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Roadshow Video Reviews
2014 Volkswagen Passat SELThe new 2014 Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium competes in the toughest category with the likes of the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Nissan Altima. Brian Cooley takes it out for a drive and checks the tech.
[MUSIC] I don't envy this car. VW competes in perhaps, the most competitive sector of automotive right now with the Passat. Up against Accord, Camry, Fusion, Malibu, Optima, Sonata, Altima. Yikes! Let's see how they do as we drive the 2014 15 Passat SEL Premium. And check this out. [MUSIC] You're gonna see a theme come over and over again that makes this car distinctive. And that is it's got beautiful design. Not audacious, not swoopy, not standout, but mature, quality, German looks. And that's a key part of where it stands out in the market. We'll see that inside as well. Now inside look around. For the money you're not going to find a more handsome car in a, kind of a timeless high quality look on the market anywhere. I don't think anyone hits this level of really nice design. Now because we're in a fairly high trim Jetta it comes with an LCD touch based system with navigation. Seen it basically before. It's nothing terribly new and it's certainly not head of the pack. Among the things that irk me once you go to enter your destination you must do it by the touchscreen which works by the way while you're moving that's controversial but the voice command button over here does not drive address entry, it's just for the phone system. That's a little out of touch with today's technology and today's. Road safety sensitivities. I also find this system at times very laggy as you bounce between other media choices or the map and then navigation. Sometimes it's very crisp and moves along well. Other times it seems to get lost for a moment. I'm pleased how they've gotten rid of this crazy planet around the sun interface that they used to do where everything is a little ball around a center. Makes no sense to me, as information design. This is better. It's basically stacked rectangles and such. But it's more organized. The other screen in this car is the little helper screen between the two analog gauges, and that's this crunchy looking, jaggy, black and white LCD that just seems declassé in what is otherwise, as I mentioned, a really beautifully done cabin. So this is where VW falls down. It does a great job with the physical but not such a great job with the virtual. You can hook up VW carnet as your app support. It gives you onstar like crash and safety stuff along with remote access to your car and some boundry and speed alert so you can keep an eye out on your teenager. It also brings along an enhanced level of POI technology for destination. But, in general, there are no media apps going on here. Nothing you actually like, no Yelp, no OpenTable, no Bing Search, no Google Search. That's just not available here. Your media choices are fairly comprehensive. I've got an SD card slot down here. If you really want to use that. We've got the ability to go from AM and FM and satellite all under band right here. In addition to the SD card for other media you've got a hard drive, you know I'm not a fan of those, and I thing called the MDI, a multi-device interface. Is this cable here, it's a big VW Audi thing. I currently have the iPod cable, you could buy other types of cables to interface to your device. I would happily trade this pigtail arrangement though, for a good old standard USB jack, and unload some of this stuff I don't care about, like the SD card. And the hard drive. We have Fender audio in this car, which is Fender brand. And it's a Panasonic audio system. And it's got a punchiness to it. That's kind of a rubric around it, being Fender. I feel it sounds fine. It's not a stand out in the market by any stretch, but it is an upgraded audio system that you won't be disappointed with. Bluetooth calling has a nice set of memory presets up front and center on its main screen. And of course, we have Bluetooth streaming as well. Nice touch with the Bluetooth streaming is, when you turn the volume all the way down, which is often laggy, it goes into pause mode. And then when you turn the volume back up, which is very natural, it undoes pause and goes back to play. At this trim level and almost levels of current Passats, you get the rear camera thrown in for free. No up, no extra. That's nice. It's pretty basic. No trajectory prediction. No multiple views. But it's a way to look out the back. [MUSIC] Now under the hood here, we've got some big changes in the Passat. It used to come typically with a 2.5 liter in-line five gas engine. It's been way downsized. 1.8 liter inline four. But now with turbo charging and direct injection. A throughly modern motor. The numbers. 170 horsepower. Same as the much bigger outgoing engine. 180 pound feet of torque. Seven more than the larger outgoing engine. Engine, that's a nice win. A car that weigh 3200 pounds [UNKNOWN] up to 60 in 7.8 seconds, about a second faster than the outgoing car while delivering 24/34 MPG in this configuration. Front wheel drive only, by the way, which is gonna be a problem or some drivers. Now, on our SCL, there's one choice on the gearbox. Some Passats come with a 5 speed manual. This guy only comes with a 6 speed [UNKNOWN] with a pretty standard gait, no paddles on the wheel. If you want to shift yourself, you leave it in drive and kick it to the right. To get your column mounted, shifting, or pull it back to sport mode for an automatic, but more energetic mode. Now, just as our Passat screen interfaces are a bit outdated, so is its complete lack of any driver assistance tech. Don't go looking for lane departure warning, blind spot indications, forward collision warning, or even adaptive cruise control. [MUSIC] The first thing I notice in this Passat. It's just a small amount of diesel engine noise coming in through the firewall. Problem with that is, this isn't a diesel. So that's not good. When you're really on the throttle, the engine has a nice growl. When you're going down the freeway, it's basically inaudible. But around town, when you're on and off the power [NOISE]. Got kind of a bad diesel note that really blows up the otherwise very. Very tasteful styling and environment of this car. Now, the power is Jekyll and Hyde. Sometimes the power is right there, ready to go, and this is just a great torque-y, smooth thrusting car. Other times, you catch it abs-. Absolutely flat footed. You got to the pedal. You wants some power now to pass or do something and it's like the engine was shut off part of a second. Notice this about the transmission in this car. You've got the drive mode as I mentioned. A shiftable mode and a sport mode. But you don't really ever blend shiftable and sport, which I think is [INAUDIBLE] Kind of unfortunate. What I would like is to go to sport mode and then have my paddles up here for shiftability. But you've gotta get a different trim level Passat to get the combination of paddles and automatic. I give this car high marks for its handling. I think it's a very well-struck balance between a sporty feel, a nimble, light, active feel. And excellent ride quality. It does both, I think, very well. If I had to nitpick the handling at all it's the newish, for this car, full electric power steering, which I think is over-assisted almost all of the time. They need to dial that back or make it more intelligent at higher speeds. Okay, pricing a Passat's very easy. VW's doing a lot of trim pricing now, not so much a la carte options. So an SEL Premium is 32,100 delivered. It does well as a handling car and is one that has excellent design inside and out. Not so much as a technology standard bear as you saw. You're missing a whole lot of app integrations, connected car features and driver assistance technology. You buy this car because of generally excellent VW handling and an everyday. Not so much because of the power delivery, and not because its a technology showcase, but its got excellent German design. [MUSIC]