Offering a modestly veiled look at what's to come for North America, the eighth generation of the Volkswagen Passat has been unveiled in European trim. Based on VW's MQB modular platform and available on the continent in sedan and wagon form, this all-new Passat will bow in October at the Paris Auto Show and go on sale in Germany shortly thereafter. We won't likely see a U.S. version until the 2017 or 2018 model year.
Why the delay? Our current Passat is based on a unique "New Midsize Sedan" architecture specifically created for North American consumers. While its replacement will be MQB-derived like the European model, we'll just have to wait. That said, VW has confirmed "an aggressive facelift" and enhanced features for the 2016 model.
Meanwhile, in Europe
The Gen VIII's transition to MQB underpinnings has seen it grow modestly in several dimensions while trimming nearly 190 pounds from its curb weight. That mass reduction - which is expected to contribute to up to a 20 percent improvement in overall fuel economy -- results from a more extensive use of aluminum alloys and high-strength steel in its main structure and revised suspension that matches MacPherson struts up front with a rear multilink setup. Incrementally shorter and lower, the new Passat also is a half inch wider and benefits from an additional 3.1 inches of wheelbase.
While VW won't comment on styling specifics for our next North American Passat, it has admitted the main cues found in the new European model definitely will influence the appearance of its American cousin. Part of the recasting process involved giving the Euro Passat a more sophisticated look employing a wedge-like profile and cabin-rearward proportions set off by a wider, leaner grille and lights, the latter infused with LEDs. The Passat also will offer full LED headlamps as an option as well as auto-adjusting Dynamic Light Assist feature.
The same kind of focused upmarket approach can be seen inside the new Passat, which features a greater emphasis on premium materials and enhanced fit/finish. Its standard instrument cluster can be upgraded to a new Active Info Display that includes a configurable interactive 12.3-inch TFT screen. Also new are a head-up display, the latest Modular Infotainment System with VW's Car-Net remote app, an upgraded 360-degree Area View camera and the latest generation of Park Assist that works for both parallel and perpendicular spaces.
European buyers will choose from 10 powertrains in the new Passat, including a new gasoline/electric plug-in hybrid and both single and twin-turbo versions of the 2.0-liter EA288 4-cylinder Clean Diesel. The latter will only be available with a 7-speed DSG automatic transmission and VW's 4Motion all-wheel drive. No word yet on when we might see the mid-cycle refresh for our 2016 Passat, but it seems likely to come either at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November or the Detroit Auto Show next January.
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