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2014 Volkswagen Passat Heels on Wheels Review

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2014 Volkswagen Passat (R-line shown)

By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

KATRINA SAYS: The 2014 Volkswagen Passat gets an American makeover for a mid-size sedan more focused on powertrain variety, roominess, and in-car technology.

The Passat’s European flair has gotten Americanized, which in some ways translates to more versatility and space than this mid-size sedan has previously offered. Interpret this as four-cylinder and V6 engine choices, extra legroom, and quicker access to our beloved smartphones thanks to a more streamlined in-car telematics system called VW Car-Net.

I drove a 2014 Volkswagen Passat with the turbocharged 170-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine matched to a six-speed manual transmission. My SEL Premium trim test drive – a mid-level choice among the Passat’s numerous trim choices – came with the following standard equipment: premium navigation; Fender audio system; VW Car-Net telematics; rearview camera; Bluetooth; sunroof; V-Tex leatherette upholstery; sport seats; XM Radio; a Media Device Interface screen; fog lights; push-button start; eighteen-inch alloy wheels. Price as described came to $30,895.(See specs and prices for all 18 2014 Passat trim levels below my review)

For 2014, the new turbocharged 1.8-liter engine is the main headliner along with the availability of VW Car-Net connected services. Competition includes the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord, Chevrolet Malibu, Mazda6, Ford Fusion and Hyundai Sonata.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: The Passat steps up where the Jetta comes short – you get a more refined and spacious interior using higher quality materials and more thoughtful execution. Yet the sport seats weren’t all that sporty and didn’t give me the kind of security I was expecting. VW Car-Net services bring connectivity to your smartphone, but the upgraded navigation screen just cannot keep up with the vivid graphics from the Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry. Like the Jetta, the Passat does offer a significant amount of trunk space. When shopping, know your engine choice as the Passat is presented in a dizzying array of trims best tackled by your powertrain decision.

Reliability & Safety Factor: Standard safety equipment includes Intelligent Crash Response System, front and rear disc brakes, anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and anti-slip regulation. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2014 VW Passat ratings of “Good” in all areas omitting the small overlap front which earned a score of just “Marginal.” You can view crash test images for the Passat on their website. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the Passat a 5-Star overall rating.

Cost Issues: The base VW Passat S starts at $20,995 – the more affordable Jetta begins at $16,720, which buys you a115-horspower 2-liter four-cylinder engine with power mirrors, keyless entry and a CD player. Just to throw a couple competitor prices out there, the Mazda6 base Sport trim starts at $20,990 and the base Nissan Altima at $22,110.

Activity & Performance Ability: The turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder was gutsy, yet prized quickness over the refinement characteristics I’ve experienced on the several competitors. Braking felt a tab grabby. Fuel economy is fair at 28 miles-per-gallon combined. The great thing about going with the Passat is the many engine choices: my turbocharged 1.8-liter; a second and standard direct-injection 1.8-liter; a 140-horsepower 2-liter TDI Clean Diesel engine; and a 280-horsepower 3.6-liter V6 engine.

The Green Concern: The 1.8-liter turbo gets 24-city/34-highway while the TDI Clean Diesel gets 30-city/42-highway. The Nissan Altima’s four-cylinder gets 27 miles-per-gallon city, 38 highway and 31 combined with the CVT. The Mazda6’s 184-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder is the only engine available and offers fuel estimates of 26-city and 38-highway for a combined 30 miles-per-gallon; with an i-Eloop feature taking it to 32-combined.

Certainly sleek and contemporary, the 2014 Volkswagen Passat is honed for an American market that appreciates powertrain engine choices, interior roominess and in-car connectivity – and to stay competitive with this tough segment, Volkswagen should continue analyzing our vehicle expectations.

2014 Katrina Ramser