Sep 152016
 

2016-09-09-munoz

What better location is there for revealing a new vehicle than a parking garage? Set against the backdrop of the Miami skyline, the 2017 Rogue made its worldwide debut atop just such a location. Nissan took this opportunity last week at the forty-sixth annual Miami International Auto Show press preview, where the 2017 Sentra SR Turbo was also revealed.

Introduced by Executive Vice President Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. and Chairman, Nissan North America, Inc., José Muñoz (pictured above), the all-new Rogue competes in the compact SUV segment and now reflects Nissan’s design DNA as well as a more upscale interior. New convenience features on the Rogue include an available Motion-Activated Liftgate, the available Nissan Safety Shield technologies, and the first-ever Rogue Hybrid.

2017 Sentra SR Turbo

2017 Sentra SR Turbo

Hecho en México, the newest Sentra in the lineup brings a sporty option to a segment that tends to lack appeal beyond the price and fuel efficiency. Powered by a 1.6-liter Direct Injection Gasoline turbocharged engine, both the SR manual and Xtronic versions will have the same starting price, under $22,000 and the ability to upgrade. The SR will also offer important safety features, like a blind-spot monitor and rear cross-traffic alert, even on the six-speed manual version, unlike the Sentra base model, also a six-speed manual, which is sold practically as-is.

Both models should appeal to Latino car buyers who will be integral to their success.

“Nissan is one of the top automotive brands with Hispanic buyers and multicultural buyers in general, fueling Nissan’s current strong sales growth nationwide,” said Muñoz. “Sales to the Hispanic community represent a full 21 percent of Nissan’s total sales, well above the industry average.”

2016-09-10-pink-beetle

#PinkBeetle

Other interesting reveals included the #PinkBeetle, Volkswagen’s special edition of the 2017 Beetle, offered in a hardtop or convertible version, that will also serve as a fundraiser for breast cancer awareness. As the name implies, its exterior paint is a translucent pink or Fresh Fuchsia Metallic. The Pink Agenda will auction the first model for FAB-U-WISH, a non-profit initiated by breast cancer survivor Giuliana Rancic. Bidding takes place online at Charitybuzz.com/vwpinkbeetle through September 22, 2016.

Genesis G90

Genesis G90

Hyundai’s new luxury brand, Genesis, launched one its first models, the G90, last month. The G90 also received the Best Luxury Sedan Award at the auto show from  Ruedas ESPN. Only the second luxury brand to launch this century, Genesis will continue to do what Hyundai does best, offer more equipment and services than its competitors. Most impressive is the suite of safety features that come standard on the G90 but that still remain options on brands like Audi, BMW, Lexus, and Mercedes-Benz, namely a blind spot monitor, lane keep assist, and a multi-view camera.

ar017_054gu86lhmv5m6dligiu8dr83ncsf4gFinally, the Southern Automotive Media Association (SAMA) ended the day with its award ceremony, naming the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio (left) premium midsize sedan the Star of the Show.

Jan 092016
 

2015-10-21 passat2

It’s not easy being a midsize sedan, what with all the competition. Designed specifically for the U.S. market, the Volkswagen Passat adds a European option to the segment at a surprisingly affordable price. For 2016, the German sedan bears a new look and even more bang for the buck.

Volkswagen’s design DNA could be called understated, so one shouldn’t expect the new Passat to be remarkably different from the outgoing model. Designers made subtle changes on the outside to make it appear more streamlined.

2016 Passat S

2016 Passat S

At the launch in Vermont, premium touches like a new dashboard and center console, along with integrated two-tone decor panels, and a new frameless rearview mirror elevated my first impression of the interior. Volkswagen also gave journalists a rare opportunity to drive the base or S model, offering a well-rounded view of the lineup.

Built in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the 2016 Passat can be powered by either of two engines—the 1.8-liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder or a 3.6-liter VR6. Volkswagen has suspended the sale of diesels for now.

Made in Silao, Mexico, the turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder engine produces 170 horsepower and 184 lb.–ft. of torque using regular gasoline. Matched to the six-speed automatic, the Passat should achieve an estimated fuel economy of 25 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. I achieved 36.8 average mpg at the launch.

2015-10-22 09.02.44The 3.6-liter VR6 produces 280 horsepower and 258 lb.–ft. of torque with premium fuel. It should earn an EPA-estimated highway mileage of 28 mpg with the six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters add to its sporty performance and handling.

New technology, like the available Easy Open trunk also, adds value and keeps the Passat on trend. Easy Open Truck allows the driver, within three feet of the trunk, to use his feet to activate a sensor near the rear of the vehicle, opening the trunk hands-free.2015-10-22 09.54.24

Volkswagen’s signature infotainment system, MIB II, comes standard with a five- or 6.3-inch touchscreens and most models include a display capacitive touch sensor that enables gesture controls like swiping and pinch zooming. Internet connections are available via Car-Net features that include App-Connect technology that can be integrated with three major Smartphone platforms— Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink.

While advanced safety technology, like a blind spot monitor, is unavailable on the base model, it is standard on the SE w/Technology models and up. All Passat’s do come equipped with a rearview camera and Volkswagen’s Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, first launched on the 2015 Golf. As the name implies, it applies the brakes after a primary collision helping to reduce residual kinetic energy and, in turn, reduce the chance of additional damage.

2016 Passat SE

2016 Passat SE

Standard creature comforts include dual- zone climate control, a steering wheel with audio and phone control, a CD player, and a 60/40-split rear seat for added cargo space. The large trunk can accommodate 15.9 cubic feet of luggage.

