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.
There 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.
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