I might be able to press the shutter release and string together a few sentences, but I can’t create any sort of graphic content to save my life. Even an attempt at drawing a VW Beetle ends up looking more like a deformed turtle, so you might say that I am somewhat in awe of people who can draw. Even more so who can bring their images to life.

For his final project of the 3D Animation and Visual Effects program in Vancouver Film School, Malek Rizkallah turned to the crash test dummy to showcase his creativity. When an unexpected spark between two dummies occurs, Rizkallah brings life to the inanimate beings who then play out a short love affair that is fitting for a crash test.

It’s a shame they weren’t wearing seatbelts, or the VW Scirocco might have saved them.

Review: 2014 Volkswagen CC

164666342252ab4e6bc1fa5A couple years ago, Volkswagen, already one of the biggest auto manufacturers in the world, announced that they wanted to step sales up further, especially here in America. Here’s the strange thing though-when VW made this pledge, there was nothing wrong with their cars. Far from it. Fun to drive, expertly engineered, and boasting near luxury car standards on the interiors, the powers that be at VW saw one problem. You certainly got what you paid for, but the reality was, Volkswagens cost a little more than its competition. The brass at VW North America seemed to think this was their Achilles heel.  The solution? An all new Jetta and Passat, except this time we’ll sell them at a much lower price, drastically reduce the quality of the materials in the cabin in which we had grown such a great reputation for, and offer the Americans a cheap but roomy interior. They’ll never notice. And by golly, they were right. Us Americans are really that stupid. Sales went up because VW was now selling cheaper, but inferior cars than before.

But not all Americans. Before VW decided they wanted to conquer the sales charts, they had a hard core fan base here, who loved and embraced their cars because they were simply excellent cars. While all the media focuses on the ‘American-ized’ VW’s, Volkswagen still quietly offers cars for the loyal folks who have been long time fans and customers. The Volkswagen CC is one of those cars. Originally sold here as the Passat CC, VW wisely distanced the CC by dropping the Passat moniker once the Passat sold here took a new path.

The CC is part of a small, but elite group of German sedans whose styling is meant to mimic that of a coupe, albeit in four door form. The CC is easily the most handsome of all VW’s currently sold here, with a level of class and sophistication it’s siblings cannot even come close to matching. In 2013 the CC received some minor styling revisions front and rear, but with such timeless styling, VW has not tinkered much with the look of the car. Sure, I love the silhouette of a Mercedes-Benz CLS, but cannot afford it. The VW CC offers the same styling concept at a much more approachable price.

85232746752ab4e0ed00a8Inside the CC, you can set aside any reservations you may have about VW’s appetite for cost cutting. This is the VW you know and love from ten years ago. Excellent build quality, and rich feeling materials. The design is clean, simple and elegant. This is an easy cockpit to get to know and use, but I find VW’s infotainment/navigation system a step behind the competition. Up front, the CC is plenty roomy and extremely comfortable. However, there is a trade-off for the swoopy exterior. Rear seat headroom isn’t great, and the trunk space is merely adequate. The good news is that VW ditched the center console that ran the length of the car front to rear, so the CC now can seat five adults instead of four.

The CC is offered with two engines, the first a 2.0L turbo four cylinder rated at 200hp. Buyers can choose between a six-speed manual or a six-speed DSG automated manual. The Garage last sampled a CC back in 2010, and we had the turbo four with the DSG, and for a car this size, I came away satisfied. This time around, our CC was fitted with a 3.6L V-6 rated at 280hp, paired to a six-speed automatic and 4Motion all-wheel drive. VW offers the CC with a diesel engine in Europe, but not here. Sure, the six under the hood adds a little more refinement, but considering how well the turbo four performed, I’d save my money and take that motor over the V-6 and enjoy better fuel economy and only losing a couple tenths of a second on the 0-60mph run. The CC is comfortable and compliant, but is not what I would call a sports sedan. Quiet and comfortable, the CC was a perfect accomplice to cruise the interstate for a family party in north eastern Connecticut.

73663073352ab4e7917163VW offers the CC in Sport, R-Line, and Executive trim levels. Our test car was the CC V-6 4Motion Executive, otherwise known as the top dog in the CC family. Standard equipment included navigation, premium Dynaudio sound system, panoramic sunroof, rear view camera with park distance control, bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights, dual zone auto climate control, power rear sun shade, leather seats, and front heated and ventilated seats with driver massage. Total price comes to $43,310USD, including destination charges. You can argue that is a lot for a VW, but I dare you to find a sedan that looks this good, with this level of content for less money.

