2012 Motor Trend Car of The Year: Volkswagen Passat
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Unlike GM and Ford, which are consolidating regional platforms and introducing world cars, Volkswagen's larger new Passat will sell only in North America and China. The car and the strategy raise serious questions: Can an American-born-and-bred Passat be German enough to please the VW faithful? Can anything with a VW badge pry large numbers of people out of their Accords and Camrys? Can such conservative styling turn the heads of the legions on their way to Hyundai? Out on the test track, in the high-desert sunshine, three Passats spanning the range of powertrain and trim levels did their best to answer these questions, presenting evidence in each of our six criteria and gradually whittling away at our editorial preconceptions. Let's read the court testimony.
Advancement in Design
Granted, from 50 feet or in a two-dimensional photograph, the Passat engages the eye less than does the splashy "fluidic design" of the Hyundai Sonata, but closer inspection reveals exquisite detailing. Our own expert witness, Tom Gale, gets the ball rolling: "The package provides good accommodation, and like the Audi [ A6], what is remarkable is the restraint shown with the handling of the design. Clean, beautiful surfaces have been refined for an engaging result. The upper character line, with its subtle undercut, is an example of the care taken with the stampings throughout." Engineering guru Chris Theodore found the exterior "tastefully executed with really tight shut lines and nice detailing." The result is sort of a time-release appeal that blossoms upon close scrutiny or when hand-washing the vehicle. It's a less flashy design than the Sonata's, but way more cohesive than the Accord's.
There's nothing trendy going on inside, either, which may let it age more gracefully than bolder designs. Gale admits the design "breaks little new ground, but the grain, gloss levels, and material choices are tasteful." He and others criticized the choice to prioritize the dash vents over the multifunction display, the low placement of which looks dated and represents an ergonomic back-step. Ditto the fiddly turn-signal-stalk cruise controls and the entertainment system's lack of a USB port (Bluetooth and an SD card are supported, and there's a 1/8-inch aux jack). But the car's functions can be intuitively controlled without consulting the owners' manual -- something Accord owners may appreciate.