Seattle to SF on a single tank: A pair of 2012 Passat TDI Clean Diesels make the trip in style

Fact: everyone hates refueling. That’s why racecar drivers refer to it as “the pits.” [Editor’s note: citation needed.] Matt Welch, owner and general manager of Auburn Volkswagen near Seattle, couldn’t agree more.

So when his dealership got one of the first 2012 Volkswagen Passat TDI models to roll off the production line in Chattanooga, he decided to see how far he could drive on one tank of fuel.

Operating under the indisputable logic that two Passats are better than one, Matt invited his buddy Chris Meier to drive up from his dealership, Herzog-Meier in Beaverton, OR, to make the trip with him. With their new Passat TDI SEL Premiums topped off with clean diesel fuel, they hit the road and drove 484 miles before stopping in the Northern California town of Yreka—not to fuel up, but to sleep for the night. On the second day, they drove another 315 miles to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Even at 800 miles into the trip, neither car’s fuel light had come on. In fact, Matt drove north out of San Francisco and spent 90 minutes stuck in stop-and-go rush hour traffic before he decided to fuel up. When he did, he had driven 829 miles—and he still had two and a half gallons left in the tank. The Passat TDI boasts 43 mpg on the highway, but Matt was able to get an incredible 55 mpg on his trip. He estimates that, had he avoided the rush hour snarl, he could’ve made it 950 to 1,000 miles on a single tank.

But according to Matt, the best part of the trip was the journey itself. He says that to ride in the Passat TDI is to travel in style. “The back seat is so spacious that it’s like a first class cabin. We had people on laptops in the back seat with their legs crossed. There’s so much room in this car; it’s not a little econo box—it’s a luxury sedan.” Even with four people in the car and a total cargo weight of 1,000 pounds, Matt says that TDI engine offered an unbelievably smooth ride. To illustrate his point, he says, “We stood a Pez dispenser on the dashboard and drove for 100 miles. It didn’t even move.” The recently-married Matt adds that his wife wrote 75 thank-you cards “with perfect penmanship” while rolling down the highway in the passenger seat. Talk about efficiency!

Because of the additional torque and power provided by the TDI Clean Diesel technology, the engine doesn’t have to work as hard. The result? “There’s no sound at all,” explains Matt. “It’s quieter than a gas engine. There’s no smell, no noise and it’s a clean-burning diesel,” he adds. “The TDI is more than green; it has lower emissions than any gas car, and because it’s a turbo diesel, it gives you the performance of a sports car. And by the way: you can get 40 to 50 miles per gallon—in a luxury sedan!”

One of Matt’s favorite moments from the trip was when they pulled into a truck stop to stretch their legs. Their cars quickly drew a small crowd of truckers who asked, “Is that there really a diesel?” He assured them that it was, which prompted their next question: “Where was it built?” When Matt told them that it was built in Chattanooga, their faces lit up.

Matt’s obviously a believer in the power of clean diesel, and he looks forward to spreading the word and seeing more drivers experience the joys of TDI firsthand.

Tell us: what’s the farthest you’ve ever gone without refueling?


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