There has been plenty of hand-wringing about VW going mainstream here in the US, and coming from someone whose first car was a VW, and has owned more VW’s than any other brand, I can’t say I am impressed with the latest cars. But, when a car like the CC is dropped off at my door, it is with a sigh of relief, and a reminder that the folks at Volkswagen still remember how to build a great car with the solidity, elegance, poise, and luxury that once defined Volkswagen’s presence in North America.

How To Buy A New Car Part II


Welcome back to my story of leasing a new car for my wife. Part I detailed how, even though General Motors had cleared me for $2,500 off sticker price, two Chevy dealers did not honor the discount, with no explanation whatsoever. Our other consideration was a four door Subaru Impreza. Again, Subaru gave me employee pricing, and I approached Dan Perkins Subaru in Milford, CT. To his credit, our salesman honored the discount, but said he could do better, and he did. But, as I stated in my first post, I wanted no down payment apart from the first month’s installment. And Dan Perkins was having none of it. Even with exceptional credit, they demanded a substantial down payment.

Even accepting their terms, my largest hurdle was communication. The sales person I met gave me his card, and I e-mailed him the options and colors we were interested in. No response. I called the dealer, and spoke to him, but never got a call back. I visited the dealership in person, after my wife and I cruised the lot looking for cars we might be interested in. He wasn’t available, and the sales person who was available told me all the cars I looked at had been moved, and the dealership was closing soon, and I would have to come back. I again e-mailed my first sales person, specifying the Impreza we were interested in. No reply. And I know the e-mails were going through because I never received an undeliverable notice. But what burned me is Dan Perkins had me running around desperately around their lot looking for the car I wanted, and when I could not find it, told me to leave. When I sold Honda’s, the rule was as long as a customer was there, we stayed. Period. We never turned anyone way. Ever. With a complete lack of service from Dan Perkins Subaru, we threw up our hands and gave up. If they couldn’t be bothered to service and take care of us, they did not deserve our business.

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During this awful process, it was Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, and the VW Beetle Convertible was the sponsored car. My wife has owned a ’92 VW Cabriolet and a ’95 VW Cabrio. Not to mention our romantic relationship started after watching Patrick Dempsey’s ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ movie, where his female interest drive a 1987 VW Cabriolet. It was serendipity, and although pricier than the Cruze and Impreza, I was determined to make it happen. I first called Curran Volkswagen in Stratford, CT. I was told they had one denim blue Convertible in stock, and they refused to discuss price over the phone.

So, we made a trip up to where we leased our 2010 Jetta, at Langan Volkswagen in Meriden, CT. Alexio, our sales person was very helpful, and for the first time in our shopping experience, was determined to find the exact car we wanted, not what was on the lot. It so happened my test car that week was a VW Beetle Convertible Turbo. On our way to and back from a family gathering in rural Connecticut, we were totally sold on the car, now it was a matter of price. I know my wife wanted the car badly, but it was a bit of a stretch from our Jetta. But I had to make it work.

We did get a discount off the sticker price. I then went to and got a slightly lower price than what I was quoted. Langan VW met that price. Then they also honored the discount I received from VW America. In buying a car, timing is everything. Since my wife was happy with the 2.5 inline five cylinder in her Jetta rated at 170hp, paired to a six-speed automatic, I had an ace up my sleeve. The five banger is going away for 2014, to be replaced with a more powerful and fuel efficient turbocharged four cylinder engine. With that in mind, VW wants to dump all remaining five cylinder Beetles.

Alex found us a gorgeous Reflex Silver 2013 VW Beetle Convertible, and my wife could not be happier. Yes, you might find it mad that for a family of three this is our family car, but may I remind you millions of families around the world had the Beetle as their sole car and it worked out just fine. The trunk can hold a week’s worth of groceries. The Beetle has so far worked out great for us, and again I thank Langan VW, and Alex personally for making the buying process as stress free as possible.


Review: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid


Between Asian, American and European auto makers, it is an understatement that the Europeans have been, to put it mildly, reluctant about hybrid technology. What’s not to like about hybrids? Stellar fuel economy is a good thing, right? Sure it is, but keep this in mind: Europeans have been living with mega-high gas prices for decades, and embraced the diesel engine as the fuel-sipping motor of choice. Providing bucket loads of torque, smooth performance and clean emissions that appeal to their domestic market, you can see why European car companies are not throwing all their chips into the hybrid car idea.

