By Jason Allan
As the midsize- sedan segment’s only European entry, the 2016 Volkswagen Passat is among the most enjoyable drivers in the class. Even when not on the Autobahn, the Passat’s confidence-inspiring driving dynamics make for a satisfying and relaxing driving experience. But this Passat was designed specifically for North American tastes and preferences – it’s even built in Chattanooga, Tennessee – so it’s also roomy, practical and priced to compete with midsize-sedan staples like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. For 2016 the Passat receives a much-needed makeover to help it compete even better, and is among the first vehicles to offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
With confident styling that stands the test of time, excellent European driving manners, a huge back seat and a whole bunch of newly available safety and convenience technologies, the 2016 Volkswagen Passat blends a variety of appeal into one affordably priced midsize sedan.
Compared to perennial standouts like the Accord and Camry, resale value and long-term reliability aren’t traditional Passat strong suits. If minimizing overall transportation costs is among your key considerations, your new midsize sedan is probably waiting for you at another dealership.
The Volkswagen Passat has been nipped and tucked for 2016, a makeover that includes revised front, rear and interior styling, plus a long list of new technology features. The diesel-powered Passat TDI is on hiatus until further notice, but the lineup gains a sportier-looking new Passat R-Line variant.
Why didn’t the Passat’s 2016 model year update include any significant powertrain or suspension changes? Because it was already among the best-driving midsize sedans on the road. Delivering a sophisticated...
... highway ride that keeps drivers connected and everyone comfortable, the Passat also shows off a playful, athletic side when the opportunities present themselves. Our chief quibble is that the turbocharged engine isn’t particularly smooth to engage in the stop-and-go of city driving, the upside being that it’s among the most satisfying and most efficient engines in the segment. The Passat also offers a 280-horsepower V6, but the added power isn’t worth the added cost and reduced efficiency for most buyers (and the dual-clutch automatic transmission paired with the V6 also hinders off-the-line smoothness).
APPLE CARPLAY AND ANDROID AUTO
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are going to revolutionize in-car infotainment, and the Volkswagen Passat is among the first midsize sedans to offer both. Choose a song, dictate a text message or navigate to a destination with the ease and familiarity of your smartphone.
ADAPTIVE CRUISE CONTROL
Radar-based “smart” cruise control is becoming more common on mainstream vehicles, but it’s still a surprise-and-delight feature in anything this side of the luxury set. Set your speed and the Passat will automatically slow down when it approaches slower traffic, and speed up again when the road is clear.
There’s nothing subtle about the cavernous interior dimensions. If you regularly shuttle NBA players or regular-size adults, the 2016 Volkswagen Passat and its uncommonly roomy rear seat are must-sees. Included in the model’s 2016 update are a redesigned gauge cluster, enhanced details, improved materials and an overdue tech upgrade. Touch-screen control plus Bluetooth and USB connectivity are standard across the line now, and the available Car-Net system that provides Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration also enables a variety of advanced services. For example, your computer can be alerted if your teen driver has exceeded a set speed or boundary.
The changes are subtle at first glance, but the 2016 Volkswagen Passat has been redesigned from the windshield forward to give the sedan a more commanding presence, with a newly sculpted hood, slimmer headlights and bolder grille adding both refinement and strength. The new Passat R-Line variant takes the sportiness a step further, with unique front and rear styling touches, darker 19-inch wheels and more. The Passat’s tech upgrade includes the ability to open the trunk when your hands are full by waving your foot under the rear bumper (when the key is in your pocket or purse).
At its starting sticker price of just over $23,000 with destination charges, the 2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T S has a 170-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission with manual-shift mode, dual-zone climate control, auto headlights, infotainment system with 5-inch display, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, rearview camera, 60/40-split-folding rear seat, cloth seats and Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. Not a bad list.
In addition to a moonroof, leather seats, premium audio and other traditional upgrades, the new Passat offers a long list of modern amenities as you climb the price ladder. Radar-based smart cruise control and semi-automatic parallel parking are great conveniences, while Forward Collision Warning, Lane Assist, and Rear Traffic Alert with Braking are terrific modern safety features. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto enter the picture with VW Car-Net at around $27,000, while keyless entry and push-button start aren’t available for less than about $29,000.
With Volkswagen’s popular diesel engines on administrative leave for EPA violations, the 2016 Volkswagen Passat lineup includes two engines. Most buyers will choose the 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine matched with a 6-speed automatic transmission. With underbody aerodynamic improvements and a couple mechanical tweaks, this combination is now rated to deliver an impressive 38 mpg on the highway, up from 36 mpg last year. Models equipped with the powerful 3.6-liter V6 engine option also feature a quick-shifting dual-clutch automatic transmission with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, both of which combine to deliver even more European feel. All Passats are front-wheel drive.
1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine
170 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
184 lb-ft of torque @ 1,500 rpm
EPA city/highway 25/38 mpg
3.6-liter V6 engine
280 horsepower @ 6,200 rpm
258 lb-ft of torque @ 2,500 rpm
EPA city/highway 20/28 mpg
The 2016 Volkswagen Passat has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) starting around $23,000 with delivery fees and tops out at more than $37,000 when fully loaded. From a features-per-dollar perspective, buyers can expect the Passat to cost more than class leaders like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. The Passat’s reliability record isn’t as strong as many others’ in the class, and that contributes to lower resale values and higher long-term ownership costs. Looking at it another way – the same way many satisfied Passat owners look at it – the Passat is one of the most affordable European sedans money can buy. Just make sure to check the Passat’s current Fair Purchase Price on KBB.com before heading off to make your deal.