Hi, I’m Chris Wardlaw for CarGurus, and today I’m driving this 2016 Volkswagen Passat. It’s built in Tennessee, and it’s designed for Americans who like a cushy ride, big seats, and a giant trunk. There’s more to the Passat than meets the eye, especially one painted in kind of a dull tone of silver with silver wheels and a gray interior. Let’s go for a drive, and I’ll explain why this is one of the most unfairly overlooked cars in its class. If you’re wondering what my test car is, it is the SE trim level with the optional lighting package. So the base price is about $27,100, and that includes the $820 destination charge. And with the lighting package, this one is selling for between $28,000 and $28,500. Now when you consider that the average American spends about $34,000 on a new car in this country, that is a bargain. And Volkswagen is usually giving deals on this car. Under the hood we have a turbocharged 1.8 liter 4-cylinder engine. Makes a hundred and seventy horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque.And those are not very impressive figures for a car this size until you put that into context. So the horsepower is made at 4,800 rpm, and the peak torque comes on at 1,500 rpm and is available basically until peak horsepower kicks in. So even though the numbers themselves aren’t that impressive, it’s the way the engine makes the power that really gives this car an unexpected level of accelerative energy. That’s connected to a 6-speed automatic transmission. You’ve got a sport mode, and you have a manual shift mode. There are no paddle shifters here on the steering wheel, so you have to use the stick if you’re going to manually shift. You push it up for an upshift, you push it back or down for a downshift. Completely intuitive.Now even though the Passat is built in the United States of America, it has traditional German driving dynamics. It really does a great job of communicating what is necessary to be communicated to the driver. The steering is light. It’s effortless. It’s precise. It’s not particularly fast, but that’s okay for this kind of car. It’s real easy to maneuver this vehicle in a crowded parking lot. And the brakes worked just fine. I did find, though, that when I was kind of wallowing through traffic, a lot of stop-and-go activity, the brake pedal does tend to feel maybe a little bit sticky, and it’s a little bit grabby from time to time. The thing that I
think most people will really like, though, is that it seems like the suspension was tuned by Buick, and that doesn’t sound good until I explain why I’m saying that. There’s this waftability to this car’s driving character. It just kind of glides over the pavement; it soaks up all the irregularities. And yeah, there’s a little bit of excessive body motion depending upon the size of the dips that you’re going over, but otherwise, I mean, you want a car that soaks everything up.Now if you can combine that with a car that has no problem getting around the next Exit ramp with a good bit of speed or entertains you when you want to take the long way home after a hard day at work, the Passat does a great job in that respect. I mean, there’s a German driving dynamic here, but it’s not the kind that you would expect. This car does not beat you up. Another great thing about the Passat is it is really roomy inside. I mean, this thing, in my opinion, might as well be a full-size car. The front seats are comfortable. My SE test car has got an 8-way power driver’s seat that includes lumbar support.I wish it were a 10-way adjustable seat because I’d like it if the bottom cushion could tilt like this to give me additional thigh support. The front passenger seat has a manual height adjuster, but the real story on the interior is the back seat. It’s positively huge. I get back there. I’ve got fairly long legs. I can cross my legs with no problem without contacting the front seats. And check this out: if you have kids that are still in car seats, you know how if there’s not a lot of clearance between your seat back and their feet, you get to feel that the entire time you’re driving them somewhere? That’s impossible in the Passat.They can’t reach. It’s awesome. Volkswagen made some design changes to the outside of the Passat this year. The whole front end and the hood – all new. Trunk lid, rear bumper, taillights – all new. New wheel designs too, even though a few of them look just like last year’s wheels. Unless you are familiar the previous Passat, you’re probably not going to notice. It’s not to say the changes aren’t warranted and they’re not appreciated, because they are, but they’re just, they’re hard to identify unless you are already familiar with the old Passat.Inside Volkswagen has also updated the interior. You’ve got a new dashboard, a new
center stack, a new steering wheel. Got some revised seat coverings. And the overall effect is fairly upscale. There’s this really nice trendy wood-tone trim on the dashboard. It looks just like the gray laminate that everybody seems to be using on their houses these days. And you’ve got this almost metallic detailing on the dashboard. It’s got some gloss black trim here. Got some extra chrome detailing. It’s kind of, you know, it’s midway between a base Jetta and an Audi. So it looks upscale. Now the thing is, is that it really only looks upscale from about the midpoint in the cabin up. You’ve got fabric-wrapped windshield pillars, a really nice headliner, soft-touch material on the upper door panel and on the dashboard. Everything below that midpoint, though, is hard plastic. Now it’s not awful because you can’t see, like, the flash lines on the map pockets.It’s, it’s refined plastic, and this is thick plastic. I mean, these door map pockets don’t even wiggle when I grab them, right. That’s a sign of quality. It’s just the fact that it’s hard plastic, and I think