And that philosophy works fine…in Europe. In North America, the perception of the diesel engine seems permanently stuck in 1982. Memories of your quirky neighbor’s Mercedes-Benz 240D or Peugeot 505 belching black smoke or your uncle’s Oldsmobile diesel self destructing every 2,000 miles have seemingly left permanent scars on the psyche of the North American car buyer. I will plead with anyone that will hear me that today’s diesels are the model of refinement. No smoke. No self-destruction. Another factor may be that we are simply creatures of habit. Truth be told, not every gas station sells diesel fuel, and with that fact it is justifiable that some buyers would be turned off.

Volkswagen already offers the Jetta with a diesel, and has a loyal following, but they want more. Hence, the Jetta Hybrid. The view from VW seems to be that the car buyer seeking great gas mileage defaults to a hybrid vehicle. Or, to be blunt, the average fuel conscious car buyer is thinking about a Toyota Prius. Not a Jetta TDI. Make no mistake, VW has a solid fan base of its diesels, but taking the long view, VW sees this is as a cult following, while hybrid technology has been more widely accepted on our shores.

To look at the Jetta Hybrid, well, it looks like any Jetta you see on the road every day. It would take a true VW fanatic to tell the difference between this and any run of the mill Jetta. Apart from some hybrid badges, a slightly different front grill, different wheels and a modest rear spoiler, you would never know the difference. And that design language works for many people who like the idea of hybrid technology, but don’t feel the need to shout to the world that they care more about the environment than you. As with all current Jetta’s, it is a fine looking car, even if it has lost some of its German accent in an effort to appeal to more Americans.

IMG_1639While the exterior styling got a tad generic to appeal to more buyers, Volkswagen slashed the price of the Jetta, and no where was that more apparent than the interior. The Jetta Hybrid softens the blow slightly with a padded dash and better armrests, but this is still a far cry from quality of materials seen in Jettas of the past. The keyless ignition button, placed just ahead of the shifter seems like an afterthought and not at all intuitive. The black slab of hard plastic that on the center console with two holes for drinks was more likely designed by an accountant, not an actual interior designer. The contrasting black/light grey leatherette seating surfaces are the main departure from other Jettas. You get the feeling VW management sent a memo saying the interior has to be different somehow, but don’t let it cost us any money. It’s obvious, and VW, you’re not fooling anyone.

The positives of the Jetta’s cabin remain. Seats offer decent comfort, visibility is excellent, and plenty of room is available in the back seat, but again it is disappointing that VW went cheap and deleted the rear seat vents seen on the last generation Jetta. Jettas have always been known for generous trunk space, and among hybrids, the Jetta is at the top of the class. Still, the batteries have to go somewhere, and the Jetta Hybrid loses about four cubic feet of trunk space. That’s not a lot, but it gave me pause as to how I would pack a full-size suitcase.

Hybrids have a well-deserved reputation for being an absolute bore to drive. Thankfully, the Jetta Hybrid is not. Powered by a 1.4L turbocharged four cylinder, along with the electric motor make a combined 170hp, paired to a seven-speed DSG automated manual transmission. In essence, it is the drivetrain that is a hybrid designed for people who hate hybrids. No wheezy, weak-kneed engine coupled to a miserable CVT wailing at 5,000 rpm just to get up a hill here, thank you. VW claims a 0-60mph time of 8.6 seconds, making the Jetta Hybrid one of the quickest on the market for its class. The Jetta Hybrid also has a rear independent suspension, something VW gave up with on lesser Jettas in the interest of cost cutting, but here it returns to better support the extra weight of the batteries. With decent pep, controlled road manners and quiet highway ride, the Jetta Hybrid is an accomplished performer. EPA fuel estimates are 42/48 MPG city/highway, which are impressive figures, but according to the trip computer, I wasn’t even close to attaining those lofty figures.


The Jetta Hybrid follows the rest of the Jetta family’s trim options with S (factory order only), SE, SEL, and SEL Premium. Our test car was the top of the line SEL Premium. Standard features included SiriusXM satellite radio, dual zone auto climate control, LED tail lights, sunroof, navigation, heated seats, power driver’s seat, Fender premium audio, bi-xenon headlights, rear view camera and 17″ alloy wheels. With a first aid kit as our test car’s sole option, the tally comes in at $32,010USD, including delivery. And that is where the Jetta Hybrid completely loses me. Yes, I understand that hybrid technology comes at a higher price. But this comes in a car that was built to a price. You can buy a 2013 Jetta for less than $17,000. And sitting in this $32,000 Jetta Hybrid, I am constantly reminded of that fact.

