If size and space sit atop the list of must-haves in a family sedan, not to mention fuel economy, and a comfortable ride, Volkswagen's Passat could be a good fit. Heavily updated just last year, the North Americanized sedan emerged from under the knife with a classy new look both inside and out. It also gained new technologies including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
For 2017, changes are relatively limited. Volkswagen consolidated the Passat's offerings, discontinuing the base Trendline trim and the top-of-the-line Execline trim.
The range now kicks off with the Trendline+, which features standard heated front seats, a trip computer, remote start, and the Driver Alert system which is featured on many new Volkswagen models this year. Two new colours are available: Deep Black Pearl, and Nightingale Blue Metallic.
One step up, the Comfortline trim gets standard blind-spot monitoring, heated rear seats, plus standard LED headlamps with LED daytime running lights, and LED tail lights with a darkened appearance. Radar cruise control, formerly standard equipment, is now bundled as a part of the new Driver Assistance Package that adds VW's lane assist and park assist systems, plus front and rear parking sensors. Integrated navigation is available as an extra-cost option; alternatively, buyers can use navigation systems from their Google or Apple devices.
The new range-topping trim, Highline, includes a colour instrument cluster display, plus standard LED head and taillights. The Driver Assistance Package of the Comfortline is also available here. For a sportier look, the Highline trim can be equipped with the R-Line package, which adds 19-inch wheels, a ground effects kit, aluminum pedals, paddles for manual shifting, sports seats, and R-Line badges - but buyers should note this combo removes the LED head and taillights.
Most Passats to leave Canadian dealerships come equipped with Volkswagen's 1.8-litre turbocharged engine, which produces 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. It's a smooth powerplant, and its readily accessible torque gives it good mid-range acceleration. As a bonus, it runs on regular gasoline. In years past, this engine was available with a five-speed manual, but the only transmission offered for 2017 is a six-speed automatic.
A narrow-angle 3.6-litre V6 is available as an option on the top-of-the-line Highline trim, and develops 280 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. A standard six-speed dual clutch transmission provides snappy gearshifts, allowing it to out-accelerate rival six-cylinder models from Honda and Toyota.
Though the current generation Passat was designed and optimized to appeal to American consumers, it has a European flavour to the way it drives. The ride is supple and well controlled, the electric power steering is precise, and very good highway stability makes it an excellent long-distance machine. The classier interior with faux matte-finish wood trim has an almost ridiculous amount of rear legroom and a giant trunk.