This is the Volkswagen’s New Midsize Sedan (NMS) that it has talked about since 2009, and it will wear the familiar Passat badge. To be unveiled at Detroit, this car will split the Passat name into two cars – the European version that was unveiled at Paris 2010 (click here to read the post and see our live gallery) and a larger bodied version for America – like how Honda does it with the Accord.

The seventh-generation European Passat is about the same size as the previous gen car which we are familiar with in Malaysia. This US version is 4,869 mm long with a 2,804 mm wheelbase, which makes it 100 mm longer than the European Passat, with a 95 mm longer wheelbase. That’s the perfect length to compete with the Honda Accord (2,800 mm wheelbase) and Toyota Camry, the top mid size saloons in the US. VW claims best in class legroom.

Although the NMS looks like the Euro Passat from the front with VW’s new corporate face (grille is slightly different), the rear design takes a completely different path – it’s very similar to the Jetta unveiled mid last year. The cabin looks familiar from a glance, but deeper comparison reveals a different centre stack – the Euro Passat has a round clock between the air-con vents and stereo, while the US car’s clock is sandwiched between the vents.

There’s also an empty space/cubby hole below at the base of the stack. Steering, dials, stereo and layout are all standard VW, which is a good thing. Compared to the black interior/silver metal trim of the Passat shown in Paris, press photos of the NMS show a beige leather cabin with wood trim, a more warm and “luxurious” feel in keeping with American tastes. The Passat will also offer the new Fender audio system designed exclusively for VW. Read about that collaboration here.

There are three drivetrain options: a 2.5L five-cylinder petrol, a 2.0L TDI Clean Diesel and a 3.6L VR6. The 170 hp/240 Nm five-pot engine comes standard with a manual gearbox, but a six-speed auto is optional. The 140 hp/320 Nm diesel, which “has the power of a six cylinder gasoline engine and the fuel economy of a hybrid” is capable of 15.2 km/l on the highway and has an amazing 800-mile range (1,280 km). The range topper is the 3.6L V6 with 280 hp and 350 Nm of twist. Both it and the TDI come with the 6-speed DSG.

The Passat rolls out from VW’s new Chattanooga plant that is part of a $4 billion investment by the company in the US market. The Camry/Accord fighter will be offered in three trim levels (S, SE and SEL) with a total of 16 equipment levels. Prices will start from around $20,000 when it reaches US showrooms later this year.

Gallery after the jump.

[zenphotopress number=999 album=1848]