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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Hybrid Killer: 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI

Consumers are wising up to the realization they don’t have to buy a hybrid for the sake of fuel economy. On average clean diesel vehicles are 30%-35% more fuel efficient than their gasoline counterparts, meet the same emissions standards and make significantly more low-end power. Not being a Prius should also be a plus to some. 

Volkswagen is fast emerging as the clear leader of clean diesel vehicles in the United States with their TDI models, sales of which are up 44 percent through March versus last year. On the whole 2012 has been exceedingly gracious to the dub brand. 

Thus far the fully redesigned Passat was awarded Motor Trend’s prestigious car of the year award and across the board VW celebrated its best first quarter since 1973. 

The jump in diesel sales coupled with the Passat earning top honors from Motor Trend ought to be big news for any car buyer looking to put a new midsize family car in the driveway. 

With a full tank of diesel a Passat TDI has an 800 mile cruising range (31mpg city, 43 highway). Those are groundbreaking numbers for a mid-size sedan, and from personal experience it’s possible to do better if you’re tender with your throttle foot. 

The question then becomes, “Why buy a hybrid?” 

If a diesel car can achieve comparable fuel economy at a near identical price point there’s little reason to put up with the concessions hybrid cars demand. 

Namely, hybrids tend to be underpowered, aren’t as much fun to drive and… Just aren’t that cool. 

The 2012 Passat TDI lets you have your fuel economy, your power and all of the wonderful things German engineering does for a driving experience. Needless to say the Passat won Motor Trend’s car of the year for good reason. 

Regardless of what sort of fuel they run on, too often family sedans neglect to provide any sort of tangible driving experience. They can be boring, less of a car and more of an appliance for transportation, like a toaster that your teenager wants to borrow on Friday nights. The Passat doesn’t lack character in any capacity. 

The steering is responsive, handling agile and precise, so much so it makes you wonder if there might have been a degree of sports car DNA slipped into its design, even if it was only for the sake of safety.

Inside the Passat feels spacious above all else, airy even. Just because a family sedan technically seats five doesn’t mean they’ll fit comfortably. They will in the Passat, even if the kids happen to be a six-foot tall high-schooler, Chunk from ‘The Goonies’ and a friend he hangs out with to make himself feel slimmer. 

The Passat’s Interior styling is tasteful, nothing flashy. The materials are high quality and stand as some of the best in its class. Running your eyes over the dash, seats and interior arrangements gives the feel of a luxury car that places more concern on fulfilling the role as such without trying to knock your socks off. 

On the exterior styling is more of a head turner, yet still manages to follow suite with rest of the car’s clean design and overall appeal. Versus being dramatic the re-designed body is elegant and understated. There’s nothing ostentatious about it although it is clear even at a glance that it’s a luxury car, albeit one that isn’t too concerned with appearing that way. 

The 2012 Passat TDI is an illustration of everything Volkswagen has going for it and gives a tangible definition to the ideal of German engineering. It should be on the short list of anyone looking to buy a family sedan whether they're ever heard of clean diesel or not. 

Being able to put more than a few hybrids to shame only sweetens the deal.


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