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2015 Volkswagen Passat: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2015

The 2015 Volkswagen Passat is the first German family sedan designed just for us. American drivers have quickly warmed to this bigger, cheaper Passat, with more models leaving dealer lots than ever before. Built at VW's shiny new manufacturing plant in Tennessee, the 2015 Passat is as American as a German sedan can be, yet it still offers enough of that European character to feel special.

A bit of history is in order. The Passat used to be known as the fancy European alternative to family sedans such as the Accord and Camry. If it felt more expensive from behind the wheel, that's because it was, costing much more to buy and own than comparably equipped rivals. Volkswagen realized that savvy American consumers weren't in the mood to pay a premium, so they aimed for the heart of the market this time around. Judging by the results, we'd say they hit the bull's-eye.

We especially like the unusual TDI turbodiesel 4-cylinder engine, which delivers great fuel economy and surprising punch, but the 1.8T is certainly an appealing choice on the gas-powered side. Other family sedans may be flashier, but the Passat provides one of the best all-around combinations of performance, features and value.

What's New for 2015?

The 2015 Passat TDI receives VW's next-generation 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine, though it's comparable to the previous TDI engine in terms of output (gaining a modest 10 horsepower) and fuel economy. Otherwise, the Passat is essentially unchanged.

What We Like

Spacious interior; excellent engines; smooth and quiet ride; stellar crash-test scores

What We Don't

Turbodiesel and V6 models are rather expensive

How Much?

$22,160-$36,815

Fuel Economy

All Passats employ a front-wheel-drive layout. The base engine is a 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder rated at 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. With the standard 5-speed manual transmission, it returns 24 miles per gallon in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, while the available 6-speed automatic is virtually the same at 24 mpg city/36 mpg hwy.

The Passat TDI features a turbodiesel 2.0-liter 4-cylinder paired with either a 6-speed manual transmission or a 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual (which works just like a regular automatic, except its shifts are quicker). Output checks in at 150 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. Audible diesel clatter is kept to a minimum, and fuel economy is stellar at 30 mpg city/44 mpg hwy with the manual and 30 mpg city/42 mpg hwy with the dual-clutch automatic.

The Passat V6 packs a 3.6-liter V6 engine that cranks out 280 hp and 265 lb-ft of torque, transforming the Passat into an under-the-radar muscle car. The transmission is the dual-clutch automated manual, a surprisingly sporty choice. Fuel economy is another pleasant surprise: 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy is fairly frugal for such a strong motor.

Standard Features & Options

The 2015 Volkswagen Passat is offered in different versions depending on what's under the hood: 1.8T, TDI or V6. The five main trim levels are S, Wolfsburg Edition, SE, Sport and SEL.

The base 1.8T S ($22,160) comes standard with the 5-speed manual transmission (including a hill-holder feature), 16-inch steel wheels with plastic covers, a tilt-telescopic steering wheel, cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support, air conditioning, a trip computer, Bluetooth and a 6-speaker audio system with an auxiliary input jack.

The 1.8T Wolfsburg Edition ($25,195) adds 16-in alloy wheels, a power driver's seat, heated front seats, synthetic leather upholstery, satellite radio and iPod/USB connectivity.

The 1.8T SE ($27,100) boasts upgrades such as 17-in alloy wheels, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, heated exterior mirrors, rear climate vents and an 8-speaker audio system with an SD card reader and a 5-in touchscreen interface that includes a rearview camera.

The 1.8T Sport ($27,735) offers eye-catching 19-in alloy wheels, a spoiler, shift paddles for the automatic transmission, racy carbon-look interior trim and front sport seats with extra lateral bolstering.

The 1.8T SEL ($32,610) comes standard with a sunroof, 18-in alloy wheels, keyless entry/start, leather upholstery, driver memory functions, a power passenger seat, a 9-speaker Fender audio system, dual-zone automatic climate control and a hard-drive-based navigation system with digital music storage and a larger, 6.5-in touchscreen.

Note that the diesel engine is only offered in TDI SE ($27,915) or TDI SEL ($34,745) trim.

The range-topping 3.6 SEL ($36,815) is the only way to get the V6 engine. It's equipped similarly to the 1.8T SEL and TDI SEL, with most of the extra money going toward all that extra power.

A number of the higher trims' standard features can be added to lower trims via packages or stand-alone options.

Safety

The 2015 Volkswagen Passat comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six airbags (front, front-side and full-length side-curtain). VW's Car-Net telematics system, which includes on-the-go assistance such as GM's OnStar system, is standard on Wolfsburg and higher trims.

The Passat aced the government's crash tests, scoring a perfect five stars in frontal, side and overall crashworthiness. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) similarly awarded the Passat its highest rating of Good in every testing category except the small-overlap front test, where it was rated Acceptable (second-highest rating).

Behind the Wheel

In our interior evaluation of the Passat, we awarded points for the upmarket look of the gauges and the precision feel of the knobs and levers, even if the materials aren't quite as nice as those in older Passats. The front seats offer only modest lateral grip, even with the available sport bolstering, but we're OK with that. The new Passat is definitely more about comfortable cruising than canyon carving.

A word of advice, however: Make sure the front seats agree with your lower back. Some of us find the lumbar area, and indeed, the general shape of these seats, to be less than ideal. As for the rear compartment, the Passat offers so much space back there that we think it's a viable alternative to large cars such as the Toyota Avalon and Hyundai Azera.

On the road, the 2015 Passat is like an athlete after a full-body Novocain massage. You can tell there's some real handling capability in there that a sport-tuned suspension would tease out, but as things stand, there's a strong comfort bias. In ordinary driving, the Passat provides a quiet cabin and generally excellent shock absorption. If we're picking nits, the Passat's structure feels a little less robust over bumps than its German pedigree would suggest, but by the standards of this class, it's more than adequate.

Other Cars to Consider

2015 Ford Fusion -- The Fusion combines practicality, technology and agility like few vehicles at this price. Check out the Hybrid for fuel economy that shames even the stingy Passat TDI.

2015 Honda Accord -- The current Accord is once again a strong all-around contender, though it lacks a diesel option.

2015 Kia Optima -- Before you drive off in a Passat, consider that you might be able to grab a 274-hp Optima SX for around the same price. The SX's fuel economy is quite respectable, while its smooth, strong acceleration puts it on par with the Passat 3.6.

Used Audi A4 -- If you don't need every inch of the Passat's rear legroom, consider the A4, a corporate cousin that's decidedly fancier inside and out. Audi's certified pre-owned program can get you into a low-mileage A4 for the price of a new Passat.

Autotrader's Advice

We're partial to the Passat TDI, as it offers unbeatable fuel economy and range (hybrid rivals aside), along with a healthy turbocharged shove when you goose it. Plus, even the entry-level TDI SE comes pretty well equipped.

Find a Volkswagen Passat for sale

RELATED INVENTORY
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Used 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SE
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Used 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL Premium
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Certified 2015 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T
Certified 2015 Volkswagen Passat
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Used 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SE
Used 2015 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.
2015 Volkswagen Passat: New Car Review - Autotrader