CAR OF THE YEAR: VW Passat
SUV of THE YEAR: LAND ROVER RANGE ROVER EVOQUE
TRUCK of THE YEAR: To be announced soon...
2012 Motor Trend Car Of The Year! Picking A Winner
If Car of the Year juries were seated like criminal trial juries, Volkswagen's lawyers might have used up their peremptory challenges dismissing the lot of us. They'd claim we had been poisoned by the launch coverage of the company's supersized Yank-tank B7-generation Passat. Harsh auto-show lighting made the car look like a freshened version of Chevy's little-loved Impala; early punditry slammed the interior as drab, plain, and cheap-looking; and news that the moaning I-5 we loathe in the Golf-class cars would be the mainstream engine seemed like strike three.
Making things worse were VW's concurrently announced plans for world domination, which, combined with the above impressions, seemed to suggest that VW was saying "Vee unterschtand zat to sell lots of zees cahs to you fat Dummkopfs, zay need to be bland like Camry."
Unlike GM and Ford, which are consolidating regional platforms and introducing world cars, Volkswagen's larger new Passat will sell only in North America and China. The car and the strategy raise serious questions: Can an American-born-and-bred Passat be German enough to please the VW faithful? Can anything with a VW badge pry large numbers of people out of their Accords and Camrys? Can such conservative styling turn the heads of the legions on their way to Hyundai? Out on the test track, in the high-desert sunshine, three Passats spanning the range of powertrain and trim levels did their best to answer these questions, presenting evidence in each of our six criteria and gradually whittling away at our editorial preconceptions. Let's read the court testimony.