2012 Volkswagen Passat Six-Month Road Test: 45.9 Miles Per Gallon, And Less

September 6, 2012

Our Six-Month Road Test of the 2012 VW Passat has passed the halfway mark, and with 6500 miles on its odometer, the turbodiesel sedan has been getting a workout on the interstates that run up the East Coast--mostly, I-85, with some I-65 and I-81 sprinkled in for good measure.

One of the reasons we chose the Passat for one of our first Six-Month Road Tests was its fuel economy. Without much of a break-in period at all, the Passat TDI has turned in some stellar fuel economy numbers, and has never failed to deliver at least 30 miles per gallon on a tank of clean diesel.

For some perspective on those numbers, let's look at the other Passats you could buy before we underscore why the TDI's the only one you need. For the new 2013 model year, the Passat carries over its base and its premium engines. The 2.5-liter in-line five-cylinder's still rated at 170 horsepower, and earns an EPA combined rating of 26 mpg with the manual transmission, or 25 mpg with the automatic. It's the Passat we care for the least: not only is it down on power and refinement, its gas mileage can't keep pace with even older entries in the class, not to mention the likes of the 2013 Nissan Altima, EPA-rated at 38 mpg highway.

The V-6 Passat? It's pegged at 20/28 mpg, or 23 mpg combined, far off the mark of the turbo fours in some of the competition, but more in line with V-6 Camrys and current Accords in gas mileage as well as acceleration and smoothness.

The Passat TDI gets our recommendation, and our extra attention, because its turbodiesel four checks in with an EPA rating of 31/43 mpg or 35 mpg combined for the manual-transmission model, and 30/40 mpg or 34 mpg combined for the dual-clutch (DSG) version. You'd have to step up to a hybrid to come anywhere near the Passat TDI's highway mileage: Toyota's 2012 Camry Hybrid, for example, is rated at 43/39 mpg or 41 mpg combined.

We've not only met those EPA numbers head-on, we've trounced them without even pausing to spell "hypermiling." Over the course of four months, we've tallied 13 fill-ups over 6,327 miles thus far, and averaged a cumulative 38.7 miles per gallon in consuming 163.3 gallons of low-sulfur diesel fuel.

Here's how our fuel-economy data has broken down--by mileage, by gallons of diesel fuel consumed, and by calculated fuel economy, rounding up to the nearest tenth:


miles  gals      mpg

 173   2.386      --

 748   15.813    36.4

1452  15.325    45.9

1990  14.156    38.00

2623  15.681    40.37

2892  7.446      36.1

3502  14.865    41.0

3988  16.199    30

4693  16.062    43.9

5298  14.417    42.0

5431  4.366      30.5

5974  12.932    42.0

6500  16.074    32.7


You'll see the vagaries of using the Passat TDI primarily around town, and on super-long highway slogs. The low of 30 mpg took place over a span of weeks and involved mostly urban driving; the excellent figures of 45.9 mpg and 43.9 mpg consisted of long runs to the Washington, D.C., area, the latter run made on a single tank of fuel--705 miles, our personal best.

Diesel prices? That's a similar story, one that's also all over the map. We've paid as little as $3.40 a gallon, in late July off the interstate in South Carolina--and as much as $4.30 a gallon around the corner in urban Atlanta over Labor Day weekend.

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