The 2015 VW Passat TDI: A large sedan with the fuel economy of a compact

The Passat doesn’t have the standout styling as some of the competition, but it has that neat and tidy look of a more European sedan. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The Passat doesn’t have the same standout styling as some of the competition, but it has the neat and tidy look of a more European sedan. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The Fortana red color is not what you expect to see on the Passat, but it really suits this car. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The Fortana red color is not what you expect to see on the Passat, but it really suits this car. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The $34,405 Passat TDI SEL comes with an upgraded interior with heated leather and suede inserts. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The 2015 VW Passat TDI has a premium touch screen NAV with standard HD radio and 30GB hard drive. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
It’s a large car with plenty of room for five, and a large trunk. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
It’s a large car, with plenty of room for five and a large trunk. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
(1/5)
The Passat doesn’t have the standout styling as some of the competition, but it has that neat and tidy look of a more European sedan. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The Fortana red color is not what you expect to see on the Passat, but it really suits this car. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
It’s a large car with plenty of room for five, and a large trunk. (WTOP/Mike Parris)

WASHINGTON — The Passat is Volkswagen’s midsize sedan that’s American-built, but still carries a European feel and look, unlike the competition in the midsize sedan class. The size of the Passat TDI also helps it to stand out in the class. It’s a large car with plenty of room for five, and a large trunk to carry luggage for those passengers.

The $34,405 Passat TDI SEL test car I had is the top trim level for the Diesel Passat line, and it comes with all the toys — such as an upgraded, handsome interior with heated leather and suede inserts. These upgrades add to a more European flavor and upscale appearance. The materials used are soft to the touch and it looks nice — like a more expensive car.

It has a premium touch screen NAV with standard HD radio and 30GB hard drive, so you can store your music in the car and leave the MP3 player at home. However, it’s not the easiest system to work at first. The display seemed a little slow at times, as I’d be almost out of the driveway before the camera view showed up.

The real selling point is the engine — a new two-liter turbo diesel with 150 hp and 236 pounds of torque, which motivates the Passat to easily keep up with traffic . The engine is very quiet for a diesel. You can even choose a manual in the lower SE trim-level Diesel Passat. But if you want the SEL trim, your only choice is the DSG automatic transmission, which has some very quick upshifts when needed, and helps deliver 42 mpg on the highway and 30 mpg in the city. I saw 35.5 mpg in 295 miles of mixed driving. Diesel costs more than regular fuel, so if you do a lot of driving on the highway, this Passat TDI should pay for itself at 42 mpg or higher. I saw 46 mpg, and that could turn into a nearly 800-mile range.

The Passat doesn’t have the standout styling of some of its competition, but it has the neat and tidy look of a more European sedan. The lines help a big car not look as large as it is, and the 18-inch wheels add to it and give it a more completed look than the Passats with smaller wheels. The Fortana red color is not a color you normally see on the Passat, but it really suits this car.

The 2015 VW Passat Diesel has a new, more powerful TDI engine to help keep up in traffic, and it does so without losing any fuel economy. With a large and comfortable interior, this Passat TDI can go nearly 800 miles before hitting the gas station, making it a road trip dream car and a convincing alternative for something a little different in the midsize sedan market.

Editor’s note: Mike Parris is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association. The vehicles are provided by STI , FMI or Event Solutions for the purpose of this review.

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