This engine – 2.5 liters, 170 hp – is in the process of being phased out. Its replacement is VW’s turbo four – 1.8 liters but making the same 170 hp, while delivering quicker acceleration (due to the turbo engine’s stronger low-end torque) and better fuel economy: 24 city, 35 highway (with manual transmission) vs. 22 city, 32 highway – also with the manual.
So – am I sad to see it (the inline five) go?
Turbo engines have their pros – and their cons. Of course, so do non-turbo engines – but they are different pros and cons.
A turbo temporarily boosts the output of an engine, so the car accelerates more quickly when quicker acceleration is wanted. But when the driver doesn’t need more scoot than what’s necessary to maintain the car’s momentum (i.e., steady state cruising) the engine – which is typically smaller than would otherwise be necessary to deliver acceptable on-demand acceleration – delivers better fuel economy.
The turbo’d engine is also usually stronger-feeling at lower engine speeds (RPMs) because the turbo boosts low-end torque output. Therefore, it is less necessary to gun the engine to get the car moving.
Then there are the cons:
Turbos stress an engine because the air/fuel charge is forced into the engine under pressure (boost). Hence the engine must be built stronger, which often means – costs more to build.
Turbos themselves are expensive, too. And it’s not just the turbo. It’s the whole system – including the turbo’d car’s specialized exhaust system (turbochargers work like water wheels at an old-timey flour mill; an impeller is caused to turn by the passing exhaust stream, which turns a shaft with a compressor wheel, which pressurizes the incoming air). If the turbo craps out on you, the bill will be high. As in several thousand dollars high.
It’s less fuel efficient (and performance isn’t quite as good as what you get with the 1.8 liter turbo engine). But, it’s simpler – and will probably last a long time, costing you not much to keep. There is no turbo to crap out on you; the exhaust piping is like what you’d find in any other modern car.
How much is that extra dollop of acceleration – about 3/4-1 second quicker to 60 in the Passat – and the 2-3 MPG uptick in fuel efficiency worth to you?
There are intangibles. And then there are the tangibles. The ’14 Passat with the 2.5 liter five stickers for $20,845 to start. To VW’s credit, you can buy the same trim Passat (the S) with the turbo four for $20,995 – a price difference that’s about what you’d spend to have a nice meal at a decent steakhouse.
So, color me pleased.
VW is effectively giving you the upgraded engine – and the upticked performance/mileage. These days, a rare – and commendable – thing.
As to the turbo’d longevity issues – so far, I know of none. VW has been putting the same basic ‘plant into other VWs for several years – and there are a bunch of them in circulation. Methinks turbo technology – and long-haul reliability have come a long way and – not to worry.
The Passat is an excellent car – a pick of the litter in its class. (Read the full-length review here.) I have no hesitation recommending it strongly – and have nothing bad to say about the fade-away of the in-line five.
Sometimes, retirement is just what the doctor ordered.
Throw it in the Woods?
PS: Thanks to all who’ve supported the site financially this month (and last).