CC Outtake: 1996 Volkswagen Passat TDI – TD Or Not TD?


The Passat’s journey in North America is an interesting one. The name first appeared here in 1988, replacing the Quantum, which was actually the same car as the European Passat. It’s styling was typical VW-boxy conservative, and sales didn’t exactly take off.


It took a decade, but the Passat finally started gaining attention and sales with more inspiring redesigns, released in North America in 1998 and 2006. By then it had gained a loyal following as an upscale/sporty alternative to Japanese mid-size sedans and a value compared to other German sedans of similar size. Of course we all know what VW did for 2012:


While the current North American Passat is a decent family car, conquering thousands of buyers new to VW, it’s not the car that Passat loyalists wanted. It’s bigger, less sporty, more generic, and has cheaper interiors. I was not at all impressed by the unconvincing, uncomfortable vinyl seats in lower trims.


Despite being rather generic-looking like the current Passat, I’ve always liked the look of these 1994-1997 Passats. The shape is way more appealing to the eye than Jettas of this vintage. Our featured CC wears TDI badges. They don’t look original though, and combined with the removal of all other badging, raises the question to whether or not this is actually a TDI. If it is in fact a TDI, it’s powered by an 89 horsepower 1.9L turbo diesel that gave it an EPA-estimated 45mpg highway. That’s pretty darn good for a 90’s mid-size sedan.