Test Drive Notes Library
- Throwback. In many ways this feels like a car designed 10 years ago. In some ways, that’s unfortunate, but in other ways, it’s refreshing. Overall, it’s surprisingly competent.
- Ride and handling. Volkswagen has long been known for balancing comfort and sportiness. The Passat tracks confidently, corners flatly and without fuss, forgives your mistakes when you enter a corner too fast, and eats up the worst of the bumps without sending lightning bolts through your spinal column. Its combination of agility and firm comfort are better than a lot of similarly priced cars.
- Acceleration. The V6 Passat sits in a middle ground these days. There are a lot of modern four-cylinder turbo-charged engines available in sport sedans that produce something in the range of 200-250 hp. Then there are the twin turbo V6s that are up over 300 hp. VW’s V6, without a turbo, rates at 280 hp, and it provides more than enough power for the Passat, while not feeling ridiculously overpowered. It’s particularly smooth and has plenty of mid range power. There’s plenty there for freeway entrances or passing, but not enough to make your passengers want to smack you while they try to keep from puking.
- Visibility. Eureka! I can see out of this thing! Unlike more up-to-date designs, the Passat’s shape is from a time when auto makers thought it was important for drivers to be able to see out the back and sides of the car they were driving. In this way, the Passat is a nice throwback. The interior feels open and airy, and you can actually see the traffic around you in most directions. Throw an arm over the back of the passenger seat, and you can even back the thing up. What will they think of next?!
- Room. Again, this feels like a bit of a throwback, but the back seat room is huge. Almost anybody, short of Manute Bol, will be comfortable there. And for you up-and-coming Mafiosi, who can’t afford a Lincoln Navigator yet, we note that the Passat has a four-body trunk. It’s enormous, belying the overall size of the vehicle. VW makes excellent use of space in the Passat.
- Quiet. It’s peaceful inside the Passat. Not only due to the airiness of the cabin, but also due to the quiet provided by the sound insulation. Only at highway speed did some tire thrum come through.
- Warranty. To lure back customers annoyed by Dieselgate, or just the general unreliability of previous Volkswagens, VW has made their warranty good for six years or 72,000 miles. That’s excellent.
- Simple operation. The controls are really straight forward. You have volume and tuning knobs, and simple controls for climate. Good throwback.
- Standard safety, almost. Once you get past the base “S” trim, automatic emergency braking is standard.
Test Drive Notes Library
- The interior, while pleasant enough, feels like it’s getting out of date. There’s a relatively small video screen, which can be hard to read. The icons look dated. There’s more plastic than we’re used to in the current entry-level-luxury cars we see. The flip side is that the basic functions are very easy to use and understand. If you’re someone who is uncomfortable with the speed at which cars are getting complicated and "technologized" in the cabin, you may like the slightly old fashioned approach the Passat takes inside.
- Exterior. It’s a little dowdy looking. It’s not bad looking, but if you want to move around largely unnoticed, the Passat will help you.
- Dual clutch transmission. While VW’s dual clutch automatic is better than a lot of others, and is generally great at speed, it still occasionally shifts roughly at low speeds, or in stop and go driving.
- Subtle warning. Our test Passat had blind spot monitoring, but the side-mirror-based indicator lights were small and faint. It’d be nice if they caught your attention more readily before you tried to change lanes into a Fed-Ex truck.
- Mileage. We got barely 20 mpg overall in more city than highway testing. The EPA says we should have seen 22 overall. You can also get a 174 hp four-cylinder turbo in the Passat. That gets significantly better mileage, and makes the front end of the car lighter, too. While we haven’t driven it, EPA says the four-cylinder gets 29 mpg overall, which is very good for what is practically a full size car.
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