Volkswagen Passat Will Be Bigger and Cheaper

The new Volkswagen Passat can be summed up as bigger and cheaper with its unveiling tonight ahead of a press conference tomorrow, Jan. 9, at the Detroit Auto Show. This continues a trend of manufacturers preempting their news conferences at Cobo Hall.

The new Passat is a hugely important vehicle for Volkswagen as it strives to become the world’s largest automaker by 2018. It’s going to need a success – and quick – in the hotly contested midsize sedan market that the Passat jumps into.

Volkswagen isn’t announcing pricing yet (that comes in the spring) but hinted that the Passat will start around $20,000 when it arrives in dealer showrooms later this year. That would put it firmly in competition with standout midsize sedans from Korea like the Kia Optima and the Hyundai Sonata. The latter has dramatically driven Hyundai’s success in 2010.

That’s also in keeping with its pricing strategy on the recently released 2011 Volkswagen Jetta, which starts t $15,995. Volkswagen is attempting to position itself as a low-cost, high-quality brand to shake up new business in the U.S.

This is going to be the largest Passat ever and it will be built in the United States at Volkswagen’s new plant in Chattanooga, which VW hails as “the world's newest, most advanced and environmentally responsible auto assembly plant.” The new, larger Passat is 191.7 inches long and has a 110.4 inch wheelbase, which translates into a noticeable increase in rear seating space.

The all-new Passat offers three drivetrain options: a responsive 2.5L gasoline engine, a remarkably eco-friendly 2.0L TDI Clean Diesel and a powerful 3.6L VR6.

The 2.5L five cylinder engine (170 hp/177 lb.-ft.), which is being offered in the Passat for the first time, will be mated to a standard 5-speed manual transmission. As an alternative, the 2.5 multi port injection engine may be paired with a 6-speed automatic. The 3.6 liter VR6 (280 hp/258 lb.-ft.) gets an estimated at 28 mpg on the highway.

The quiet, four cylinder 2.0L TDI Clean Diesel (140 hp/236 lb.-ft.) has the power of a six cylinder gasoline engine and the fuel economy of a hybrid. The Passat TDI is expected to deliver 43 miles per gallon on the highway, with a range of approximately 800 miles. Optional on the Passat TDI will be Volkswagen's legendary 6-speed DSG transmission.

The Passat displays the new horizontal brand face, with the grill and headlights forming a single unit. Unlike models in the compact class, the Passat's grill is sculpted in a three-dimensional shape, stands more upright and makes a more distinctive impression.

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