that sometimes people are buying a Passat expecting a cut-rate Audi, and they’re not getting that, and then they’re disappointed in the interior materials’ quality. I don’t think there’s any reason to be, because just like every other car that competes in this class, everything below the midpoint’s hard plastic, and it’s fine.The SE model has leatherette seats. You can get cloth seats in the base S and the sporty looking R-Line, leatherette in the SE, and then for the SEL and the SEL Premium you get genuine leather. I really don’t like the leatherette. I’d really rather have cloth, and the reason is because it doesn’t breathe well. The week I had this vehicle, it was February, but it was almost 90 degrees in L.A., and it just traps sweat.If you get into this car and the interior’s hot and you’re hot because maybe you’ve been on a hike or you’ve been with your kids at the playground or whatever, it just traps the sweat. It just sits there, and you’re just wet, and it’s disgusting. I really like the control layout in the Passat. It’s fairly simple. Everything’s right where you expect it to be, and they use actual buttons and knobs. I don’t have to fiddle around with the screen. I don’t have touch sliders. I don’t have to do everything by voice commands because
everything else is too hard. It’s really simple and easy. Also historically one of the big complaints about the Passat just the past few years has been with the infotainment systems, and those were legitimate complaints. This year, all-new infotainment systems. They work great. They’ve got smartphone projection technology like Apple Car Play and Android Auto and even MirrorLink. There’s a bunch of upgraded safety equipment in this vehicle, and it all works great.The problem is that the screens are still too small. I’ve got the upgraded system in this test car. The screen’s only 6.3 inches across. The standard in this class is probably 8 inches at this point, and in the not-too- distant future I would expect that screens are going to be getting even bigger. Another nice feature of the infotainment system is that it comes with Car-Net, which is Volkswagen’s subscription service program, and basically what that supplies, if you’ve got an active subscription, is things like automatic collision notification, emergency calling.You can set speed and boundary alerts in case you have a teenage driver in the house. You can use your smartphone to find out where the car is at any given time. There’s a lot of useful things associated with Car-Net. You just have to willing to pay extra for them. More new stuff this year includes forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking. That is standard on all Passat SE, SEL, and SEL Premium models; and when that system is included in the car, the Passat gets an Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick Plus rating. That’s because Volkswagen this year also updated the front structure of the car to provide better crash protection. All Passats get a Top Safety Pick, but only the ones with automatic emergency braking get the Top Safety Pick Plus rating.The Passat also gets a 5-Star rating from the federal government for crash- test performance, and if you get the SEL Premium, you can get active versions of lane-keeping assist and blind-spot assist. Blind-spot warning is available on the SE, but you have to get the optional Technology package. Now one of the nice things about the Passat is it’s got a really big trunk. It measures 15.9 cubic feet; and when you pop it using the remote, it actually opens all the way up, and that doesn’t always happen in all cars. Now the upper trim levels this year get a new hands-free system
where as long as the fob is on your person, you wave your foot underneath the trunk, and it’ll open, but my test car doesn’t have that.Now you can see once you look inside here, that the space is really nicely configured. You can fit 2 full-size suitcases side by side. This will also stack sideways, so you can slide 3 in there or 4. And look at all the space you’ve got for a stroller or other duffel bags back here. There’s a separate compartment over here for, you know, carrying, like milk jugs or something. And then to release the back seats to expand space, you just pull on that.Volkswagen also thoughtfully puts grab handles on both sides. Now this is important because if the car’s backed up against the wall, and the handle’s over here, but you’re on this side of the car, now you’re a little bit angry. You got to walk all the way around. With the Volkswagen, it doesn’t matter which side, you just swing it right shut. The Volkswagen Passat sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? So why aren’t more Americans buying them? My guess is that people are concerned about reliability. After all it’s the number one thing people consider when they’re buying a new car outside of styling. Now according to Consumer Reports, ever since the Passat was redesigned for 2012, it’s seen a big improvement in that area.In fact the majority of the complaints about the car seem to be centered on the infotainment system, and for 2016 Volkswagen’s got new infotainment systems with more features and a much better user experience. Now personally I think this Volkswagen deserves your consideration, because nothing in the midsize segment does the same thing as this Volkswagen in terms of combining value, space, safety, fuel economy, and enjoyable driving dynamics quite like the tastefully detailed Passat. For more details about this car, be sure to check out my full review of the Passat on CarGurus.com, and for all of us here at CarGurus, thank you for watching. One of the nice things about the Passat is that it’s got a huge trunk. It’s 15.9 cubic feet, and when you pop it using the remote. Well, that locked the doors. Helps to hit the trunk button. Alright, you ready? .