VW offers a Passat with Phaeton trimmings
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Published on Mon, Sep 5, 2016
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
Review by Doug Stokes
Photos by Harvey Schwartz & Doug Stokes
Right out of the box thirty-five thousand and ninety dollars seems a pretty steep price for a VW Passat, but of course this one was the very top of the blood line: bells, whistles AND buzzers all present, and, for the most part, sampled and accounted for. (Editor’s note: VW just dropped the price this premium model; more on this later.)
The first thing one notes are the striking lines of the new Passat, crisp folds and creases, a grill that looks like it means business, and a general “Euro-sedan” sense of sitting athletically directly (and ready) over its wheels. The updated shape is adult and (relatively) conservative, no problem with that. Although (privately) I really hope that we all get over that little string of LED headlight gee-gaws soon. Ok, they were a cool fad, but let’s move on.
The fit and finish here is all but faultless, every gap is perfect, and you’ll love the sound the doors and trunk make when they are shut. Of course it did not break my heart that this one came coated in a glorious silver grey. The seating (with both driver and front passenger seat fully electrically-adjustable) is firm, stable and talks directly to my back side about “long ride comfort” solid, support, and adaptable. And the trunk here is so voluminous that it almost warrants its own owner’s manual.
Inside everything works and makes sense. The driver controls are logical and easy to use. Of course there’s a nav system, Bluetooth, heated seats, dual-zone climate control, power sunroof, a Fender-branded sound system, satellite radio, and VW’s own Car-Net. That’s Wolfsburg’s version of a General Motors On-Star type program, that monitors the car and that can be called upon for trip information and that “notifies the authorities” should an accident renders you unable to.
The above package incorporates a Smartphone interface, navigation system, infotainment, and a trial version of the company’s emergency service/remote vehicle health/remote access mechanisms. As I said earlier, a couple of the driving aids (like automated parking help and “front assist w/autonomous emergency braking”) were not sampled on this trip. (There’ll be a sidebar on the VW’s lane departure system and blind spot monitor up following this review.)
Small thing, this one had a perfectly-paced (for me anyway) dead pedal … the place where one’s left size 101/2 can find a solid footing when one decides to bring the aforementioned turbo on line and heads out on a suitably twisty road. If I was going to drive this car longer than the week that we (highly-pampered, over-paid) car reviewer’s get, that little left footrest would really get a workout.
Rear seating is fully compatible with two fully-grown adults and the trunk is (again) no other word for it, gigantic. It’s called packaging and it all goes back to the first (British) Mini with its motor turned sideways in the engine compartment and the transmission and driveline all neatly tucked under the hood. This one is the textbook example of the idea.
Oh, about that engine and transmission. You know that the “T” in the car’s name means “Turbo” and there is a turbo buried somewhere under the hood somewhere (hey, there’s an intercooler* in there too!).
It’ll be hard to show off in a parking lot by just lifting the hood and pointing, but the performance that this 1.8-liter engine delivers will speak volumes for its work.
In point of fact, I actively try NOT to read up on cars that I’m assigned to report on and then have fun guessing stuff like horse power and torque. I was surprised to find out that the Passat 1.8T “only” had 170 horsepower and 184 pounds-feet of torque. I’m usually pretty accurate with my guess after a day or two of driving, but in this case the car felt like it had at least 10 or 20 percent more than the specs stated. Over the years German car horsepower has often felt understated to me, and this Mexican-built VW powerplant carries on that tradition nicely.
The way that the turbocharging is controlled and the way that the automatic transmission handles the power is very nicely done here … plenty of pulling out and passing power and pretty darn good fuel mileage as well, the EPA says 25/38 (city/highway). That’s a big (13 miles per gallon!) difference between city and highway and is due in part to the Passat’s direct fuel injection which uses only the precise amount of fuel for the task that the driver is asking of the engine.
This car is very happy (and very fuel efficient) at sustained freeway speeds. Credit should also go to VW’s very accurate 6-speed automatic transmission which was always in the right gear keeping the Passat precisely geared to the job at hand.
And one more kudo for Wolfsburg: this is the quietest and smoothest 4-cylinder engine that I’ve had a week’s time with in a (very) long time. Don’t fret ... it will growl very nicely when you give it the boot, but it’s actually so quiet I stepped out of the car a couple of times without shutting the engine down, only to have the car beep at me as I walked away with the “key” for it keyless access.
This SEL Premium model is the all-in version of the Passat, no extras, no options (other than color) there are only two numbers on the price sheet, one for the car ($34,270) and one for getting it to the end user ($820). They added up to $35,090 which might make a few people who haven’t priced a Volkswagen lately wince a bit, but this Passat lived up to its price well. (Editor’s note: Volkwagen just dropped the price on several of its models. This one now goes for $30,400.)
Saturated with just about every possible tech and creature comfort feature in the book, the Passat takes on the mantle of cool Euro-tourer: comfort for four, performance, fuel mileage, and (as referred to earlier) clean styling that will keep the car from looking dated for a number of years.
All up the new Passat is a very capable, mid-sized, near luxury sedan; built in (of all places, Chattanooga, Tennessee) that fits the German touring sedan profile quite well. –DS
* That “most part” is an admission that my streak of not testing an “auto-park” feature on any car that I’ve ever driven for this site remains unblemished.
**INTERCOOLING: that’s another bit of tech-wonder that makes turbocharging work so well in these new applications of a (relatively) old way of boosting horsepower. In a turbocharger engine exhaust is routed through a turbine that spins a compressor blade which forces extra air into the engine. Extra air = extra power (because the engine can burn more fuel if it has more air). But … (hang on) that air gets hot when it’s compressed and sending so it though an intercooler before it heads back to the engine makes the air more dense and all the better to make horsepower with my dear.
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For more information about Volkswagen products, go to vw.com.
Name of vehicle:
2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SEL Premium
$22,440 (base model)
$30,990 for the SEL Premium model (vehicle reviewed with no extra-cost options)
EPA fuel economy rating (miles per gallon):
25 city/38 highway/29 combined
1.8 liter DOHC turbocharged, direct-injection four-in-line
Torque: 184 pound-feet
6-speed Tiptronic automatic with sequential manual mode
Electric power-assisted rack and pinion
Front engine, front-wheel drive