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VW Passat Makes an Awkwardly Timed Debut

New model, critical to US, debuts as maker faces fraud charges.

by on Sep.22, 2015

A new look for the 2016 VW Passat.

If timing is everything, the debut of the new 2016 Volkswagen Passat probably couldn’t have come along at a worse moment.

When the German maker scheduled the New York unveiling, it was clearly hoping to set in motion a much-needed turnaround for its struggling U.S. operations. Instead, the new Passat could get lost in the brouhaha surrounding news that VW apparently used a so-called defeat device to improperly pass emissions tests with a number of its diesel-powered models.

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The scandal could lead potential buyers to ignore the 2016 VW Passat. But the maker can only hope it will be able to overcome the negative headlines, the new midsize sedan getting a much-needed styling update, plenty of new safety and infotainment technologies, and a new, sporty R-Line model. Ironically, the new Passat will be the first to get a diesel engine.


First Drive: Volkswagen Golf GTD

Blowing by 3 motorcycle cops at 120 mph.

by on Jun.25, 2013

VW is giving serious thought to finally bringing the high-performance diesel Golf GTD to the US.

There’s a sickening twist to the stomach when you blow by a cop doing triple digits on the freeway – never mind three of them riding along in the center lane.  Happily, seeing the word, “Polizei” on their jackets reminded us we were on the German Autobahn.  Squeezing back on the throttle, we nudged our little Volkswagen hatchback back up to 120.

It’s been a slow and difficult slog trying to get American motorists to change their perceptions of diesel cars. If any manufacturer has been successful, so far, it’s Volkswagen, oil-burners now accounting for as much as a third of the sales for some of its key models, such as the Passat, Golf and Jetta.

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We’re betting demand could surge even higher once U.S. buyers get access to the Volkswagen GTD, the diesel-powered alternative to the familiar GTI.  Make that “if” they get a chance to buy the sporty Golf variant, as the German maker is still waffling about whether to bring the GTD to the States.  But based on our recent drive of the peppy diesel hatchback we’d be surprised and disappointed if it doesn’t roll into U.S. showrooms in the very near future.


First Drive: 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

Prius beware.

by on Nov.07, 2012

The 2013 VW Jetta introduces the line's fifth powertrain option.

If there isn’t an award for California Car of the Year, someone should invent it.  And we’re ready to bet the new 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid would be not only in the running but at the head of the pack.  It comes close to being the perfect car for Golden State motorists. Stylish, efficient and fun to drive this 45 mpg hybrid is one destined to give the Toyota Prius – currently Calfornia’s most popular car — a run for its money.

Starting price for Jetta Hybrid is $24,995 – even when loaded with a surprising range of features, such as Bluetooth and dual-zone climate control – the VW Jetta Hybrid has plenty going for it beyond mileage.  That includes surprisingly brisk acceleration, sporty handling, plenty of room in the cabin and the trunk, and more.

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The Hybrid becomes the fifth powertrain in the U.S. Jetta line-up. But beyond its badging, it retains the sleek, upscale, and timeless styling present in the rest of the model line. While the most obvious differences are the blue-highlighted VW emblem and unique wheels and front grille, the Jetta Hybrid adds a number of key features that help maximize aerodynamic efficiency and minimize road resistance.


Volkswagen Unveils Next-Gen Golf

Seventh-gen model lighter and more fuel-efficient.

by on Sep.05, 2012

The 7th-gen VW Golf shown in Euro trim.

Volkswagen has a lot riding on the seventh-generation Golf.  The all-new version will have some big tire tracks to fill considering the Golf is the German maker’s global best-seller – but one facing increasingly tough competition at home and abroad.

The public – and most media – will get a first close-up look at the 2013 VW Golf at the upcoming Paris Motor Show, but the maker gave a few select journalists a sneak peek this week during a preview in Berlin.

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No surprise, the maker declared, “This seventh-generation version of one of the world’s most popular cars is striking in that it offers more features, even better safety, and more performance than the outgoing vehicle, while breaking the cycle of being heavier than its predecessor.”

The new Golf is 2.2-inches longer than the Gen-6 model, 0.5-inches wider and 0.8-inches lower.


First Look: Volkswagen CC R-Line

Sporty new look, sportier performance.

by on May.29, 2012

Volkswagen officially reveals the new CC R-Line this week in Germany. U.S. sales begin later this year.

Only a few months after revealing its updated, coupe-like sedan Volkswagen is ready to give the CC some more muscle, introducing the sporty new R-Line edition.

Set to reach U.S. showrooms later this year, it’s the latest in a fast-growing series of “R” models that includes the new Golf R.

The Volkswagen CC R-Line will feature a more aggressive face, with a larger lower air intake, unique bumper and projector-style foglamps and the distinctive R-Line logo will grace the grille.

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Other exterior revisions include new side skirts, distinctively tinted taillamps, 18-inch alloy wheels and, when you open the doors, R-Line sill plates.

The interior gets a few key modifications, as well, including stainless steel pedals and a new multi-function steering wheel with paddle shifters if you opt for the 6-speed double-clutch automatic gearbox.


