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2018 Volkswagen Passat: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader November 2017

The 2018 Volkswagen Passat midsize sedan comes from a German company, but it was designed and developed especially for North America. It's even built at VW's facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. However, if evidence were ever needed that focus groups and market research aren't always great ideas, here it is.

Despite some standout advantages like a comfortable and quiet cabin, lots of passenger space (39.1 inches of rear legroom) and a huge trunk (15.9 cu ft.), the Passat is not exactly thrilling. It leans toward understatement and being inoffensive. That approach has its own appeal, even if it does make the Toyota Camry seem like a rebellious choice. Another issue is that this is one of the oldest contenders in its class, although VW has at least made some efforts to freshen things up for this year.

What's New for 2018?

A new turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine replaces last year's 1.8, bringing slightly more power and better fuel economy. The entry-level S trim is eligible for a new driver-assistance options bundle that includes forward-collision warning with autonomous braking and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert. Adaptive cruise control is standard at the R-Line level and above. A new GT trim goes on sale in the middle of the model year (think 2018.5) with pricing announced nearer the time.

What We Like

Large interior; lots of technology; cavernous trunk; smooth and quick optional dual-clutch transmission.

What We Don't

Timid styling; unremarkable driving experience.

How Much?

$23,845-$35,500

Fuel Economy

The entry-level engine is a new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder unit making 174 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque. It connects to a 6-speed automatic transmission and drives the front wheels. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 25 miles per gallon in the city, 36 mpg on the highway and 29 mpg in combined driving.

A 3.6-liter V6 (standard in the GT, optional with the SEL Premium) develops 280 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. The transmission here is a 6-speed dual clutch (automated manual) and sends power to the front wheels. Fuel consumption is 19 mpg city/28 mpg hwy/22 mpg combined.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Volkswagen Passat comes in S, R-Line, SE, GT and SEL Premium trim levels.

The S ($23,845) includes 16-in alloy wheels, a power-adjustable driver's seat, automatic post-collision braking system, 60/40 split/fold rear seats, a rearview camera, automatic headlights, 5-in center screen, Bluetooth, a CD player, an auxiliary input and a USB port.

The R-Line ($25,845) adds performance-themed styling touches like 19-in alloy wheels, R-Line bumpers, a rear diffuser, steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters and a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and parking brake handle. Plus dual-zone climate control, heated side mirrors, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision mitigation, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, heated front seats and leatherette seating surfaces.

The SE ($27,145) has 17-in alloy wheels, a power sunroof, keyless entry/ignition, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, shift lever and parking brake handle, as well as satellite radio and a 6.3-in touchscreen.

Anyone looking to add more equipment to the SE should consider the Technology package, which adds $3,300 to the price. It includes hands-free trunk opening, passive entry with a push-button start, rain-sensing wipers, navigation, fog lights, 18-in wheels, ambient cabin lighting, remote start, an 8-speaker audio system, a second USB port and heated rear seats.

The SEL Premium ($32,500) adds LED headlights and taillights, power-folding mirrors, a power-adjustable front passenger seat, leather upholstery, a self-dimming rearview mirror, a full-color driver information display, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assistance, front- and rear-parking sensors, an automatic parallel parking system and a Fender-branded audio system, plus the contents of the Technology package, such as remote start, satellite radio, a hands-free trunk lid, rain-sensing wipers and dual USB ports.

At the time of writing this review, details were still scarce on the GT ($TBA), but it will have the V6 engine and its own design of 19-in alloy wheels. Assuming the Passat GT concept introduced at the 2016 Los Angeles auto show is some indication, the production version should have some aerodynamic body additions, a slightly lower and firmer suspension, sport seats and some cosmetic distinctions like red-painted brake calipers.

At the top of the range is the SEL Premium V6 ($35,500), which uses the V6, dual-clutch automatic transmission and paddle shifters, like the GT, but takes the luxury path.

Safety

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the Passat five stars out of five overall, with four stars for front impact performance and five for side impacts. The car also earned a Top Safety Pick score from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), with maximum scores of "Good" across the board, except for the headlights, which were considered "Poor."

Standard features include side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and an automatic post-collision braking system, while options include adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning with lane-keeping assistance, automated parallel parking and blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

Behind the Wheel

This midsize sedan prioritizes comfort over performance or style, offering decent outward vision, a supple ride, a nice-enough interior and predictable-yet-dull handling. The smooth, powerful V6 and its quick-shifting dual-clutch transmission is impressive. However, the vast majority of drivers will get the 4-cylinder, which seems a bit overwhelmed by the Passat's large size. Still, it offers strong fuel economy and a fairly smooth transmission of its own, so it's probably best to look past the average acceleration.

Other Cars to Consider

2018 Ford Fusion -- Handsome styling, lots of technology, sharper handling and more powertrain choices than the Passat. The VW has a bigger interior, though.

2018 Honda Accord -- A clear class leader thanks to its roomy cabin, excellent reliability and fuel-efficient powertrains.

2018 Hyundai Sonata -- Shares a lot of the Passat's benefits, including lots of technology, competitive pricing and a large, comfortable interior.

2018 Toyota Camry -- Solid, dependable and a perennial best seller. It even has some attitude design-wise.

Used Audi A6 -- For more luxury and premium style, check out a certified pre-owned (CPO) A6.

Autotrader's Advice

An SE with the 2.0-liter engine strikes a good balance between affordability and equipment. The Technology package is an extra $3,300, but adds some higher-end features.

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New 2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T S
New 2017 Volkswagen Passat
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New 2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T S
New 2017 Volkswagen Passat
MSRP $23,580
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New 2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T S
New 2017 Volkswagen Passat
MSRP $23,580
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New 2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE
New 2017 Volkswagen Passat
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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Volkswagen Passat: New Car Review - Autotrader