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Long-distance road warrior shouldn't pass on the Passat

2012 VW Passat


The lease on my Lexus IS 250 AWD runs out in June and I want to buy a new car and keep it for 10 years. The Lexus is fine, but it has a small trunk and the rear seats don't fold down. In an ideal world, I would like an all-wheel-drive diesel, but only a sedan or wagon. It doesn't seem to exist. I do a 640-kilometre drive from Toronto to Knowlton, Que., many times a year. It is a route with unpredictable weather, so I feel I need AWD. Some of the cars I am looking at are the Mercedes C-Class, BMW 328 and the Audi A4, all in AWD. I would snap up a Passat diesel if it came in AWD. What do you geniuses think? – Fred in Toronto

Cato: I'm genius enough to know you don't need all-wheel-drive on Highway 401, especially that nightmarishly overcrowded stretch above the Centre of the Universe – from, say, Pearson Airport to Whitby. I can walk faster than you crawl in your car, Fred.

And AWD? It'll suck a few grand from your pocket and take a whack at fuel economy. All that extra weight and mechanical drag. If saving money is most important, Fred, get a set of good winter tires and skip the AWD.

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Vaughan: I'm genius enough to know that Knowlton only exists in the mind of rich Anglos who want to brag about a posh address. The place got amalgamated in 1971 with six other villages and has been the Town of Lac Brome for 40 years.

Nevertheless, a posh address needs a posh car and I guess that's why Freddie is shopping the usual German premium stuff. So I'll make a radical suggestion and send him over to the Infiniti dealer to check out the G37. It is a stylish sedan with a superb interior. It is sporty yet comfortable for his jaunts to the Townships. I agree with Cato's point about not needing AWD, but the G37 is available in either rear-wheel- or all-wheel-drive.

Cato: I love the G37 for a bunch of reasons, not least of which is the amount of incentive money Infiniti Canada is throwing around. We're talking big balls of cash: the 2012 G37x with AWD – yes, I am pandering to your AWD desires, Fred – lists for $43,450, but if you lease or pay cash, Infiniti Canada has a $3,500 factory-to-dealer rebate you should claim.

A leaser like you can also combine the money with a 1.9 per cent lease rate for two years. I had a look at a whole price from and it appears you might also be able to bargain for another $1,500 in Bonus Cash – another factory-to-dealer sales sweetener.

Fred, check with your dealer on this. And drive the car. It's excellent – a Japanese BMW 3-Series and an eye-popping good deal.

Vaughan: The Audi A4 is another ritzy ride you should test, Fred.

Cato: Yes, of course. Best interior in this class of car, but it rides a little softer than the G and the 3-Series, about on par with the Mercedes C.

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You might find a few 2012 A4s kicking about on dealer lots, but my sources say you can't order a 2012 any longer, Fred – with the AWD version starting at $39,700.

The point to remember: the A4 feels different from the G in that it is also available as a front-driver at $37,800.

Vaughan: There are a lot of old-age pensioners in Knowlton and assuming Freddie is one of them, perhaps he'd like to preserve capital and go down-market a touch.

He should try a Volkswagen Passat with that TDI (diesel). It will save him thousands of dollars on the purchase compared to the Audi and Infiniti, plus there are additional fuel savings.

And if a humble VW doesn't have enough snob appeal sitting in his driveway, he can either hide it behind the house or claim that it belongs to the gardener.

Cato: That made-in-Chattanooga, Tenn., Passat is not the same Passat the Europeans buy. It's bigger and equipped differently and the latest sales figures suggest VW has a home run here.

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Basically, VW is going after the Toyota Camry crowd. Nothing wrong with that. It's just, well, Fred, don't expect to find your heart pumping with excitement every time you crawl behind the wheel. And your neighbours won't care.

On the other hand, the front-drive Passat comes with a diesel engine – powerful, long-lasting, fuel-efficient – and a loaded car lists for $33,775. When last I checked, VW Canada had a $1,000 incentive in play here, too. A pensioner who does loads of driving – that's you, Fred – can go 1,000 km or more between fill-ups. In winter, like I said, if you get good snow tires you'll be fine.

Vaughan: A penny saved is a penny earned, Freddie. Go with the Passat TDI.

Cato: But you'll save enough in incentives on the G37x to offset your fuel savings with the diesel Passat. Don't be embarrassed in front of your friends and family – go with the G.


2012 Volkswagen Passat 2.0 TDI Highline

2012 Infiniti G37x Luxury

2012 Audi A4 quattro 2.0T

Wheelbase (mm)




Length (mm)




Width (mm)




Track, front (mm)





2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbodiesel

3.7-litre V-6

2.0-litre four-cylinder, turbodiesel

Output (horsepower/torque)

140/236 lb-ft

328/269 lb-ft

211/258 lb-ft

Drive system

Front-wheel drive

All-wheel drive

All-wheel drive


Six-speed manual

Seven-speed automatic

Six-speed manual

Curb weight (kg)




Fuel economy (litres/100 km)

6.8 city/4.4 highway

6.9 city/5.1 highway

9.5 city/6.5 highway

Base price (MSRP)




Source: car manufacturers

Jeremy Cato and Michael Vaughan are co-hosts of Car/Business, which appears Thursdays at 8:30 p.m. on Business News Network and Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on CTV.

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About the Author
Senior writer, Globe Drive

In 25 years of covering the auto industry, Jeremy Cato has won more than two-dozen awards, including three times being named automotive journalist of the year. Jeremy was born in Montreal and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. More

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