Fun to drive with room to spare.
 

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Starting MSRP: $23,260

Above Average: Driving dynamics

Below Average: Resale value

Consensus: Rewarding to drive, but not so much fun on resale

600 Miles in 100 Words

The 2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE recently benefited from a mild facelift that gives it more presence thanks to a bolder grille and the use of optional LED running lights. Over the course of our two-day test, the Passat’s nimble manners were only surpassed by the power and smoothness of its 1.8-liter turbocharged engine and 6-speed automatic transmission. It’s willingness to respond to your right foot made two-lane passes a snap. Add to the mix a quiet and comfortable cabin with ample rear seat legroom, and you have the recipe for a daily commuter ready for that weekend road trip.

A Closer Look

In stacking up against the competition, the Passat excelled in both highway and sporty driving, the precise steering with heavier feedback tended to work against it in city traffic. While the 1.8-liter turbo impresses with its performance, it comes at the expense of fuel economy. The infotainment system was so-so, but the real concern is the car’s resale value.

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Highway Driving  
While the horsepower number on the turbocharged 1.8-liter 4-cylinder is a respectable 170 horsepower, the real star here is the 184 lb-ft of torque. This allows the Passat to step out smartly and cruise effortlessly at highway speeds. And it’s the torque that gives you the confidence you need when stepping into the throttle to pull and out and pass. The Passat is responsive across all speed ranges and the adaptive cruise controls pretty much means minimal intervention when cruising along the interstate.

City Driving  In traffic, there’s a bit of disconnect between the turbocharged engine’s response and the accelerator, which makes smooth getaways a bit tricky. Many of the Passat’s attributes that make it a hero on the open road or the twisty bits seem to work against the car here. And also, the car’s generous proportions make it a bit more of a challenge to park in congested confines. The standard rear-view camera goes a long way in assisting in parallel parking.

Sporty Driving  Even though this particular VW Passat was designed to be bigger and tuned more towards American tastes, its German pedigree in driving dynamics comes through loud and clear. The steering is well-weighted, communicative and precise. The body motions are controlled; the ride taut without being harsh. The fun-to-drive mantle passes to the Passat in this go-around from perennial favorite Mazda6 with the added benefit of having more cabin space.

Interior Appeal  If flash or high comfort is high on your list, you might want to look elsewhere. The interior has been spiffed up a bit as part of the refresh, but the more things change, the more they seem to stay the same on the Passat. This is a good thing since the interior sports a clean, crisp design, high quality materials and a functional, practical layout. There’s a bit of hard plastic on parts of the door and the lower dash, but the rest is covered in soft touch materials and the V-Tex leatherette seating with contrast piping gives it an upscale feel. Among the standard features are heated seats and dual zone climate control.

Infotainment  The 2016 Passat features a touch screen with Bluetooth connectivity and a console-mounted USB port (there’s a second one on the back of the console for rear seat passengers). Also there’s an auxiliary jack and 12 volt power point ahead of the shifter and a secondary power point in the center covered storage bin. Pairing a phone proved to be simple and straightforward. VW has also added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity to its repertoire, a welcome move on this particular SE model since it doesn’t include navigation or traffic as part of the standard infotainment package. Still, the touch screen features aided by redundant controls made the system easy to access.

Rear Seat  By designing the Passat specifically for the American market, VW paid particular attention to the back seat, offering ample legroom, great headroom and plenty of space for three across seating. The relatively upright greenhouse also means that getting in and out of the rear minimizes the amount of head ducking you need to do versus other models with more rakish rooflines. The rear bench also has a nice fold down center armrest that locks into place rather than flopping around.

Cargo Utility  The Passat has a good size 15.9-cubic-foot trunk with below floor storage for the full-size spare. The 60/40 split rear seats have remote releases and a large pass through. The trunk opening is wide and the liftover not too high. The large trunk and big back seat means you can carry fairly large and long items.

Fuel Economy  While the 2017 VW Passat 1.8T SE boasts an impressive highway figure of 38 mpg, our observed fuel economy on the run back from Las Vegas was 28.8 mpg, closer to the vehicles combined 29 mpg city figure. The sedan is also rated at 25 mpg city. You might see a higher number in less spirited driving.

Resale Value  As tested, our Passat was the least expensive vehicle in the group, with a base price of $26,280. The LED lighting package added another $1,095 and delivery is $820 for a grand total of $28,195. That this mid-size family sedan costs nearly $5,000 less than the average transaction price for a new vehicle says something. But in looking at the total picture including reliability and resale, the VW has not historically performed as well as its Asian, or even American, competitors. While you may be able to find a deal going in, especially as VW works hard to overcome the stigma of the diesel scandal, expect that it may cost you on the backend of the equation with a lower value than comparable used cars.

Inside and Out: 2016 Volkswagen Passat


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