2016 Volkswagen Passat: Long-Term Wrap-Up
The time has come to give back our 2016 Volkswagen Passat long-term test car after nearly a year behind the wheel. The sedan racked up some serious miles in the last 10 months -- well over 10,000 -- and each and every member of our staff got the chance to spend some time in it and assess the Passat's drivability, features, quality, performance and appearance. After 10 months behind the wheel, we know this car inside and out -- and here's what we thought.
In the wake of Volkswagen's diesel-emissions scandal, the brand dropped the highly efficient Passat TDI models from its lineup. As a result, we had two choices when picking our Passat: a powerful V6 or a turbocharged 4-cylinder. We went with the 4-cylinder, a 180-horsepower 1.8-liter unit, largely because it's much more popular than the bigger engine. We also chose an upscale SEL model in order to assess as many of the Passat's features as possible.
Not a Class Leader
After a lot of time behind the wheel, one near-unanimous conclusion we reached is that the Passat is a good car -- but not a class leader. "It's unlikely the Passat will ever give Honda execs anything to worry about," we once said. Another time, we remarked that "we like it, but we don't really feel attached to it like we do with the handsome Ford Fusion, the sporty Mazda6, or the practical Honda Accord." We also inevitably compared it to the long-term test car it replaced, our Subaru Legacy, with one editor remarking "I still find myself missing our Legacy, even though the Passat is prettier."
Part of the problem is the Passat's appearance. Despite a recent refresh, it has the oldest design of any midsize sedan on the road -- a look that we called "ho-hum and somewhat dated." We also logged complaints about the seating comfort, with one driver noting that even after fiddling with the seat controls and the lumbar support, it still felt too hard. And there were a lot of complaints about technology, ranging from its navigation system ("Every other time I enter a destination, I am told this destination does not exist.") to its lack of high-tech safety features compared to rivals.
Some Benefits, Though
Despite the drawbacks, we found that the Passat offered some strong benefits, too. The biggest was engine power: Despite the fact that our Passat had the 4-cylinder rather than the muscular V6, nearly everyone who drove it noted its strong performance. "It's not boring to drive," wrote one tester, further noting that "in sport mode, there's ample torque to perk up your day, even if the coffee isn't quite doing it." Another driver, taking out the Passat for the first time, noted that "the first thing I noticed was the ample power of the turbocharged 4-cylinder engine," further remarking that "acceleration is quick enough to excite while pushing you into your seat."
Another Passat benefit was its interior. One editor praised it for being "open and airy," while another mentioned that "the cabin's lack of tacky, plastic design elements avoids cheapening the appearance." Egged on by the interior and the relatively high-end perception of the Volkswagen brand, one of our editors even noted that the Passat seems "a little more special" than rival models -- almost as if "you've made it," compared to, say, a Mazda6.
The 2016 Volkswagen Passat is a good car, but we don't think it's quite at the top of the midsize-sedan class. If you want driving dynamics, as one editor wrote, "the Passat is outshone by the Mazda6 and Chrysler 200." If you want equipment, the Subaru Legacy and Ford Fusion -- and a few others -- beat out the Passat. For dependability, familiarity, and practicality, there's always the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. We liked the Passat, but it's a hard sell over some rivals that do the midsize-sedan job just a little better. As a result, we recommend it if you can get one for a better deal than a rival car -- but otherwise, we'd shop the competition and hold out for the next-generation Passat, which is likely due in the next few years.