2014 Volkswagen Passat Sport Review By Steve Purdy
2014 Volkswagen Passat
2014 VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT SPORT
By Steve Purdy
The current generation Volkswagen Passat is designed for the North
American market and meant to compete directly in one of the most hotly
contested market segments. Its range of powertrain options gives it an edge
and the base price – just under 21 grand - puts it right with, if not
a tad lower, than the others. Our choice would probably be the diesel in
spite of a substantial price premium at around 26 grand, but the entire
range of Passat offerings deserves a look from shoppers. And, as an added
bonus, it’s assembled in the U.S.
The 5-passenger, midsize, 4-door, front-wheel drive VW Passat Sport
is in our driveway this week. It lists at $27,295 including destination
charge and is well equipped for that price. It does not have navigation or
sun roof but just about everything else we might expect, like: power
driver’s seat, rear view camera, two-tone leatherette seats, premium
touchscreen audio controls, rear spoiler, trip computer, fog lights, and
19-inch alloy wheels with all-season Continental tires.
The good folks in Chattanooga, TN built it, but does that make it an
American car? Well, yes and no. It was designed to appeal to U.S. customers
while maintaining the simple, functional and sturdy Teutonic character so
many of us respect. It also has 40% U.S. and Canadian content, with
transmission from Argentina and Engine from Mexico. Figure in the assembly
and distribution elements and we find it is more American than many cars
from the U.S. makers.
I was among those who thought this car was too plain to be
attractive when it was first shown at the Detroit Auto Show a couple years
ago. I was wrong. Each time I’ve encountered it since I gain more
appreciation for its unpretentious but confident design focused on
functionality, quality and craftsmanship. The simple design theme with
mostly horizontal elements lacks the embellishments embraced by many of the
other cars in its class like the swoopy Sonata, angular Altima, trendy
Malibu and exotic-looking Fusion. Passat keeps it simple and that works.
Our Passat Sport also comes with those 19-inch alloy wheels noted above
that add a muscular element and athletic stance to the otherwise unadorned
ambiance of the car.
Inside we find the same horizontal lines extending across the dash.
The arched brow over the instrument cluster and the round analog clock are
the exception. A simple, functional panel with touch screen in the center
stack houses the audio, HVAC and other controls that are mostly intuitive
but some functions are rather slow to respond, like radio tuning. The dash
is of unusual design in that the top panel is one large molded piece and
the shiny trim across the middle is not wood or piano black. Rather, it
appears to be an attempt to look like a stylized version of carbon fiber.
In any case, it works within the context of subtlety. Materials, fit and
finish are first rate. We found the front seats (driver’s has power
and lumbar support - passenger’ seat has neither) exceptionally
comfortable and not overly firm and bolstered. Grab handles above all doors
will please many oldsters.
Only one complaint I’ll register is the trip computer that
entirely stymied me when looking for information. I particularly wanted the
cumulative MPG screen and simply could not find it after a week of
searching. (Someone had copped the manual.) The guy who picked it up to
take it away finally found it for me in a most unlikely screen location. It
was as if the VW engineers wanted to hide it for some sadistic reason.
The charm of the interior, in addition to great quality, is its feel
of roominess. Folks who are used to full size sedans will feel right at
home. VW claims best in class rear legroom and I’ll not challenge
that because it looks and feels generous. Rear seat backs fold 60/40 and a
better than average pass-thorough will make the cargo area more usable.
Trunk space is already a generous 15.9 cubic feet.
One of this car’s best features is under the hood. This new
turbocharged 1.8-liter, direct injected engine makes 170 horsepower and a
good 184 pound-feet of torque. While it is not particularly fast we never
felt the need for more power even on our cloverleaf freeway entrance with
the short merging lane. Our test car came with a 5-speed manual gearbox,
which adds to the fun and the versatility. We can more easily keep the revs
up when we want to feel a bit more exhilaration. The EPA estimated fuel
mileage is 24 in the city, 35 on the highway and 28 combined on regular
fuel. We used barely more than a tank of fuel this week and that rating
seems right on the mark.
Handling, as we expect from the German products, including VW, is
excellent. Since it is designed and tuned for the US market it is not as
stiff and crisp as some of the other Teutonic entries and is just right for
someone who likes to drive a bit spiritedly on occasion without sacrificing
a comfortable ride. We like the electro-mechanical steering though it does
not provide a lot of feedback. Suspension geometry and design are
conventional but particularly well tuned.
Volkswagen’s warrantee is among the least generous and covers
the whole car for 3 years or 36,000 miles and the powertrain for 5 years or
60,000 miles. Routine scheduled maintenance is free for the first 2 years
or 24,000 miles.
As one who has owned a number of VW’s over the years, both
good ones and bad ones, I found the Passat Sport to be a car I could
happily live with, particularly with the manual transmission.
©Steve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights