Will the Passat make Americans love VW again?

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According to VW, yes it will, so much so that the company is building a new plant in the US in Chattanooga, Tennessee, just to manufacture the new Passat.

The entirely new Passat is larger, more comfortable, more efficient and with higher quality than ever, says VW in Wolfsburg.  The car’s technology and styling came from Germany, while Volkswagen of America provided the conceptual direction.

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Even the base version is driven by a powerful 125 kW /170 PS five cylinder petrol engine.  Other engine options: an extremely economical Clean Diesel (TDI) with 102 kW /140 PS and a six-cylinder petrol engine, the VR6 with 206 kW /280 PS, which is paired with a standard dual clutch transmission (DSG).  The alliance of VR6 and DSG makes the Passat a top-flight sports saloon.

Although the new Passat offers considerably more space and comfort, Volkswagen was able to reduce the price level by several thousand dollars compared to the previous model.  With its entry-level price, the Passat is now in the 20,000 US dollar range (final prices to be announced in March).  There is hardly any other saloon of this size (exactly 191.7 inches or 4,868 mm long) that offers such high technology and quality at a comparable price, says the factory.

Volkswagen of America will offer the Passat in three equipment lines: The S, SE and SEL.  Even the base version (S) is very well equipped.  A tyre pressure monitoring system, ESP electronic stabilization program, ABS with braking assistant, Hill Climb Assist (with manual transmission and DSG), six airbags and an extremely safe body structure combine to form an effective occupant protection system.  Other standard features include electric windows all round, air conditioning, insulating glass, a distinctive analogue clock in the centre of the instrument panel, cruise control, outside temperature display with frost warning, radio-CD system (MP3-capable, plus external audio input) and a Bluetooth hands-free mobile phone system (with voice activation).

It is much larger than the Passat model it replaces, and this is claimed to increase rear passenger leg room and comfort, to a standard better than its Asian competitors.

Plans are in place to produce about one million new generation US Passats over the next seven years.  The company wants to triple the total annual volume of all of its models in the USA to about 800,000 units by 2018.

While the factory may be excited by it all, to my mind, the Passat remains a very bland and unexciting motor car in the metal.