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2015 vs. 2016 Volkswagen Passat: What's the Difference?

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Doug DeMuro November 2015

Although the latest Volkswagen Passat was released to nearly universal praise when it came out for the 2012 model year, the sedan has started to show its age in recent years. Nearly every rival has been redesigned since the Passat's debut, and virtually all other midsize sedans offer more gadgets and equipment. Enter the 2016 Volkswagen Passat, which boasts a revised look compared to last year's model and a host of other changes designed to help keep it competitive in a crowded field. What has changed? We've created a close comparison between the 2015 Passat and the updated 2016 model to find out.

Exterior

Disappointingly, the Passat doesn't offer any major changes on the outside, retaining its relatively dull design, even in the face of more stylish rivals such as the Hyundai Sonata and the recently revised Toyota Camry. While Volkswagen says most exterior panels on the new Passat have changed compared to the outgoing model, it's hard to spot any real differences unless the two sedans are parked next to one another. Even then, changes are limited to a nip here and a tuck there, rather than a thorough overhaul.

Interior

Like updates to its exterior, changes to the 2016 Passat's interior are relatively minor. Although the revisions will be noticeable to anyone who has spent time in the outgoing model, they're limited to a few new materials, a revised steering wheel and nicer trim on the sedan's dashboard and door panels. The 2016 Passat also now comes standard with a touchscreen, even in base models, which wasn't the case with the 2015 model. Otherwise, the old and new Passat share a relatively similar cabin, including identical amounts of passenger and cargo room.

Mechanicals

The 2016 Passat only offers one major change under the hood: It lacks an available diesel powertrain. Formerly responsible for more than a quarter of Passat sales, the diesel is no longer offered for 2016 in the wake of Volkswagen's recent scandal in which the brand was found to be cheating in Environmental Protection Agency tests measuring vehicle emissions. Volkswagen says the powertrain is likely to make a return sometime soon.

The remaining powertrains are identical between the 2015 model and the 2016 version. The base engine is a 170-horsepower 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, while drivers interested in more power can upgrade to a 280-hp 3.6-liter V6. Even fuel economy numbers remain the same (up to 24 miles per gallon in the city and 36 mpg on the highway with the 4-cylinder and 20 mpg city/28 mpg hwy with the V6).

Features & Technology

To stand out from its predecessor and remain competitive in the face of new rivals, the 2016 Passat most needed an update to its list of available equipment, and that's exactly what it received.

No longer a dinosaur offering only a backup camera and side-curtain airbags as its crowning safety innovations, the latest Passat now boasts all of today's latest safety technology, including items such as adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, automatic park assist, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and more. The newly standard touchscreen also helps keep the car competitive with rivals, as does an overhauled infotainment system that strikes us as easier to use than the outgoing version.

Driving Experience

On the road, you won't notice any major changes to the 2016 Passat compared to last year's model. Depending on your perspective, it may be a good thing.

The Passat certainly finds itself more on the comfort side of the midsize-sedan segment than the sporty side. If you prefer comfort to performance, you'll probably like the Passat for this reason, and you'll be happy to know not much has changed for 2016. If you'd rather have a little pep with your midsize sedan, you might want to look elsewhere. The Passat still feels big, the suspension is soft, and the 4-cylinder is overmatched. The V6/DSG combination is excellent but pricy, and we find it hard to recommend over rival models, which don't charge quite as much for their more powerful engines.

Safety

As we previously mentioned, the new Passat now offers all the latest safety gadgets, including adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, a blind spot monitoring system, lane-departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert. While the former model stood out for its lack of safety technology, the new version offers everything most rivals have -- and a few extras such as automatic post-collision braking and automated park assist that will work in both parallel and perpendicular spots.

Although the latest Passat has not yet been crash-tested by the federal government's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, we think it will retain the 2015 model's perfect 5-star overall rating. We also suspect the car will garner the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's Top Safety Pick+ score, upgraded from last year's Top Safety Pick rating due to its new safety features.

Conclusions

Although the 2016 Volkswagen Passat may look like the outgoing model, it makes changes in two key areas: safety equipment and infotainment technology, both of which were seriously lacking in the outgoing model. Otherwise, the Passat is largely the same car it's always been: a big, roomy midsize sedan for shoppers especially focused on comfort instead of performance.

If you want the gadgets and equipment coming with the face-lifted Passat, we recommend the 2016 model over its predecessor. If you don't need those features or you'd rather have the best possible deal instead of some new technology, we recommend opting for a certified pre-owned version of the outgoing Passat (or a leftover new model) instead.

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Certified 2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T S
Certified 2016 Volkswagen Passat
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Certified 2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T S
Certified 2016 Volkswagen Passat
$12,700
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Certified 2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T S
Certified 2016 Volkswagen Passat
$12,600
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 vs. 2016 Volkswagen Passat: What's the Difference? - Autotrader