Volkswagen’s midsize Passat sedan was refreshed for the 2016, including every body panel from the A-pillar forward. Can’t tell? That’s to be expected: Volkswagen is into subtle, conservative updates like these, especially when it comes to its staid sedans. The rear fascia also received sharper bodywork, though we probably won’t see VW enthusiasts going nuts over the bland design. After all, that’s not who the Passat is aimed at.
I spent a week in the refreshed 1.8T model equipped with one of two gasoline engines on the menu now that the TDI diesel is gone and not coming back — and found it a very solid and capable effort that benefitted from the updates inside and out; some interior bits even reminded me of the first-gen Audi A8 that I once owned.
The 1.8T here pumps out 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque but it feels like more. Even though the engine can be persuaded to rev, it’s more often polite, and the six-speed automatic transmission works through the gears efficiently and generally keeps things very buttoned down, like the rest of the Passat.
The Passat feels the same rolling along at 20 mph as it does at autobahn speeds; there is very little change in terms of engine, road, tire and wind noise; that’s almost as impressive as the 38 mpg highway this sedan serves up on paper. I managed to get a few mpg more when not in a hurry, a pretty impressive statistic that makes the departed TDI model almost moot. The more powerful VR6 engine, by the way, is rated at 28 mpg on the highway compared to this inline four.
When pressed on back roads the Passat delivers, offering surefooted handling with moderate body roll, staying well-controlled in the twisties. This is not a car that likes being pushed to its limit, unlike a Golf, but it doesn’t serve up scary results if you give it a workout.
The Passat has gained sharper creases but kept its conservative looks.
The changes on the inside aren’t as noticeable — the interior is still a sea of black plastics, though none of them feel cheap or excessively hard. VW has updated the MIB II infotainment system which still feels a bit dated, though it is easy to get used to with familiar smartphone pinching and swiping motions. If all you really need is Sirius XM and navigation in those instances when you’re in an unfamiliar area, it works just fine.
If I had to spend my own money on a new midsize sedan the Passat would be near the top of the list thanks to its road manners. The version that I drove was optioned up to $31,315 and a lot of the basic goodies were already included in that reasonable price. For those who need something larger and less emotional than the Golf, the Passat isn’t a bad way to go