With a built-in following of the Jetta TDI, VW is modest about sales expectations at around 5,000 Hybrid sales predicted. Critics and VW purists howled with the new down-market Jetta, but the proof is in the numbers. VW is selling more Jettas. It’s that simple. And, selling more cars is the point. The reality is you can buy a Jetta TDI for a couple grand less, get similar fuel economy, keep the trunk space lost from the battery pack, and not worry about the longevity of said batteries. Again, VW knows that they are doing-hybrids are more widely accepted here than diesels, even if the actual dollars spent for car and fuel point wildly in favor of the diesel. To quote Natalie Merchant, “Give them what they want.” Even if it makes no sense, that is precisely what VW is doing with the Jetta Hybrid.

Review: 2013 VW Beetle TDI


Cars are not simply about getting from Point A to Point B. Cars can define a time in history, influence our culture, even change our perception of what we want, or expect from a car. Without a shadow of a doubt, the Volkswagen Beetle stands in an elite group of one of the most significant automobiles of the 20th century. Yet, the Beetle rests a bit uncomfortably from the very country who invented it. And this is where automotive culture kicks in. The history of the Beetle is well known. Adolf Hitler asked Dr. Ferdinand Porsche to design a simple, affordable car, with the intent of offering German families a new car in their driveway. Here in the US, the Beetle is often associated with the counter-culture in the Vietnam era, was blessed with a brilliant advertising campaign, and, simply put, was just a great little car that was practical, efficient, and dripping with personality.

The last old school Beetle sold in the USA was in 1979, but remained in production for years to come in foreign markets. The Volkswagen Golf is now VW’s best seller, offering a sporty ride and superior build quality. So, then, why the Beetle? In all seriousness, this is actually a sensitive subject. Contemporary Germans see the Beetle as a symbol of a Nazi regime, during a very dark chapter in the history of their country. In America, however, we had no such misgivings for the Beetle. Far from it. And Volkswagen knew it. In 1994 in Detroit, VW unveiled Concept 1, a re-imagined Beetle, to gauge public reaction. The car was a sensation. And Volkswagen knew they had to build it.

For the model year 1998, Volkswagen introduced the New Beetle. And buyers, in North America at least, went nuts for it. Waiting lists. Dealer inflated pricing proved the demand was strong. And demand came from buyers young and old. Baby Boomers wanting to recapture memories of their youth, as well as younger buyers attracted by the whimsical styling. The problem with the New Beetle though, was for a car with retro roots, where do you go from there? What is the follow up act? Yes, Beetle Turbos and a convertible followed, as well as some special editions, but after the initial fury, with little in the way of development, the New Beetle carried on largely unchanged (save for a minor refresh in 2006) for a staggering twelve years. To go on that long without much change is unheard of, and it seemed as Volkswagen lost interest in the New Beetle, so did buyers, and the sagging sales figures prove it. Although there was a Final Edition, the New Beetle ceased production in 2010, and even us Beetle-crazed Americans did not seem to notice, or care.

But, Volkswagen had not given up. At the 2011 New York International Auto Show, The Garage met the new 2012 Volkswagen Beetle. There was nothing awful about the New Beetle, but there was a major issue-its perception as being a chick car. Cute, petite curvy lines, and a bud vase on the dash all pointed to the fairer sex. And few men want to be seen driving a car that most dismiss as a chick car. The Beetle addresses that stigma head on while not alienating the New Beetle faithful. The bud vase is gone, and face it, it is not a Beetle without some familiar curves, but the Beetle cuts a more aggressive look, appearing lower, wider, and slightly more aggressive than the car preceding it.

With the new Beetle (it is no longer New Beetle), VW delved further to the original car rather than refining the Concept 1. This approach seems to have worked, as I received several compliments about the car-from guys, so it is clear the differences are significant enough that the average person can tell, and that is important to VW’s efforts. Another clever twist is VW going into its old paint catalog and resurrecting some familiar, vintage hues. Our test car was finished in a distinctive Denim Blue, which certainly set it apart from the crowd. For the more conservative buyer, VW does offer colors in line with modern tastes, so fear not. Our car was fitted with nondescript 17″ alloys, a shame, since I have seen the latest Beetle rolling on cool looking reproduction dog dish style wheels, which would have perfectly complimented our car’s retro paint color.


