This edition of Rudi on the Road, brings us the the Volkswagen Passat. The brand new, all American 2012 Volkswagen Passat S manual to be precise. I've had 3 Volkswagen's that I can remember. The first was a 1980 Rabbit Diesel that I killed with 99,997 miles on it at the Pennsylvania/New York border. It was my college car...$5 bucks and I could drive for a week it was great. It didn't like the West Virginia hills too much but you really learn to use a manual transmission that way! The second was probably my all time favorite car, a 1986 Golf GTI, black on black, 5 speed manual. Great car, great balance, it was a blast. When our first child was on the way, the GTI was on the way out for a more family oriented car. The third was, I can't remember the year, a green Jetta 5 speed manual again, really loved that car too. So, I have a history with Volkswagen.
On to the new Passat. I have the Passat S manual as I mentioned above black on black. I know, some of you are going: "a manual?" I chose the manual for a change of pace and I really enjoy it. There is nothing like coming hot into a corner and downshifting, letting the clutch out and listening to the engine wind down.
I like the Passat, some have said it's too Americanized, I don't think so. It still drives like a VW, still handles like a VW, still shifts like a VW. What do I like? I like the cabin size, it feels comfortable, love the seats. In a VW you sit on the seat, not in the seat, more like a chair in that your feet go down. I find in some other brands you sit in the seat real low, feet going out straight. I love the fat steering wheel, what a great feel. The backseat leg room compares favorably with my Lexus LS430, well actually it is better: 39.1" vs 37.6", that's impressive. Trunk is cavernous, a good 3 body trunk (think Soprano's), feels longer than it is wide. Stereo is the best I've heard in a base model in a long time. Good highs, good lows and volume, I like it loud!
Here is what I didn't like: I felt the 2.5 5 cylinder was a little underpowered, but I realized last night it was how I was driving, I needed to push it a little harder, in the lower gears, to get it to sing. Now that I've figured that out, the engine is fine. I don't like the radio volume and tuning knobs, I think they are way too small. I think the controls on the steering wheel, especially the radio and bluetooth, need to be bigger or have more separation, other brands do it better. Yeah, that's it, pretty small picky stuff. Overall, I love it, with the manual, most fun driving I've had in years. Without the manual I think it would be just as good, I just wouldn't hear the downshift...and I'd miss that. But you might not.