Passat TDI has smooth power, great mileage

There’s always a but: Test car had major wind noise


Explain again, please, why a gas-electric hybrid is a good thing, worth the higher price and added complexity of two separate drivetrain­s.

Oh, yeah, that’s right: mileage. Like 40 or 50 mpg, right?

So take note of the Volkswagen Passat diesel (“TDI” in Vw-speak) because in real-world driving, the test car handily exceeded its government ratings of 30 mpg in town, 40 highway, 34 in mixed use, even though it was the victim of our lead-foot pounding.

Piloted less vigorously, it probably could deliver an honest 40 mpg in mixed use, 50 mpg highway, without resorting to sometimes unsafe hypermile driving tactics.

And it has a spacious interior. And, while not cheap, it is pretty reasonable. And it has elegant styling that probably will wear well on the eye. And it doesn’t have a hybrid’s big battery pack to cause you back-of-mind anxiety about reliabilit­y and replacemen­t cost. And it’s made in Chattanoog­a, Tenn., so more of your money stays home than if you buy a hybrid that’s imported (as many are).

But, no. Passat TDI is a diesel, and we know from the sages in the auto industry that Americans don’t buy diesel cars, so the story goes.

Except that 21% of Passat sales the first quarter this year have been diesels, VW says. In fact, 21% of all VW U.S. sales the first quarter — which includes models, such as the Tiguan SUV, that don’t offer the diesel — were TDI models.

Not that the diesel Passat is flawless. On the test

-Chat online with James R. Healey at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT. today. at

-Go to to find previous Test Drive columns, read the Drive On blog, compare vehicles, and get informatio­n on pricing, incentives, crash-test scores and more.

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By James R. Healey
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