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2014 Volkswagen Passat Wolfsburg Edition Test Drive.

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2014 Volkswagen Passat Wolfsburg Edition Test Drive.

Judging by the name alone, you might think the 2014 Volkswagen Passat Wolfsburg Edition to be one of the more fearsome entries in the affordable mid-sized sedan class. After all, it's German, it's a special edition of the Passat, and it has the word "Wolf" in it.

The truth is, though, that not even blessing it with the home of Volkswagen's headquarters can bring out the beast in the Passat. In fact, Volkswagen went as American as they could with this car, meaning mostly that there is tons of interior space and a marshmallow-soft ride. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean we don't like it. Quite the contrary.

The thing about the Passat Wolfsburg Edition is that it was created to give American buyers more options. Just above the base Passat S at $20,845 and just below the Passat SE at $25,045 (both automatic transmission prices), the auto-only Passat Wolfsburg Edition 1.8L nestles in nice and tidy with an MSRP of $23,995.

It shares the same 1.8L engine with 170 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft of torque with both the Passat S and Passat SE, and is essentially just a Passat SE with smaller wheels and without the touchscreen navigation and rearview camera. The Passat Wolfsburg Edition exists mainly to give buyers more features than the S for less money than the SE, and to throw on some badges that remind you the Passat is not a Malibu.

Inside, however, it feels awfully American. Interior space is simply cavernous, with considerable space between your shoulder and the door, as well as V-Tex leatherette seats that are wide enough to have a picnic on. In a twist, this is one German car with cupholders that won't scream in protest if you ask them to hold a water bottle.

Volkswagen implicitly stated that they increased interior dimensions to appeal to American buyers, perhaps by including seats to remind us of the Great Plains. The leatherette surface is a nice touch for the price – design and material quality throughout the interior are very nice – making for a comfortable ride; though they offer little to no lateral support.

I would have liked a little more grip, because the Passat Wolfsburg does eventually show its German side. The large steering wheel feels great to the touch, both easy to grip thanks to thumb indents and a flat interior rim, and nicely tuned when you begin to push the car. Handling is a strong point, because though there is little feedback, the Passat reacts quickly to inputs and is tighter than most others in this segment (the Mazda6 being the biggest exception). Sport mode doesn't noticeable affect steering or shifts from the transmission, but it helps by tightening the suspension and increasing throttle response.

You will need that extra throttle response, because the turbocharged 1.8L four-cylinder engine is clearly tuned for smooth and economical delivery rather than spritely jaunts. Torque will get you going early in the revs, but there is little in the way of power until the turbos kick in all the way up at around 2,800rpm. Once it gets going, the Passat Wolfsburg can keep up with other sedans in the acceleration department. It begins to feel its size if you want to turn quickly at speed, but does its best to keep body roll to a minimum.

The payoff is fuel economy of 24/34 MPG, slightly better than competitors like the Kia Optima (23/34) and Ford Fusion (22/34) but trailing others like the Honda Accord and Nissan Altima. You can also opt for a 2.5L inline-five in the Passat Wolfsburg, increasing response but not horsepower. Fuel economy also drops to 22/32 MPG and subsequently the price drops by $500.

Rear seat and trunk space are both cavernous, and among the top reasons for opting to go the Passat route. This is basically a car for people that want room and a smooth ride, without losing much in the way of efficiency. Sure, solid handling and a punchy Sport mode are a plus, too. Why not? It is, after all, a German car.

Well, kinda. Final assembly was done in their Chatanooga plant. And again, those seats.

This test Passat Wolfsburg added 18-inch silver alloy wheels (up from standard 16-inchers) and a few other small options, to bring the total price to $26,375 after taxes and destination figured in. That's a pretty standard price for a reliable mid-sized sedan these days, and the 2014 Volkswagen Passat offers a dizzying array of trim levels, engine choices and other options to help you find the perfect one for your tastes. The design could use a little sprucing up and better fuel economy would be a big help, but at the end of the day, there is a lot to like about the Passat Wolfsburg Edition. Pro tip: It helps if you have broad shoulders.



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