Price is right with VW's new Passat
Macy's Thanksgiving sale has nothing on Volkswagen pricing these days. Take the latest Passat. The last 2010 model started at just over $27,000. The all-new and considerably improved 2012 version? Yours for $19,995. The folks at Volkswagen decided that to compete head-on with the likes of Honda's Accord and the Toyota Camry they had to get serious about pricing. So they built a new, state-of-the-art factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., sourced 85 percent of its parts locally and lopped over $7,000 off the price of the previous model.While the basic 2.5S model may be a bit too basic for American tastes – a manual gearshift and steel wheels – $22,690 buys you a 2.5S with automatic and alloy wheels. It's a terrific car. And even the range-topping 3.6 SE with more toys than FAO Schwarz at Christmas time can be had for under $29,000. But the appeal of this new Passat isn't just down to rock-bottom pricing. It combines high-quality German engineering with the features Americans love – like space. Climb into the back of this new Passat and it's like stretching out in Delta first class. There's more legroom here than anything in this class. It's cavernous. And if you're looking for great mileage, the new Passat TDI, with its smooth and super-refined turbocharged diesel motor, can average an amazing 43 mpg on the highway. That gives it a range of almost 800 miles between fill-ups. TDI pricing starts at $25,995. I've just spent a week with the flagship $28,995 3.6SE model, with its whisper-quiet 280-horsepower V6 and fast-shifting 6-speed DSG automatic and was hugely impressed. This feels like a proper luxury car with its elegant and classy interior, refined yet eager performance and lavish equipment list. Definitely a case of "the price is right, come on down." Tampa-based auto writer Howard Walker can be reached at email@example.com.