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  • 2012 VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT SEL V6 + 2012 BMW 328i

    Fully-equipped, Volkswagen’s new family sedan approaches luxury rank. The 3.6-liter V6 engine with direct fuel injection puts out a healthy 280 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, and is more than capable of moving the 3,445lb car with alacrity. The power comes on at 2500 rpm and continues to pull all the way up the rev range, giving the Passat a strong sporty feel. Fuel mileage figures are 20 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.


    Unlike the lesser models, with a 5-speed automatic transmission, the Premium model has a 6-Speed DSG transmission with a Sport Mode, and manual shift on the console, or a pair of paddle shifters on the steering wheel. This is a splendid, smooth shifting transmission. However, 1st gear in the regular Drive mode is designed to short shift for fuel economy purposes, and if driver try to accelerate quickly, there is a slight dead spot between 1st and 2nd gear changes. If you drop it into Sport mode, however, it allows first gear to wind up higher in the rev range and the Passat takes off quite nicely. Also, Sport mode holds each gear longer for improved acceleration. And if driver chooses to shift gears himself, each tap of the paddles makes the transmission shift instantly with virtually no lag time, either up or down, and without the usual hesitation most cars exhibit.

     The cabin is handsome, if not luxurious, on the Premium model, and is a major upgrade when compared to the lower line models. The HVAC controls are of the three knob variety and easy to use. The 8-way power leather seats with suede-like center sections are comfortable, with decent bolstering. There are also 3-position heated and quite effective for both the seat bottom and seat back. Soft materials grace the top of the dash, as well as the integrated door armrests and center console lid, which slides forward to use as a comfortable arm rest.

     Exterior styling matches the interior.  That is, handsome and classic, but somewhat bland and generic 4-door sedan looking. It will neither offend, nor inspire. The new Passat V6 SEL Premium offers a solid, German engineered family sedan that is fun to drive and with a lot of amenities.

    2012 BMW 328i 

    Six generations on and 12.5 million cars later, BMW’s 3 Series continues to lead the pack in the hotly contested sport-luxury market. Recent economic, environmental and social trends have forced automakers to take their vehicles in new directions. The all new 2012 3 Series is BMW’s answer to these trends in the sport-sedan segment that they themselves created back in 1975.

    The 5th generation that this new 3 Series replaces was a fine car in every respect. It drove well, proved reliable, and was not too thirsty at the pumps. To start off, BMW has implemented a new vehicle behavior switch that allows the driver to chose between five unique drive modes. Eco Pro mode also introduces mechanical changes to the car when selected. The smooth and fast-shifting 8-speed automatic (optional, a 6-speed manual comes standard) is programmed to shift early and move onto the next gear as soon as possible. The transmission logic is hesitant to downshift and generally keeps the engine below 2000 rpm, thus saving fuel. The engine management is also altered for efficiency.

    A throw back to earlier BMW design, the 3 Series now features a “driver focused” interior, with the dash turned in towards the driver and all controls within easy reach. That’s not to say that the passenger will feel left out, as the interior is inclusionary of both front seats. Fit and finish is excellent and the materials exude quality. A personal favorite is the new textured wood trim available as an option. Stained in a variety of colors, this new Poplar wood trim feels great to touch and looks sharp contrasting with nearby leathers, metals and plastics. The seats are exceedingly comfortable even after hours in the saddle, and the side bolsters hold you firmly in place during more enthusiastic driving.

     BMW now offers several key technologies in the 3 Series that were previously reserved for flagship models such as the 6 and 7 Series cars. A lane departure warning system vibrates the steering wheel should the car sense that you are drifting out of your lane. A blind spot monitoring system keeps an eye on your blind spot during lane changes and alerts you to a potential car in your path with a flashing orange triangle mounted on the inner aspect of the side-view mirrors and more vibration of the steering wheel. A distance warning system now alerts you if you are approaching much slower traffic and heavy braking is required. And finally, a brilliant backup camera keeps an eye on things as you reverse the car.

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