Available in multiple trim levels, starting prices range from $23,260 (with destination fees) for the S, to $35,090 for the SEL Premium. New features on the base model, however, account for a value of $1,315. The best buy, however, may be the SE w/Technology, starting at $29,230, because of standard features like the afore mentioned blind spot monitor, Rear Traffic Alert with braking, and keyless entry with push-button start.

 

Aug 192015
 

2015-03-10 vw-sportw

AUSTIN, TX—Volkswagen traveled to Austin this year to launch the 2015 Golf Sportwagen. Surprisingly affordable, the Golf lineup now adds versatility with this extended version, plus impressive fuel economy.

The manufacturer remains loyal to diesel powertrains and manual transmissions (technology known for stretching a tank of fuel), offering a 2.0-liter, 150-horsepower turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder TDI Clean Diesel, fitted with a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.2015-03-09 18.39.41

The base engine is the gasoline-powered 1.8-liter, 170-horsepower turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder TSI engine mated to a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic transmission.

Both engines boast impressive fuel economy, with the diesel averaging an EPA estimated 35 miles per gallon (mpg), while the 1.8-liter should average 29 mpg. On the road test that took us into the Texas Hill Country, both engines performed well with the diesel and gas engines averaging 39.5 mpg and 31.9 mpg, respectively.

2015-03-09 18.59.49As an added treat, the launch also included new experiences for this 32-year Austin resident, including dinner at Rabbit’s, the East Austin landmark known as the place Latino wheeler dealers used to congregate, and lunch at the critically acclaimed Qui Austin restaurant, also on East Sixth Street. Owned by Top Chef champion, Paul Qui, the restaurant critic’s darling was oddly missing a sign on the outside—the clientele apparently “just know” where to find it. But I digress.

Like the Jetta Sportwagen it replaces, the Golf version will appeal to families, but also active folks with cargo carrying needs. The rear seats are split and fold down easily, expanding the cargo space to 66.5 cubic feet. Plus, the roof is lower to make it easier to load bicycles and such on top.

When it comes to safety, the Sportwagen lacks some modern technology like a blind spot warning system but the 2016 model should rectify that. Standard features include electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, the new Automatic Post-Collision Braki2015_golf_sportwagen_4707ng system that 2015_golf_sportwagen_3811continues to apply brakes after a crash to avoid additional collisions, and the roadside assistance program for three-years or 36,000 miles (whichever comes first).

Available safety technology includes parking sensors and forward collision warning.

On the inside, standard creature comforts include a leather-wrapped steering wheel, steering wheel controls, a 5.8-inch touch screen infotainment center with a capacitive sensor, Sirius XM Satellite radio, Bluetooth technology, air conditioning, VW Car-Net connected services, and V-tex leatherette seating.

The TDI adds keyless entry with push-button start and a rearview camera.

A panoramic sunroof is standard on all but the base model Sportwagen.

Hecho en México at the plant in Puebla, the 2015-03-10 golfwag.launch2015 Golf Sportwagen has a base price of $22,215 while the TDI, with a base price of $25,415, is $2,000 less than the outgoing Jetta version.

The VW Golf impressed auto writers enough to win the 2015 North American Car of the Year honors. More versatile and fuel efficient, its new sibling should grab a bit of the spotlight as well.

 

 

Mar 272015
 

2014-11-25 10.passat

What defines an American car? Is it where it’s made or who profits from the sale of it? Made at the company’s Chattanooga, Tennessee plant, part of a $7 billion investment by the company in the North American market, the Volkswagen Passat sedan still maintains a decidedly European DNA.

On a recent test drive of the 2015 Passat V6 SEL Premium in Austin for Latino Traffic Report, I found the sedan to be elegant and nimble.

The largest Passat built to date, it measures 191.6 inches with a stretched 110.4-inch wheelbase and 72.2-inch width, offering plenty of space for five adults. It’s easy to get in and out too, with large, wide-opening doors.

The test model sits at the top of the model lineup that includes five trim levels, but even the base model, 1.8T S, includes a driver’s seat that adjusts eight ways, including lumbar. The SEL test model included heated front seats with suede inserts.

A powerful 3.6-liter V6 engine with 280 horses powers the SEL. Matched to a six-speed dual clutch automatic transmission, it has an EPA estimated fuel economy of 20 miles per gallon (mpg) in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. During the weeklong test drive, I averaged 27.4 mpg.

2014-11-25 passat.licThere are two, more fuel-efficient engines offered, a 1.8-liter TSI turbocharged four cylinder, and the new 2.0-liter TDI Clean Diesel as well as five- and six-speed manual transmissions.

The new electro-mechanical power steering gives the Passat responsive handling, perfectly weighted to provide a balance between highway speeds, and parking speeds.

Every 2015 Passat comes with Electronic Stability Control (ESC), anti-lock brakes, Brake Assist, a tire pressure monitor, and Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System that automatically unlocks the doors, shuts off the fuel pump, and even turns on the hazard warning lights in the event of a collision. Unfortunately, a blind spot monitor is unavailable, even on the SEL.

Standard features on the base model include air-conditioning, hill hold control for the five-speed manual transmission version, steering wheel controls, AM/FM stereo with a CD player and six speakers, Bluetooth technology, and a 60/40 split rear seat.

The SEL adds foglights, 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, partial leather seating surfaces (not sure why Volkswagen didn’t go with all-leather), keyless access with push-button start, navigation, the Fender Premium Audio System, wood grain interior, interior chrome accents, and chrome dual exhaust tips.

It also comes with an iPod cable and interestingly, it recognized my iPod Nano unlike other models and brands that no longer do.

Pricing for this American-made German sedan starts at $22,160. The as-tested price for the Passat SEL came to $36,480.