Designed specifically to conquer the hugely popular midsize sedan market in the United States, the Volkswagen Passat is very different from the models that preceded it. Launched in 2012, emphasis was put on traditional American values: rear-seat legroom, trunk space, a comfortable ride, and a straightforward cabin. More scaled-up Jetta than cut-price Audi, there was still much to like about the big sedan.
A fresh new look for 2016 helps the Passat stay current against heavily updated or all-new models from virtually all of its rivals. The changes aren’t as radical as the Honda Accord or Kia Optima; instead, you’ll find redesigned bumpers and a different grille, plus a new domed hood design. Beneath it is a beefed-up front structure to better protect passengers in a crash. LED tail lights, optional LED headlights, and added chrome garnish help give the Passat a more polished look, as do new wheel designs. Those wishing for a sportier appearance may consider the new R-Line option package on Comfortline and Highline trims, which adds front and rear valances, plus 19-inch alloy wheels. Three new colours join the range for 2016: Reef Blue, Pure White, and Urano Grey.
The changes to the Passat’s interior are subtler. New faux wood trim mimics the matte-finish open-pore wood often found in premium marques, while range-topping trims get full leather upholstery instead of leather and suede-upholstered seats. A new steering wheel and instrument cluster, plucked from the Golf parts bin, is also a part of the upgrade. Of note: the Passat features VW’s latest infotainment systems with full compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. They display through one of two touchscreen systems – 6.3 or 6.5 inches. While these are significantly smaller than any other mid-sized rival, satellite radio and a reverse camera are standard.
Safety-conscious buyers should also note that the latest Passat now comes with more active safety gear. All trims from the mid-grade Comfortline and up receive standard radar-based cruise control, forward collision warning. The range-topping Execline also receives autonomous parking and parking sensors. Also hands-free: the trunk. The EasyOpen decklid pops up to reveal 450L of cargo space at the wave of a foot under the rear bumper. It’s standard on Comfortline trims and higher.
The Passat is powered by either a 1.8-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque or a 3.6-litre narrow-angle V6 with 280 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. While the 1.8T is available with a five-speed manual, it’s limited to the Trendline and Trendline+ trims; all others get a six-speed automatic. The V6 comes paired with a six-speed DSG automated manual. And what about the diesel? It’s on hiatus until VW can make it pass emissions.
The 2016 Volkswagen Passat starts at $23,295 for the Trendline. The top-of-the-line Execline sells for $37,795.