Anyone who has driven a modern VW will be instantly at home in the Beetle, but as expected, the Beetle offers far more flair. Upper door panels and dash painted to match the exterior brighten things up, which was welcome in our Titan Black interior. A two tier glove box is unique, and again, a nod to the original Beetle. Passengers are greeted with an airy cabin with plenty of room for all. Fit and finish and build quality are on par with what we expect from a VW built for a global market, as opposed the latest crop of dumbed down and cheap feeling American VW’s. But perhaps the crowning achievement of the Beetle interior proves you can be retro, funky, and functional at the same time, a point completely lost on the interior designers of the MINI Cooper.

The Beetle is available with an array of engine choices, starting with the base 2.5L inline five cylinder, a 2.0L turbocharged four, and our test car’s 2.oL TDI-a turbocharged diesel. This is an engine The Garage has sampled before, and its smoothness, punchy torque and excellent fuel economy continue to impress. We cannot overstate just how far VW has come along with diesel technology. Throw out your perception of the loud, smoky diesels of the past. Had I not told people this was a diesel powered car, they never would have know it. It is that good. And with EPA mileage figures of 29/39 MPG city/highway fuel economy figures, that is near hybrid levels but with a far more engaging driving experience. Beetle TDI buyers can choose between a six-speed manual or DSG manual automatic. Our test car was fitted with the DSG, which generally worked well, but some buyers might be miffed at the lack of shift paddles.

The Beetle TDI is a great little car, and in VW fashion, well, you are going to pay a little extra. While a base 2.5L Beetle comes in at just under $20,000USD, the most inexpensive TDI with a six-speed manual starts at $23,495. Our test car included the Sunroof, Sound and Navigation Package, which included a Fender premium audio system with XM satellite radio, panoramic sunroof, heated seats, Bluetooth, and push-button start. Including destination along with a couple minor accessories, our Beetle TDI rang in at $28,360. That’s a good chunk of change for a Beetle, but for a funky, diesel powered two door hardtop, from a price standpoint there is not much to compare it to.


I am glad VW decided to go another round with the Beetle when it seemed as they had all but forgotten about the car. And for all the retro-inspired cars out there, the Beetle easily qualifies as one of the most practical and easiest to live with. Yes, a MINI Cooper will outhandle you, but the Beetle has ergonomics you can actually understand at a glance. The Fiat 500 may have more charisma, but the Beetle has a backseat that can actually accommodate real humans, as well as far superior luggage space. The Beetle proves that you can be fun without compromise. Sure, it gives up a few things to the MINI and Fiat, but when it comes down to a car you own and live with year in, year out, what the Beetle has on offer makes it the most practical choice.

The latest Beetle won’t generate the hype and madness as when the New Beetle arrived, even though it is a vastly superior car. We’re accustomed to seeing Beetles back on the road. Of course, VW is coming out with a Beetle convertible, but what the future holds from there is unclear. Why, you ask? This is not a car VW needs to make. They have the Golf for Europe, and the Jetta for America as their respective best sellers. For now, the Beetle is new, but will VW wait another twelve years before another overhaul? We shall see, but for now, the latest Beetle is definitely worth a look for anyone in the market for a practical car with a retro touch.

VW Prices Beetle TDI

In case you hadn’t heard, Volkswagen has redesigned the Beetle with a slightly more aggressive, and less feminine shape than before. The Garage recently sampled the new Beetle, and you can look forward to our review in the near future. While the new Beetle has been available with the familiar 2.5L five cylinder and 2.0L turbo four, the Beetle TDI is now making its debut. The 2.0L TDI has 140hp, but prodigious amounts of torque. Equipped with a manual transmission, VW claims a Beetle TDI is good for 32/41MPG city/highway. The Beetle TDI can be had three ways, and we’ve broken it down for you below.

Beetle TDI: $23,295USD

The starter Beetle TDI comes standard with one-touch power windows, leatherette seating, Bluetooth, multi-function steering wheel, keyless entry, push button ignition, SiriusXM satellite radio with an iPod cable and 17″ alloys.

Beetle TDI w/Sunroof: $24,895

The sunroof package adds-guess what-a panoramic sunroof and touch screen audio controls.

Beetle TDI w/Sunroof, Sound and Navigation: $26,195

The top-spec Beetle TDI, additional features include GPS Navigation and premium Fender audio system.

