2012 VW Passat Six-Month Road Test: What's Changed For 2013

October 23, 2012

While we're wrapping up our Six-Month Road Test of our 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI, we've already revised and updated our review for the 2013 model year.

Not much has changed for the Passat this model year, and with a slew of new family sedans hitting the market, there's some significance to the Passat's standstill. We're still enthusiastic supporters of its 43-mpg EPA highway rating, the huge back-seat room, and its usefulness compared to even some crossover vehicles--but the changes this year in the four-door class underscore some safety equipment we think the Passat needs to add, and quickly, to stay competitive.

For the new model year, the 2013 Passat finally adopts a rearview camera, but only on sedans in SEL trim levels. Though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has feinted on its first pass at making rearview cameras required gear, we think it's only a matter of time before they're mandatory.

That leaves some automakers more prepared than others; the new 2013 Ford Fusion, for example, has a rearview camera available on all but the base model; the Nissan Altima sedan makes one available across the lineup, if it's not standard. The Honda Accord doesn't just offer a rearview camera--it offers all-around cameras that sound gimmicky until you've used them in parking maneuvers.

In tandem, those sedans all offer some sort of blind-spot monitoring system. More esoteric? Sure. More useful? Once you've become accustomed to the extra information, blind-spot monitors end up contributing more useful driving data than other gadgets they're typically bundled with--lane-keeping and lane-departure systems, for example. You don't have to be a bad driver to glean something from their beeps and blinks, in other words. All of those competitive sedans now offer the systems, but the Passat doesn't as of yet.

2013 Volkswagen Passat

2013 Volkswagen Passat

Finally, those sedans and most of the other competitors have some voice controls imbued with their standard Bluetooth connectivity. We consider Bluetooth itself to be safety equipment--recognizing that most drivers are using mobile phones while driving, and accepting the consequences. Voice commands aren't anywhere near perfect or universally conforming, even, but we think they do contribute some small measure of additional safety.

We've found varying levels of usability, to be sure, from uConnect, to CUE, to MyFord Touch, to COMAND, and the like. Even some of the more rudimentary systems, like the BMW X1's halfhearted attempt, allow you to drill down two layers into a GPS destination before using your hands to complete a task. The Passat doesn't recognize any voice commands yet--while the Fusion, Accord, Camry, and others are well ahead of the learning curve in that regard.

There are lower-grade niggles we've found with the Passat TDI that most buyers likely have avoided at the dealer. We'd love to see cloth seats offered on the TDI as a no-cost option. And we think any sedan in this class should come with standard USB ports for device charging, at the least, and satellite radio hardware, for the sake of competitiveness.

We're certain the Passat will add some or even many of these features in the coming model years. The question is, will they arrive soon enough in a segment that's churning more quickly than ever?

Stay with us for more on our Six-Month Road Test Passat as we bring you our full video road test and final report.

If you have questions you want answered, let us know in the comments below. And for the latest information including pricing with options, see our full review of the 2013 VW Passat--and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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