A Diesel for the Long Haul

Great article in today’s New York Times on the new 2012 Passat.
Published: December 2, 2011

FIFTY miles per gallon may not be a big deal for a tiny hybrid. But it seems like a minor miracle in a big, road-tripping sedan.

Yet that’s the real-world highway mileage I observed in the Volkswagen Passat TDI diesel. And considering the Passat’s mission — a family car whose roomy practicality would impress Ward and June Cleaver — the fuel-saving diesel only heightens that appeal.

After sampling all three flavors of Passat — 5-cylinder and V-6 gasoline versions, and this 2-liter, 140-horsepower turbodiesel — I’m certain I would choose the diesel, if only to see how many weeks I could drive without filling the tank.

VW says the Passat, which has a fuel capacity of 18.5 gallons, can cover 795 highway miles on a single tank, based on its 31/43 m.p.g rating. That’s with a 6-speed manual transmission; mileage falls slightly, to 30/40 m.p.g., with the 6-speed dual-clutch automatic.

But as with many modern diesels, the Passat TDI can handily beat its window-sticker mileage rating. I achieved a no-fooling 50 m.p.g. — in the less-efficient automatic version — simply by keeping the speedometer pegged to 60 m.p.h. Diesel highway mileage remained impressive even when I was flooring it: passing traffic at will, and cruising at speeds from 65 to 80 m.p.h., the Passat returned a healthy 45 m.p.g.

What the Passat cannot do is match hybrids in city driving and stop-and-go traffic. A rush-hour highway slog dropped it well below 20 m.p.g., conditions where leading hybrids can deliver 40 m.p.g.

Read the rest of the article here