All Beetle TDI’s come standard with a six-speed manual transmission. If you can’t, or won’t shift for yourself, a six-speed DSG dual clutch automatic is available for an extra $1,100. The prices shown do not include the $770 destination charge. The 2013 VW Beetle TDI will be on the showroom floor in August.

VW Presents Alltrack Concept for New York Auto Show

The Garage will be covering the 2012 New York Auto Show this week, and the sneak previews of what we can expect to see continue to pour in. The latest is a concept from Volkswagen named the Alltrack. In case you hadn’t guessed, the Alltrack is essentially a jacked up Passat wagon, but there is more to it than that. The current Passat, a car tailored to American tastes and built in Tennessee is a fine car, but I lamented the loss of the Passat wagon.

So, you may ask, what’s the deal with the Alltrack? Volkswagen’s take is the Alltrack bridges the gap between passenger car and SUV. Hardly a new concept, as Subaru invented the notion of a raised passenger car capable of light 0ff-roading with the Outback. Audi later added panache and a heap of power with its awesome Allroad, which is no longer available in North America. Now that the current Subaru Outback has essentially become a crossover, there is a hole for VW to fill with the Alltrack.

The Alltrack concept is powered with VW’s proven 2.0L TDI diesel engine, paired to a six-speed DSG transmission. VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive is included with special off-road programming. At a push of a button the Alltrack is capable of making numerous adjustments for confident off-road travel at speeds up to 18mph. A raised ride height and the addition of a steel-plated solid underbody guard gives credence the Alltrack is a legit candidate for going off-pavement. Beefy fender flares, matte chrome window surrounds, mirror housings and grille trim offset with silver anodized roof rails all add up to one classy wagon.

Volkswagen has no immediate plans to sell the Alltrack in North America, but hear this. The Alltrack is coming to the 2012 New York Auto Show because VW wants to see how the public reacts to the concept. And this is where you, the reader comes in. If you attend the show, dig the Alltrack, tell them! If you cannot make it, call your dealer. Contact VW directly. Let them know Volkswagen should import the Alltrack-they want to hear from you!

VW Sets Pricing for 2013 Passat CC

Volkswagen has redesigned its stylish four door ‘coupe’ for the 2013 model year. And by ‘redesigned’, it’s strictly cosmetic-mechanically, the cars are carryover. Which is not a bad thing. Passat CC buyers can again choose from a 2.oL turbocharged four rated at 200hp mated to either a six speed manual or dual-clutch DSG, or a 3.6L VR6 rated at 280hp with a six-speed automatic and the option of front or all-wheel drive. I reviewed the 2010 Passat CC, and two years later I still believe it is the finest mid-size sedan Volkswagen has ever crafted. The 2013 Passat CC hits the showroom floor this Spring, and you can be sure The Garage will be eager to review the latest CC. For now, we’ve broken down models and pricing for the Passat CC.

2.oT Sport: $30,250USD

VW notes the base Passat CC is available by order only, so in other words, the least expensive CC will not be sitting on dealer lots. The Sport is also the only model available with a manual transmission. Standard equipment includes 17″ alloys, bi-xenon headlights, LED taillights, heated power front seats, auto climate control and an eight speaker HD radio.

2.0T Sport Plus: $32,850

The least expensive Passat CC you will actually see on a dealer’s lot. Additional standard features include 18″ alloys and navigation.

2.oT Lux: $35,355

The top-spec four cylinder CC adds brushed aluminum trim, power sunroof and ambient lighting.

VR6 Lux: $37,730

We’ve now graduated to the the six cylinder Passat CC. The DSG is replaced by a conventional six-speed automatic. Additional features on the VR6 Lux include heated headlight washers, a rearview camera, and leather seating.

VR6 4Motion Executive: $41,420

The top of the food chain for the Passat CC, and VW’s flagship sedan in North America. Building up from the VR6 Lux, you now get all-wheel drive, paddle shifters, driver’s seat massage, Park Distance Control, premium Dynaudio sound, and a power rear sunshade.

I’ll admit, there are plenty of people out there who get a bit antsy at the notion of a $40,000 VW. But as far as swanky German four door coupes are concerned, the Passat CC is the steal of the century once you compare it to the Mercedes-Benz CLS. Be sure to watch this space as we await a review of the new Passat CC.

