$6,486 - $10,177

2012 Volkswagen Passat Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Volkswagen Passat was new.


Performance: 7.6

Test drivers like the fact that the Passat has three engines and four transmissions to choose from. The Passat’s multiple combinations should satisfy most drivers. Overall, the Passat drives like a German-engineered car, and its optional fuel-efficient diesel engine is a rare offering in the class.

  • "The engine lineup is a VW engine nerd’s dream, and is unique among mid-size sedans." -- Car and Driver
  • "There are some minor downsides to the new Passat package, notably the underachieving base engine." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

The 2012 Volkswagen Passat has three engine choices and four transmission options. Fuel-conscious shoppers will like that Volkswagen offers a diesel version of the Passat. The base 2.5-liter inline five-cylinder engine makes 170 horsepower and is mated to either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode. This engine gets an EPA-estimated 22/32 mpg city/highway with a manual and 22/31 with an automatic.

The mid-level engine is a 2.0-liter inline four-cylinder turbodiesel engine that produces 140 horsepower. This diesel engine gets an EPA-estimated 30/40 mpg city/highway with an automated manual transmission and 31/43 with a manual. The diesel engine can be combined with either a standard six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed DSG automated manual transmission. Reviewers like how quickly and smoothly this dual-clutch transmission shifts through the gears.

The Passat’s most powerful engine is a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 280 horsepower that’s also mated to a six-speed DSG transmission. Fuel economy estimates from the EPA for this engine are 20/28 mpg.

Overall, test drivers say the base five-cylinder engine is adequate, while the TDI diesel is the favorite for its fuel economy. Most reviewers have not driven the V6 model yet. The DSG transmission is the favorite among most test drivers, who say its dual-clutch system gives crisp, smooth shifts.

  • "With the 2.5-liter 5-cylinder engine and automatic transmission, Passat has good pickup from a stop and enough gumption for worry-free highway merging." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The choice of either a six-speed manual or a six-speed dual-clutch automatic is a reminder that this diesel is the driving man's alternative to a hybrid. It delivers a broad band of turbocharged thrust scaled to a diesel's truncated tachometer and complemented by the crisp, full-throttle upshifts of the DSG transmission." -- Automobile Magazine (on the TDI model)
  • "The DSG automated manual transmission that's available with the turbodiesel engine and standard with the V6 works very well, and its regular and manual-shift modes mean the Passat is well suited both for commuting and more spirited driving." -- Edmunds
  • "Further up the road, we observed the DSG holding gears longer than we found appropriate, at one point even past redline, at which point we took matters into our own hands with the use of the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. We pulled the car over at a driver’s change point and shut it down. After restart, the problem never appeared again, so we will chalk it up to electronic gremlins at work." -- Left Lane News

Handling and Braking

Reviewers agree that although the 2012 Passat provides a ride that’s comfortable rather than firm, it still handles like a Volkswagen, with a solid, “German” feel on the road. Test drivers think the brakes are strong, but one says it takes longer than expected for the brakes to kick in when the pedal is pressed.

  • "American-centric tuning has softened the suspension, particularly on rebound over gentle undulations, but the Passat drives down the road with a solidity and confidence that speak to its Germanic influence." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "The Passat is an engaging sedan to drive thanks to its well-sorted suspension tuning, precise steering feel and strong brakes." -- Edmunds
  • "Body roll is well controlled, especially for a car this size. The front end responds with typical VW accuracy, if not quite as sharply or eagerly as its smaller relatives. While this isn't a sport sedan, its abilities will surprise even enthusiastic buyers in this segment." -- Motor Trend
  • "One of the Passat's most impressive qualities is its forgiving suspension, which translates into comfortable highway cruising. … It's a departure from the previous-generation Passat's firmer ride, but the move makes a lot of sense for this car class, where comfort is more important than sportiness." -- Cars.com

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