2015 Volkswagen Passat TDi SE w/ Sunroof first drive review: Better with a better TDi

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDi w/ Sunroof

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDi w/ Sunroof

The Volkswagen Passat gets better every year, and although we’re awaiting a full refurbishment of the Jetta next year—the traditional mid-run updating with changes to the front and rear aspects, some juggling of interior appointments and perhaps some mechanical updating—the 2015 Volkswagen Passat gets one new feature that will make VW’s sedan buyers not want to wait.

Welcome the new Volkswagen EA288 diesel engine.

The engine shares nothing with the last year’s diesel other than cylinder spacing and its two-liter displacement, scrubbing the diesel cleaner by using a urea “diesel exhaust fluid” (or DEF, sold under the trade name AdBlue). The new engine was designed specifically to accommodate the sophisticated system (click here for more VW EA288 information) and although it is sold in some markets around the world without the DEF system. All U.S. Volkswagens with the 2.0-liter diesel will have the DEF system, including the Tiguan.

Our first look at the Volkswagen Passat TDi was at a new model introduction of the 2012 Passat, and we were quite impressed with it, favoring it over the 2.5-liter five-cylinder and the 3.6-liter V-6.  And while we were generally delighted with a Passat SEL in a weeklong test drive, its 2.5-liter five seemed out of place in the Passat, like sneakers with a business suit.

Fortunately the naturally-aspirated five-cylinder was replaced by a 1.8-liter turbocharged four which, despite the decrease in displacement, has the same horsepower rating and seven more lb-ft of torque. The big improvement with the smaller engine, however, is that the boost in muscle comes at lower revs, making the car feel peppier around town and quicker in real-life acceleration.

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDi w/ Sunroof

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDi w/ Sunroof (click to enlarge)

It’s the same kind of increase in numbers for the old versus new diesel, though it’s horsepower that shows the gain in this case, up ten horses to 150. The torque max remains 236 lb-ft though it reaches its peak down at 1750 rpm. You don’t have to spin this engine to get acceleration. Admittedly it doesn’t turn the Passat into a racehorse, but the engine feels healthy in typical suburban driving.

The 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDi sounds like a diesel inside and out, though we suspect that those who go out of their way to buy a diesel Passat wouldn’t have it any other way. There’s no rattle, just a steady tick as the engine runs at idle, and that’s imperceptible from inside the car. On acceleration there’s a subdued growl that grows louder with more pedal, and it, once at cruise, must be listened for very closely to hear.

The 2015 Passat is available with either a five-speed or six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed DSG automatic. The 2015 Passat comes only with front-wheel drive. Our first-drive 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDi SE came with the automatic, a no charge option on the TDI SE. A manual transmission is standard.

Volkswagen moved the Passat to electric power steering for 2015 and the best we can say about it is we didn’t notice. Of course, without having to continuously run the hydraulic pump of the conventional power steering, the electric power steering is a natural fuel saver.

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDi w/ Sunroof

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDi w/ Sunroof (click to enlarge)

Pricing for the Passat starts at $21,120 for the base Passat S model. The S comes with the 1.8-liter TSI engine with a five-speed manual transmission, 16-inch steel wheels but also a multifunction steering wheel, a six-speaker audio system and Bluetooth connectivity. A Wolfsburg edition adds 16-inch alloy wheels, eight-way power driver’s seat, and VW Car-Net connectivity, a media-device interface (MDI) with iPod cable, Sirius XM radio, a six-speed automatic transmission, and more, for $24,135.

The SE trim comes with the six-speed DSG automatic transmission as standard, plus includes 17-inch alloy wheels, V-Tex leatherette seating, touchscreen radio, auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated windshield nozzles and rearview camera, plus additional items, for $26,020.

A Sport trim Passat comes standard with a six-speed manual transmission for $26,635 or six-speed automatic for $27,835, with 19-inch wheels, rear spoiler and special interior trim…but no sport suspension.

Moving up to SEL Premium trim means a $31,475 price tag. Standard equipment includes an eight-way power front passenger seat, partial leather seating, Fender premium audio, navigation, rain-sensing wipers and so on.

Adding the 3.6-liter V-6 to the SEL Premium also includes push-button start and proximity key entry, et cetera, for $35,660.

Diesel power starts with SE trim at $26,825, and includes 17-inch alloy wheels, V-Tex leatherette, heated front seats with power driver’s seat, touch-screen radio with a leather-covered steering wheel, special interior trim, and a six-speed manual transmission.

Our test 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDi SE w/ Sunroof, includes of course a sunroof, but also the six-speed DSG automatic transmission and 18-inch alloy wheels, had a $24,495 ticket.

The 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SE w/ Sunroof and Nav adds a navigation system, plus pushbutton start with keyless access, and fog lights, for a sum of $30,545. All out with the diesel engine means a price tag of $33,585 and includes navigation, Fender audio, keyless entry with pushbutton start, rain-sensing wipers, driver’s seat memory and more.

An $820 destination is not included on the prices listed.

While the extra oomph of the 3.6-liter V-6 is fun, the 2.0-liter isn’t a weak sister and it’s rated at 30 mpg city and 42 mpg highway. In our introductory drive, we weren’t able to get a reasonable estimate of what real world fuel economy might be. When we have that opportunity, we’ll report it. We can’t wait. Road trip, anyone?

Specifications and window sticker on next page.