Review: 2012 Volkswagen Passat

As a hard-core Vee-Dub fan, and owner, 2011 was a rough year. The all-new, made for America Jetta left me bitter, but the Jetta GLI made me feel much better about my beloved VW. With the all-new Passat, I was again nervous about what to expect. VW’s ambitious plan to seriously increase sales in North America has found the venerable brand literally repositioning itself in the market. In addition to being an all-new car built with the American buyer in mind, the Passat is also made in America, at VW’s brand spanking new plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. With VW’s sights aimed squarely at the heavy hitters in the mid-size sedan market, the question is, has VW managed to maintain a German accent with this new, American-made Passat, or have they gone vanilla on us? Read on to find out.

I have always been an admirer of the Passat, chiefly because the car was unique, and stood so far apart from the competition. With the new Passat, VW wants to be a major player, not the default sedan for the slightly off-beat. The 2012 Passat is more homogenized than previous generations, which may disappoint some of the VW faithful. During my week with the Passat, I kept reminding myself of VW’s mission-compete head on with the Camry, Fusion, and Accord. In that light, the Passat seen here makes sense. it comes off classier and more serious in appearance than its competition. In other words, it’s German heritage shows. The Passat is a big car, and has a suitably bold grill, oversize (but not gaudy) VW emblem, and enough chrome to not shout bargain basement. It’s not exciting, but the Passat is a fairly handsome car from any angle.

With the cabin, I held my breath, bracing myself for lousy materials and a cheap appearance. Thankfully, that was not the case. The Passat sports a handsome cabin, and where your hands touch, the materials feel of good quality. Roam around though, and the hard plastics are there. The fake bark on the dash, doors and console do a lot to warm up the atmosphere of our otherwise all-black interior. The seats are comfortable, if not rather flat for a German sedan, but again, VW is asking us to shift our perception of the Passat. Gauges are easy to read, and the controls for audio, climate control and navigation are pretty intuitive. Our Passat was equipped with a Fender premium audio system that delivered fantastic sound. Another stand-out feature of the Passat was its class-leading rear seat legroom. I’m 6′ 1″, and sitting in the rear felt like I was in a full-size car.

In the engine room, buyers have plenty of choices. You can opt for the standard 2.5L inline-five, rated at 170hp, with a choice of a six-speed manual or automatic. Unique for this class, a 2.0L TDI diesel engine is also available, with the option of a six-speed manual or DSG automated manual. At the top of the food-chain in a 3.6L V-6, rated at 280hp. The 6-speed DSG is the only tranny available here. Some Passat loyalists will be disappointed that 4Motion all-wheel drive is no longer available. Speaking of availability, the Passat wagon has also been dropped. It’s front-wheel drive, four door sedan only, folks. Our test car was equipped with the 2.5L I-5 with the automatic. As the owner of a 2010 Jetta with the same drivetrain, I was skeptical how a car of this size and weight would get around, but I was pleasantly surprised. The Passat is no sports sedan, but I found the ride and handling to be competent, if not sportier and better sorted than its rivals.

The most basic Passat rings in at $19,995USD. Although the Passat line has been simplified greatly from last year, there are still multiple configurations. Our Passat was an automatic 2.5 SEL Premium, the top of the line trim level. Standard features included dual-zone auto climate control, Bluetooth, 17″ alloys, sunroof, power heated front seats, Fender audio, and Navigation. Including destination, the total MSRP comes to $30,665. That’s a good chunk of change for a car with only 170hp, but similarly equipped four cylinder Accord and Camrys are priced about the same. If it were me, I’d spend an extra $100 for the base SE V-6, although I’d lose the leather , interior accents and navigation, but hey, that’s what smartphones are for, and that extra 110hp more than makes up for what you are giving up.

There is a minor controversy stirring around the Passat. Consumer Reports sampled a Passat from VW’s press fleet. I should add that Consumer Reports is based in Connecticut, as am I, so the cars I review here are the same cars Consumer Reports samples. The story is, after sampling a press car Passat, CR went out and purchased three Passats, and noticed something different. The press car’s trunk had two plastic covers on its hinges, while the Passats bought from the dealer had only once plastic cover to protect wiring, the other hinge was bare metal. Minor? Yes, but Consumer Reports raises the question if this minor difference was spotted between a media car and a car sold to the public, is VW making any other changes the naked eye cannot see? We may never know.

