2020 Acura TLX vs. 2019 Volkswagen Passat

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The TLX V6’s optional pre-crash front seatbelts will tighten automatically in the event the vehicle detects an impending crash, improving protection against injury significantly. The Passat doesn’t offer pre-crash pretensioners.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests front crash prevention systems. With a score of 6 points, IIHS rates the Collision Mitigation Braking System in the TLX as “Superior.” The Passat scores only 3 points and is rated only “Advanced.”

The TLX offers all-wheel drive to maximize traction under poor conditions, especially in ice and snow. The Passat doesn’t offer all-wheel drive.

The TLX V6 offers an optional Surround View Camera System to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Passat only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

Both the TLX and the Passat have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Acura TLX is safer than the Volkswagen Passat:

TLX

Passat

OVERALL STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

Passenger

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH and into a post at 20 MPH, results indicate that the Acura TLX is safer than the Volkswagen Passat:

TLX

Passat

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Chest Movement

.8 inches

.9 inches

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

229

280

Spine Acceleration

57 G’s

61 G’s

Hip Force

483 lbs.

627 lbs.

Into Pole

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Max Damage Depth

14 inches

15 inches

HIC

249

305

Spine Acceleration

36 G’s

44 G’s

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

Warranty

The TLX comes with free roadside assistance for 4 years 50,000 miles. Acura will send help if you run out of gas, need a jump-start, lock your keys in or need any assistance on the road. Volkswagen doesn’t give free roadside assistance for the Passat.

Reliability

To reliably start during all conditions and help handle large electrical loads, the TLX has a standard 650-amp battery. The Passat’s 480-amp battery isn’t as powerful.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Acura vehicles are better in initial quality than Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Acura 24th in initial quality. With 3 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 25th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Acura vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Acura 3 places higher in reliability than Volkswagen.

Engine

The TLX’s standard 2.4 DOHC 4-cyl. produces 32 more horsepower (206 vs. 174) than the Passat’s 2.0 turbo 4-cyl. The TLX’s optional 3.5 SOHC V6 produces 116 more horsepower (290 vs. 174) and 83 lbs.-ft. more torque (267 vs. 184) than the Passat’s 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

Fuel Economy and Range

An engine control system that can shut down half of the engine’s cylinders helps improve the TLX V6’s fuel efficiency. The Passat doesn’t offer a system that can shut down part of the engine.

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the TLX SH-AWD’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Passat doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

The TLX has a standard cap-less fueling system. The fuel filler is automatically opened when the fuel nozzle is inserted and automatically closed when it’s removed. This eliminates the need to unscrew and replace the cap and it reduces fuel evaporation, which causes pollution. The Passat doesn’t offer a cap-less fueling system.

Transmission

A nine-speed automatic is standard on the Acura TLX V6, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a six-speed automatic is available for the Passat.

The TLX offers a standard sequential manual gearbox (SMG). With no clutch pedal to worry about and a fully automatic mode, an SMG is much more efficient than a conventional automatic but just as easy to drive. The Passat doesn’t offer an SMG or a conventional manual transmission.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the TLX’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Passat:

TLX

Passat

Front Rotors

12.6 inches

12.3 inches

Rear Rotors

12.2 inches

10.7 inches

The TLX stops much shorter than the Passat:

TLX

Passat

70 to 0 MPH

174 feet

191 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

122 feet

130 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the TLX has larger standard tires than the Passat (225/55R17 vs. 215/55R17). The TLX A-Spec’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Passat (245/40R19 vs. 235/45R18).

The TLX has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The Passat doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Suspension and Handling

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the TLX is .7 inches wider in the front and 2.1 inches wider in the rear than on the Passat.

The TLX handles at .83 G’s, while the Passat pulls only .79 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The TLX V6 SH-AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.4 seconds quicker than the Passat SE R-Line (26.7 seconds @ .76 average G’s vs. 28.1 seconds @ .59 average G’s).

Chassis

To almost totally eliminate engine vibration in the passenger area, the TLX has an electronically controlled liquid-filled main engine mount. A computer-controlled electric current in the liquid changes its viscosity, allowing the mount to dampen the engine completely at all RPMs. The Passat uses conventional solid rubber engine mounts.

The TLX uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The Passat doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

Passenger Space

The TLX has .2 inches more front legroom and .6 inches more front shoulder room than the Passat.

Cargo Capacity

To allow full utilization of available cargo room, the TLX’s trunk lid uses concealed beam hinges that don’t intrude into the trunk. Its intrusive beam hinge reduces the Passat’s useful trunk space.

Servicing Ease

J.D. Power and Associates surveys of service recipients show that Acura service is better than Volkswagen. J.D. Power ranks Acura 6th in service department satisfaction (above the industry average). With a 35% lower rating, Volkswagen is ranked 18th.

Ergonomics

The TLX’s standard easy entry system glides the driver’s seat back, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The Passat doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

If the windows are left open on the TLX the driver can close them all at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the Passat can’t use the remote to operate the windows.

The TLX’s standard speed-sensitive wipers speed up when the vehicle does, so that the driver doesn’t have to continually adjust the speed of the wipers. The Passat’s standard manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The TLX’s headlights were rated “Acceptable” by the IIHS, while the Passat’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors standard on the TLX detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The Passat doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

The TLX’s standard outside mirrors include heating elements to clear off the mirrors for better visibility. Volkswagen only offers heated mirrors on the Passat SE R-Line.

When the TLX is put in reverse, both rearview mirrors tilt from their original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirrors into their original positions. The Passat’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

The TLX V6 offers optional automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Passat offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

Standard air-conditioned seats in the TLX Advance/V6 A-Spec keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The Passat doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

On extremely cold winter days, the TLX Advance’s standard heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The Passat doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

The TLX has a standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air conditioning is only available on the Passat SE R-Line.

Both the TLX and the Passat offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the TLX has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The Passat doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Acura TLX offers an optional wireless phone charging system (Qi) for the front seat. The Passat doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the TLX is less expensive to operate than the Passat because typical repairs cost much less on the TLX than the Passat, including $155 less for a water pump, $7 less for a muffler, $20 less for front brake pads, $49 less for front struts and $536 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

The Car Book by Jack Gillis recommends the Acura TLX, based on economy, maintenance, safety and complaint levels. The Volkswagen Passat isn't recommended.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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