First Look: 2013 Volkswagen CC

Coupe-like sedan to pick up some styling cues from new Passat.

by on Nov.04, 2011

The 2013 Volkswagen CC will borrow some familial cues from the hot new VW Passat.

While the new Passat and Beetle models may be getting most of the headlines, few cars have done more to shift Volksawagen’s visual image than the strikingly curvaceous CC.

Three years into the model-run, Volkswagen will be making some modest to significant changes to  thecoupe-like sedan, the 2013 CC getting  freshened front and rear fascia that will adopt the styling theme of the new Passat.

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The maker is hoping to ramp up demand for what is unarguably the most aggressively styled vehicle in its line-up at a time when it is pushing to achieve global dominance – and regain its once tight grip on the import market in the U.S.

The 2013 Volkswagen CC will make its formal bow at this month’s L.A. Auto Show, though the maker is offering a sneak peek at what it has in store.


First Drive: Volkswagen Golf R

Maker reveals pricing, specs for mean little hatch.

by on Oct.05, 2011

At 256 hp the new 2012 VW Golf R makes 6 more horsepower than the 2008 Golf R32 VR6.

Few makers have been doing better in the U.S. market, in recent months than Volkswagen, which posted a solid 36% jump last month as new models like the 2012 Passat and third-generation Beetle rolled into showrooms.  Anyone who wonders whether VW can keep the momentum going might just consider what else is in the product pipeline – starting with the 2012 Golf R.

The German maker is just making things formal, releasing pricing and specs on the mean little hatch – which we had a chance to spend a brief bit of time scooting around the Virginia countryside in a few weeks back.

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With its well-equipped interior – and a 256-horsepower turbocharged inline-four – the Volkswagen Golf R is destined to change the perceptions of anyone out there who might think the German 5-door is just a gussied-up econobox.

First, the numbers: the 2012 Golf R will set you back $33,990 plus destination charges.  That’s very definitely not econobox territory.  This is a sporty compact for those who believe that very good things can come in small packages – if you’re willing to pay the price.

The 2012 VW Golf R will be offered in both 3- and 5-door packages.


VW Confirms Little Up Model Debuting in Europe This Year

U.S. plans are “Up” in the air.

by on Aug.23, 2011

VW plans to launch sales of its new Up microcar in Europe by December.

Volkswagen will formally introduce the production version of its newest – and smallest – car, the Up, at the Frankfurt Motor Show, next month.  The micro-compact will reach European showrooms before year-end, though plans for a U.S. launch apparently remain “Up” in the air.

In many ways, the minicar is more like the original Volkswagen Beetle than the latest version of the Bug that drove during a Berlin preview last month. (Click Here for that review.)  The Up will become the smallest car in the VW line-up, at less than 12 feet nose-to-tail, focusing on the growing market for urban cruisers that can deliver space, fuel-efficiency and more driving fun than the traditional econobox.

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VW first revealed the Up at the 2007 Frankfurt Motor Show with a conventional gasoline engine.  It returned, two years later, in battery-electric form.  Eventually, the maker is expecting to produce both versions.


First Drive: 2012 VW Passat

Striking a balance between German engineering and American tastes.

by on Jun.14, 2011

The new, 2012 U.S. version of the Volkswagen Passat shown at the maker's new plant in Chattanooga.

Volkswagen is betting big on the United States, as evidenced by the construction of a brand-new plant just outside of Chattanooga, Tennessee.

That plant, which will build the North American version of the new 2012 Passat (Europeans will get a slightly different version), is set up to produce up to 150,000 units annually on two shifts.

That would mark a significant expansion for the German maker, which has long struggled to regain the foothold it had in the U.S. market in the ‘60s and ‘70s.  It would also help move VW ahead as it takes aim at rivals Toyota and General Motors in a big to become the world’s number one automaker by 2018.

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The redesigned Passat, following close upon last year’s updates of the Jetta and Touareg, is the next step in that plan. So is the production shift to the States.

The company is hoping to keep production and distribution costs low, so that the sticker price of the Passat can be brought down to a level that won’t send price-sensitive American motorists screaming in horror and heading to the nearest Hyundai showroom.


VW Unveils More than Just the Beetle

Automaker’s stand full as it pushes growth plans.

by on Apr.25, 2011

VW introduces its most powerful Golf.

The 2012 Beetle may be the biggest news story to emerge from this year’s New York Auto Show, but it isn’t the only new Volkswagen being shown at New York’s Jacob Javits Convention Center.

VW is planning big, the maker hoping to double U.S. sales, to 800,000 annually, by 2016.  And, by then, it is hoping to overcome rivals Toyota and General Motors to become the world’s largest automaker.  So, VW is rapidly rolling out a variety of new and updated products to fill gaps in its line-up.

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On its NY Auto Show stand showgoers will find not only the all-new VW Beetle, but a high-performance version of the Golf, the Bulli Concept (think Microbus for modern times) that made its global debut at the Geneva Motor Show, in March, and a refreshed Tiguan crossover.

Let’s start with the Tiguan. The news is mostly limited to styling updates and a few new standard features, including a wireless cell phone link.