Although Volkswagen’s U.S. CEO can boast that 75 percent of all diesel-powered cars sold in America wear the VW crest, the really big volume in the mid-size-sedan segment comes from four-cylinder gasoline engines—more than four out of five Camry, Accord, and Altima models, and all Sonatas and Fusions, pack gas-fired four-holers.
Volkswagen Passat 1.8T
Despite investing big in a new U.S. assembly plant and refocusing the Passat as a larger, value-oriented proposition, the VW mid-sizer hasn’t counted a mainstream gas four among its powertrain choices for a while. That changes for 2014.
This year, a 1.8-liter turbo four replaces the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-five as the new base engine (the TDI and V-6 Passats will still be offered).
The transformation begins with the line-topping SEL Premium and will eventually expand to cover the S, SE, and Wolfsburg Edition trims later in the year.
The force-fed 1.8-liter is the same Mexican-built gen-three EA888 four-cylinder that finds its way into Golfs and Jettas for 2014.
The engine features a thin-wall crankcase and fewer counterweights for reduced mass, as well as smaller main bearings and reduced oil pressure to minimize friction.
The exhaust manifold is integral to the cylinder head to allow the engine to warm up more quickly, and the turbo is smaller and spools up faster.
We drove a well-equipped, $31,715 SEL Premium automatic. Even though the Passat is several hundred pounds heavier than the Jetta, the 1.8-liter turbo’s 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque move the mid-size sedan smartly enough, with something near half-throttle summoning the turbine for duty.