I feared the worst with the new Passat. As a car enthusiast, nothing strikes fear in my soul more than when a respected German automaker says ‘we’ve tailored it specifically for the American market’, which is a direct translation to “We are giving you a watered-down, dumbed-down product.” Overall I am pleased with the new Passat, and before you accuse me of going soft, hear me out. To understand the new Passat, you need to understand what VW is doing here. For generations, the Passat has appealed to a tiny sliver of the market, with a reputation of providing a fun driving experience and an interior that rivaled luxury car makers. Yet a car packing that much charisma found a very tiny audience here in North America, where compared to its nearest rivals, the Passat was simply smaller in size and higher in price, two huge turn-offs in the mass market.

The 2012 Volkswagen Passat changes all of that. Priced and sized closer to the competition, this is VW’s most serious effort at breaking into the ultra-competitive North American mid-size sedan market. I’ll take the Passat’s more serious demeanor, classier appearance and more sporting nature over the Accord, Camry or Altima. These qualities, along with being the sole automaker offering a diesel engine, superlative rear seat room, and a peerless audio system make the Passat a true alternative to the normal go-to cars, while retaining its German persona (mostly). And the market in the US of A has responded. Compared to 2010, total annual sales for calendar year 2011 for the Passat are up a shattering 124%. Yes, us car guys loved the smaller and pricier Passats of yore, but the masses who outnumber us prefer a larger and inexpensive Passat were heard by VW, and they have answered with their checkbooks. Good for the buyer, good for VW, I would insist anyone in the market for a mid-size car drive a Passat before buying any other car in its class.

Review: 2012 Volkswagen Jetta GLI Autobahn

When Volkswagen redesigned the 2011 Jetta, I was actually angry at them, and glad to see the car leave. As a long-time VW fan, and two time (and current) Jetta owner, I felt the brand had abandoned me with this cheap imitation of what was once a quality, fun to drive car.  When news came that VW would be offering a new GLI, I was skeptical. I am pleased to report that the new GLI makes up for a lot-but not all of what infuriates me about the current base Jetta.

While the drab Jetta SEL nearly put me to sleep just by looking at it, our Tornado Red GLI is remarkably sportier looking in comparison. The changes VW made from the standard Jetta are few, but extremely effective. The GLI’s ride height has been dropped half an inch, the front grille and fascia replaced for a far more aggressive look. Our Autobahn model sported upgraded 18″ wheels and painted brake rotors. Minor changes, but collectively they all come together to provide a Jetta GLI that make the car faithful to GLI’s of the past.

My biggest gripe with the new Jetta was it’s cut-rate interior, and with the GLI, VW has addressed some of those issues. The seats, for one, felt more like what one should expect in a VW. The red stitching on the leatherette seats, shift boot, emergency brake and steering wheel added a sporty flair. And oh, what a steering wheel-a definite pleasure to hold. While I found myself cursing out the standard Jetta’s interior, I actually didn’t mind spending time in the GLI. Although an improvement over regular Jetta’s, the cost cutting measures on the current generation are apparent, but just not to such an extreme extent. Rock-hard plastics are still there, but the major driver interaction points-seats, steering wheel-are much better here.

The Jetta GLI is powered by the tried and true 2.0L turbo four cylinder that does duty in several VW and Audi cars. I’m pleased to say the engine matches, and does justice to the spirit of the GLI. The GLI has a nice bark to it, and despite its 200hp, the car feels genuinely quick and sporty. Buyers can opt for a six-speed manual or six-speed twin-clutch DSG. Our test car had the DSG, which tended to lurch a bit around town, but otherwise was a willing partner when you wanted to push the car. Thankfully, VW swapped out the rear suspension of the standard Jetta for a multi-link rear suspension,. This, and the lower ride height, completely transforms how the car feels. In other words, I felt like I was actually driving a Volkswagen. I’m pleased to say the Jetta GLI is a fun, engaging car to drive, with handling that is as competent as one would expect a GLI to be.

The Jetta GLI is offered in three flavors-base, Autobahn, and Autobahn with Navigation. Our test car was the Autobahn, which adds a leatherette interior, power moonroof, 18″ wheels and a Fender premium audio system. Equipped with the DSG transmission, our test car rings in at $27,415USD, including destination. That’s quite a premium over the 2012 Honda Civic Si sedan, but I would concede the VW has the superior drivetrain.

With the new Jetta GLI, I do feel somewhat better about what VW is doing. I am disappointed the driving fun that was a hallmark of all Jetta’s has gone away, but with the GLI, VW engineers have provided a car that remains true to its roots. A definite must see for the buyer seeking a sub-$30,000 sport sedan.