CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- The four-door Passat, Volkswagen's mid-size family sedan, scores a re-do for the seventh generation on an expanded unibody structure with choice of three fuel-thrifty powertrains and the metal shell honed to a smooth new shape.
Passat for model-year 2012 measures larger in wheelbase length by 3.7 inches for more backseat legroom.
It spawns a new low-price base trim that packs a carload of electronic vehicle control devices for safety while also stocking luxury content for the top model.
All this applies to the reworked Passat, with price points pared substantially below earlier issues.
But the 2012 Passat is not a Teutonic techno-werk shipped over from the German Motherland, as it was developed expressly for the American market and comes together at Volkswagen's new USA assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Passat for 2012 shows streamlined body styling, revised cabin appointments, new high-tech electronic vehicle controls aboard and quick performance numbers from the three different powertrains.
Passat's body expands by 3.4 inches in length and the width runs to 72.2 inches, measurements which translates to more room for riders in the five-seat passenger compartment.
The exterior design focuses on a curvaceous prow and smooth body where in profile the lines sweep over an arching roof with side pillars dark to blend with tinted windows and create the impression of a sleek coupe.
Passat's new face features a three-blade grille tied to corner headlamp clusters to forge a single horizontal unit stacked above a smooth wrap of body-colored fascia. Below the fascia is a broad air intake with honeycomb surface and optional corner-illuminating foglights pinned at ends.
Chiseled flanks show subtle sheared fenders that ring the wheels.
A blunt notchback rump has twin-lamp taillight assemblies wrapping around corners and a body-colored bumper punctuated by a chrome-tipped exhaust pipe.
Climb aboard the new Passat and discover a five-seat passenger compartment of generous scale fitted with fine materials and fancy appointments.
Cabin layout pits a pair of bucket seats with center console in front and a broad and flat bench with three seat positions. Seat upholstery ranges from high-quality perforated V-Tex leatherette to optional soft leather with trimwork in composite material, or optional real wood.
Standard equipment on the base issue of Passat includes an automatic dual-zone climate control system and Bluetooth connectivity, power controls to move the windows, power locks on doors with a remote keyless entry device, tilting and telescoping steering wheel, front bucket seats with eight-way manual controls, a padded center console with storage bin, six-speaker audio kit with AM/FM/CD and steering wheel-mounted audio controls, and 215/60R16 all-season rubber capping steel wheels.
The front suspension system consists of independent MacPherson struts with lower control arms, coil springs and telescopic shock absorbers plus an anti-roll bar. In the rear, the independent four-link system employs telescopic shocks and a weight-optimized anti-roll bar.
Power-assisted brakes put vented 12.3-inch discs in front and solid 10.7-inch discs in back.
Active safety equipment includes an anti-lock brake system (ABS) with electronic braking assist (EBA), plus VW's electronic stability control (ESC) device.
The list of passive safety gear includes dual-stage frontal air bags plus side-impact air bags for front seats and curtain-style air bags mounted in the roof above front and rear outboard seats.
Passat's 2012 models offer three powertrain choices, each with multiple trim levels.
Passat 2.5L S draws from a dual-cam in-line five-cylinder plant with 2.5-liter displacement. It produces 170 hp at 5700 rpm and torque of 177 lb-ft at 4250 rpm.
Fuel economy figures look good with this plant: 21/32 mpg City/Highway for the five-speed manual transmission and 22/31 mpg City/Highway with a six-speed automatic.
A second variation is the diesel-powered TDI: Passat TDI totes a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that burns ultra-low sulfur diesel (ULSD) fuel and employs a common-rail direct injection (CDI) fuel system with electronically controlled turbo-charging to enhance power and torque.
It feels vigorous and acts quickly, drawing on the full force of the engine's production of 140 hp peaking at 4000 rpm plus 236 lb-ft of torque spread across a band from 1500 to 2500 rpm.
Shifter choices are a six-speed manual or twin-clutch and six-speed DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) automated manual. The federal EPA sets fuel economy estimates for either transmission at 31 mpg City and 43 mpg Highway.
VW builds the 2012 Passat in a luxury edition with V6 power under the badge of Passat 3.6L VR6.
It's fired by an aluminum V6 which displaces 3.6 liters and stocks dual overhead cams. The V6 romps with 280 hp at 6200 rpm plus a flat torque line peaking at 258 lb-ft between 2500-5000 rpm.
MSRP figures for the 2012 Passat drop to $19,995 for the base model Passat 2.5L S with a manual transmission.