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2014 Passat TDI Diesel SE with manual transmission is our pick of the line

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2014 VW Passat TDI SE

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The 2014 VW Passat family-sized vehicle offers a wide range of options for the consumer in terms of price, power plants, amenities and technology – cleanly packaged in a German engineered and U.S. built mid-size sedan.

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The 2014 Passat has remained essentially the same five-passenger sedan since 2012 with a few changes for 2014 that include a new Sport Trim model, new 1.8L Turbocharged four-cylinder engine option and the new VW Car-Net telematics system.

Across the line, Passat for 2014 is available in seven gasoline small engine models, with the 2.5L five-cylinder being replaced by the 1.8L turbo four-cylinder power plant, at MSRP’s ranging from the S at $20,845 to the SEL Premium at $31,295.

A larger power plant, the 3.6L V6 with 280 horsepower, is available in two models - the V6 SE ($29,665) and the V6 SEL Premium ($34,625)

The sweet spot (best of the line) in the power plants is the 2.0L TDI Clean Diesel four-cylinder that delivers 140 horsepower and 236 lb.-ft. of torque. When mated to the six-speed manual transmission, this power train delivers an impressive 31/43 mpg City/Highway fuel economy with an expected average of 35 mpg.

We recently spent a week driving a new 2014 VW Passat TDI SE with the manual transmission around Central Texas and came away feeling this trim-level and power train combination is likely the “pick” of the line - nicely equipped at $27,115 delivered.

Our test Passat TDI SE was in Reflex Silver and came nicely equipped with the TDI Clean Diesel and six-speed manual transmission running on 17-inch “Sonoma” aluminum-alloy wheels.

The interior was in Titan Black and offered V-Tex leatherette seating surfaces; eight-way power driver seat; heated front seats; Premium VIII touchscreen radio; rearview camera; multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel; sliding front center armrest; and rear passenger air vents.

Importantly, to meet the competition, it includes the new VW Car-Net technology. This system offers a number of security and convenience features, including Automatic Crash Notification, roadside assistance services, and stolen vehicle location assistance. In addition, VW Car-Net adds: remote vehicle access; boundary and speed alerts; a vehicle health report; and an enhanced POI service on vehicles equipped with a navigation system and many of the features can be administered through a handy smartphone app for iPhone and Android devices.

The interior design – overall – is clean and uses good quality, but not quite premium, materials on all surfaces with textures well integrated around the decidedly conservatively structured design of the cabin. Interior room is generous (this is the biggest Passat they have ever built) with particular emphasis on rear seating creating a very comfortable cabin experience for five passengers. Door openings are wide with entry/exit easily accomplished by all range of driver types and sizes.

We had couple of concerns with the driver cockpit space and seating. The driver leg space was a bit tight as the center console was not contoured to allow sufficient space for the knees of larger drivers such as our self. The engineering of the driver seat itself also troubled us. The lumbar support for the a larger driver is less than adequate and the seat back sits a bit too straight up for a comfortable ride at distance. We kept trying to adjust the seat to make it more comfortable, but were unsuccessful over the week.

Driving in the dark can present a different perspective so we always try to drive our test vehicles at night to evaluate the vehicle lighting exterior and interior. In Central Texas, driving at night is really dark and the deer and coyotes consider crossing the road at their convenience an “animal right”. The Passat low beam setting on the headlights does not offer enough illumination at distance when at speed to spot them in sufficient time to avoid a collision. Flipping up to high beams helped, but the illumination was still short at enough distance for our comfort.

Having said all that, we were impressed with the power train and responsiveness of the Passat TDI SE with its six-speed manual transmission.

The 2.0L TDI diesel offers decent horsepower and more than adequate torque, but if it is not effectively harnessed and delivered to the drive wheels, the vehicle performance suffers. The difference is the six-speed manual transmission that has a very fluid clutch operation - with shifting ranges easy to manage – that allowed smooth and effective shifting that maximized power of the diesel engine both in the city and on the highway.

Performance is further enhanced by the front suspension that features the proven Volkswagen damper struts with robust lower control arm system, coil springs, and an anti-roll bar. At the rear, there’s a sophisticated four-link independent layout with telescopic dampers and an anti-roll bar.

The Passat also includes a new electro-mechanical power steering system and, along with Electronic Stability Control (ESC), it delivered solid highway and city steering and handling during our drive.

Overall, even with the couple of issues in the cockpit, the 2014 VW Passat TDI SE with manual transmission, is a very good driver’s car.

For those wanting to go with an automatic transmission in the TDI you can choose the with SE with Sunroof ($28,675) which adds the six-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission, increases wheel size to 18-inch “Bristol” wheels, and adds the power tilt and slide sunroof.

Moving up further to the SE with Sunroof and Nav ($30,375), you get side moldings with chrome accents, the RNS 315 navigation system, Keyless access with push-button start, and front fog lights.

The mid-size sedan segment has a wealth of offerings from almost every manufacturer, but if a diesel power train is on your list, be sure you look at the 2014 Passat TDI Clean Diesel.

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