If I’m honest, I had no real desire to get behind the wheel of the new 2012 VW Passat SEL VR6. I agree, this was odd behavior since I’m normally the one grabbing the keys before anybody else gets a chance.
Before I’d laid eyes on the Passat, I already hated it. I was put off by initial comments: “Designed specifically for the North American Market” or, simply put, “Americanized”. Based on past experience, that’s never a good thing for a German car…
Admittedly, the Passat has always been the black sheep of the VW family: never as popular as the Jetta and Golf, which is strange because it’s a hell of a deal.
Putting aside all my preconceived notions, I figured I might as well take a look. After all, VW is renowned for the art of making a car look small on the outside but roomy on the inside. But with the Passat, I almost gasped when I first saw it. This car looked massive – easily as big as the Phateon.
Aside from the size, I was surprised by its clean lines and stance. The Passat exuded a sporty presence despite its pearl blue paint and beige interior.
When I got inside, I was enveloped by firm but comfortable leather seats and an Autumn nut burl trim. Yet I was still amazed that after all these years, VW can’t design cup holders. The Passat uses a removable plastic piece to accommodate different-sized cups: genius in theory but a pain if the center section gets lost.
The limo-sized back seat could comfortably fit three basketball players and have room to spare. Even the trunk was massive – the dream of every mobster.
Taking it for a spin, I was expecting the big car to handle like my grandfather’s Cadillac but was pleasantly surprised by its sportiness. It handled like a compact sedan should, being nimble on its feet and quick off the lights.
The 17" wheels were equipped with 215/55 ContiProContact all-season tires that performed well. But it would have been better on the SEL’s standard 18" wheels with 235/45 tires.
The VR6 engine was smooth and its exhaust note distinctive, reminding me of track days in my old Corrado. And the only thing sounding better than the VR6 was the Fender audio system, although the RNS-510 touchscreen audio/nav unit was a tad slow at times.
Overall, the 2012 VW Passat SEL VR6 was well equipped, spacious and handled better than its proportions would suggest.