With the exception of full size trucks, the midsize sedan category has to have the toughest competition in the new car market. Imagine having to compete with the likes of Camry, Accord, Fusion, Optima, Sonata and a dozen others.
Never-the-less, the Volkswagen Passat is an excellent competitor in that category and in some respects has an advantage over the others being the only German entry in the category, but it is built in the United States. Even though most of the cars in the category are good to excellent, the German cars seem to have a slight edge on driving quality.
Volkswagen took a new tack when the Passat was redesigned and engineered for the 2012 model year with an emphasis on appealing to the American shoppers. The car is significantly larger than the previous model mimicking the size of the popular Japanese midsize imports and then they made a significant price reduction, too. The American influence is especially noticeable on the interior which includes abundant drink holders, storage areas and well-thought out control placement on both the center stack and steering wheel.
The 2015 Volkswagen Passat design is a clean update from the 2012 model which set a new family design direction when it was introduced. The front end makes the car look wider with it?s three bar grille and wide lower air inlets. The sides are clean and angular and are topped by the flowing roofline that hints of four-door coupe.
Inside is classic Volkswagen simple and business-like with room for five adults. The Passat also has a spacious 15.9 cubic foot cargo area that easily handles three or four sets of golf clubs or four large suitcases.
The instrument panel is similar to the Volkswagen flagship Touareg SUV. Upper level models have more chrome and wood trims plus they feature VW?s Car-Net? communications services. A rear view camera is available on all models. Our only complaint is with the navigation screen, which we feel is mounted too low on the center stack.
The Passat seats are very comfortable and supportive and it has a good driving positon. The seat materials are all high quality and range from cloth to perforated V-Tex leatherette seating surfaces to the leather seating which is standard on the SEL models.
The Passat was one of the first Volkswagens to offer the new Fender audio system.? The famous guitar maker?s system produces excellent sounds, but with a different bias than is used in most cars. Because music at concerts comes from in front, Fender uses the same approach to creating sounds in the Passat, rather than surrounding the cabin with music.
The Passat is offered in five trim levels?S, Wolfsburg Edition, SE, Sport, and SEL?with a total of 12 equipment levels. There are two gasoline engine choices for 2015 including a 170-hp turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder (which replaces the previous standard 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine) and the 280-hp 3.6-liter VR6.
The S with the 1.8-liter engine has a standard five-speed manual transmission with an optional six-speed automatic and the TDI SE has a six-speed manual transmission while all other models have Volkswagen excellent six-speed DSG (Direct Shift Gearbox) automatic transmission.
Our Passat 1.8T SE test vehicle had the standard 1.8-liter turbocharged engine with the DSG transmission. Buff magazines list a 0 to 60 mph time of 7.5 seconds. Fuel economy is listed at 24 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. We actually averaged 31.4 mpg during our test week which included about 60 percent highway driving.
New for 2015 is the Passat TDI with the modular diesel matrix engine — Volkswagen?s all-new diesel engine family. The new engine produces 150 horsepower and torque of 236 lb.ft. It delivers an EPA estimated fuel economy of 44 mpg on the highway when equipped with the six-speed manual transmission, giving a range of up to 814 miles on one tank of ultra-low-sulfur clean diesel.
Like all Volkswagens, the Passat has excellent handling characteristics and precise steering. The suspension features damper struts with robust lower control arms, coil springs, and an anti-roll bar. At the rear, there?s a sophisticated four-link independent layout with telescopic dampers and an anti-roll bar. The new electro-mechanical power steering is weighted to provide a balance between precision at highway speeds, and lower steering weight at parking speeds. It also has a tight 36.4-foot turning radius.
The Volkswagen Passat S starts as low as $22,160, including the destination charge, the SE at $27,100 and the top of the line SEL Premium at $32,610. A loaded Passat V-6 SEL Premium tops out at just over $37,000.
The 2015 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE, is a very good value, and enjoyable car to drive. It handles very nicely and still produces a comfortable ride. It?s practical and quite economical too. We?d personally probably spend a little extra and get the TDI diesel which gets about six mpg better fuel economy.