DETROIT — The second shot in Volkswagen’s assault on the U.S. automotive market will be he fired later this year when the company begins production of an all-new mid-size Passat in it’s new facility in Chattanooga, Tenn.
It’s no secret that VW was planning such a vehicle. The only unknown was the name, which was referred to simply as the NMS (new mid-size sedan) until the official name (and the car) were introduced at the North American International Automobile Show here.
One can only imagine the number of meetings that were held before VW decided to go with a name the people already know.
It did not, however, go with what the people already know when it was planning, designing and engineering the new vehicle.
The new Passat is being built to what the Germans hope are American tastes. It differs significantly from the present Passat and it will not be a carbon copy of the Passat that has been introduced to the European market.
In attempting to triple its U.S. customer base to 800,000 vehicles a year by 2018 — largely on the strength of the recently introduced Jetta and the new Passat — VW is buying into what it believes American are looking for — more car for less money. (And who isn’t?)
As a result, the 2012 Passat will be the biggest ever made — most noticeably in the rear seating area — and it will have a base price of $20,000. Frankly, I can’t imagine a $20,000 Passat actually appearing in showrooms, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Based on pictures, the new Passat will bear at least a family resemblance to the Jetta. And that is not the only comparison to be made.
The Passat will be offered with a diesel engine option identical to that in the Jetta. The turbocharged, four-cylinder powerplant (140 horsepower, 236 pound-feet of torque) will ge an estimated 43 miles per gallon of fuel on the open road and will be able to travel 800 miles between fill-ups. Customers can choose from a five-speed manual transmission or the optional fast-shifting, 6-speed, dual-clutch auto/manual shifter
Like the Jetta, the Passat will also be available with a five-cylinder gasoline engine (170 hp, 177 lb.-ft.) teamed to either a five-speed manual shifter or a standard 6-speed automatic.
Available on top-of-the-line Passats, but not the Jetta ,will be a 3.6-liter V-6 (280 hp, 258 pd.-ft.). The DSG will be standard.
What will not be offered, at least initially, will be the turbocharged 2-liter, 200-horsepower, four-cylinder gasoline engine that is the standard powerplant in the current Passat.
The Passat will be available in three trim levels — S, SE and SEL — and buyers will be able to choose from a long list of safety and comfort and convenience features.
Volkswagen reliability has been an issue with American motorists over the years. According to Paul Eisenstein of the Detroit Bureau.com, the company plans to address these concerns with a 3-year, 36-month free-maintenance program.
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