Today’s motor-vehicle buyer seems more focused on crossovers, SUVs and performance cars than traditional family sedans. Nevertheless, there is still a small, steady market for a solid traditional four-door with good space for back-seat passengers and a large trunk.
As a consequence, companies with a proven product like the Volkswagen Passat are still promoting its quality – they’re just not investing much in development.
What we drove: The 2018 Passat hasn’t been substantially changed in more than six years, and even with the V-6 engine and the updated top-end SEL Premium version now two years old. Nevertheless, with all of its positive attributes and produced in Tennessee, at a total price of $35,500, the Passat is still an excellent choice for a family that wants a sedan rather than a sport-ute.
What we liked: Power is more than adequate to move the 3,600-pound car, with 280 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, while covering 22 mpg of gasoline (19 city, 28 highway). The exterior is understated – we seem to use that adjective a lot these days to describe VWs – but the real advantages are on the inside of the car. The back seat is tremendous, with 39 inches of rear legroom, and the neat rectangular trunk can hold 16 cubic feet of luggage. On the road, the Passat is an exceptionally quiet and comfortable family cruiser, perfect for long-distance road trips. Although tuning leans more conservative than sporty, the car is easy to drive and predictable while cornering and braking.
Improvements we’d like to see: The Passat SEL includes some modern touches, like smartphone integration, excellent audio, hands-free trunk opening and even cross-traffic sensing, adaptive cruise control and automated parallel parking. However, we’d still appreciate a semiautonomous driving system like those on the Mercedes-Benz and even the Subaru to take the fatigue out of stop-and-go commutes and long-distance interstate drives.
Bottom line: If you prefer straightforward quality and comfort over trendy styling in an almost-SUV, the VW Passat is still delivering an excellent family sedan.