Redesigned For the American Lifestyle
If I was on Volkswagen’s marketing team, I would be pulling my hair out trying to raise awareness of the 2016 Passat with car buyers, let alone get them to buy one. So I will do it for them…let me introduce you to the 2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE, the much overlooked midsize sedan that deserves far better than it is getting from the American public.
Driving Experience: On the Road
Clean Fleet Report’s 2016 Passat SE came with the 1.8-Liter turbocharged/intercooled 16-valve, DOHC inline 4-cylinder engine, putting out 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque through a six-speed automatic transmission. Running on unleaded regular, the Passat 1.8T earned an EPA fuel economy rating of 25 city/38 highway/29 combined. In 421 miles of driving throughout Southern California, I averaged 29.8 mpg with a 75-percent highway/25-percent city driving pattern.
The 2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T is quiet, smooth and responsive, making for a very enjoyable driving experience, partially due to the low 0.29 drag coefficient (cd), which also kept wind noise to a minimum. The six-speed automatic transmission shifted with ease, with torque kicking-in at a very low and usable 1,500 rpm. Having previously tested the 2015 Jetta 1.8T, I can say the 1.8T engine does not suffer from the increased size and weight of the larger Passat. The 1.8T is peppy, in an impressive way, with that low torque kick-in, seamless engine performance from its direct injection and a transmission that has no problem finding the right gear at the right time. In several 0–60 mph runs, we averaged in the mid-seven second range, which served us well for merging onto Southern California freeways.
The SE model I was driving had 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and 215/55/R17 all-season tires. Eighteen- and 19-inch wheels and tires are options. The handling was above average thanks to the strut-type front suspension with coil springs and telescopic dampers and the multi-link, coil springs and telescopic dampers, with an anti-roll bar on both ends. Highway stability was excellent in what was an overall easy and pleasant car to drive.
Weighing-in at 3,263 lbs, the Passat was nimble, agile and even taut with precise handling in part thanks to the electromechanical speed-sensitive power steering, which meant the steering gets lighter to the touch as speed increases. Thankfully, the steering was not too light (as can be a common issue with electric power steering) or programmed to take away the fun of driving. Body roll was almost non-existent, even when pushed above the recommended corner speed limits on Southern California mountain twisties, with the end result a ride control and handling combination that made the Passat fun to drive, if not exactly in a sports sedan category. For that you would want to look at VW’s Golf R or the Passat VR6.
A good handling car is nothing without being able to keep it under control when braking. Our Passat’s stops were straight, true and confident with no brake pedal fade thanks to the standard four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS), power assisted front vented and rear solid discs, electronic stability control, electronic brake pressure distribution and hydraulic brake assist with autonomous emergency braking. These braking and handling technologies go completely unnoticed when driving in normal situations, but are crucial in an emergency.
Driving Experience: Interior
I was driving the nicely optioned Passat 1.8T SE, with the VW Car-Net Connectivity package that included apps for telephone, security and emergency roadside service. The interior fit and finish, which Volkswagen says has updates that are “subtle but significant,” were German tight, with a good mix of soft and hard plastics. There are no design gimmicks, which often can be found on other cars, but you will find chrome accents and trim pieces. The soft-touch dash is clean, simple and well laid-out with the instrument cluster, set behind the multifunction leather-wrapped steering wheel, having a tunnel design with deep-set faces on the large round dials (speedometer and tachometer) to eliminate glare.
The Moonrock Gray heated and perforated, V-Tex leatherette front seats with quartz accent piping were attractive and had better-than-average bolstering. They included a power adjustable driver’s seat (with manual lumbar adjustments) and manual adjustments for the front passenger seat. There was a good choice of seat settings, that, when combined with the height adjustable and telescoping steering column, a comfortable position could be found making for enjoyable long drives. The steering wheel has controls for telephone, radio and cruise control functions, and features a squared-off bottom to the wheel – ala a racecar.
Volkswagen says the 2016 Passat’s new interior was “designed and specifically tailored for the U.S market.” My guess is that is a diplomatic way of saying us Yanks are getting a bit on the hefty side. Regardless, the interior was spacious with access through wide-opening doors allowing for excellent rear leg room (impressive at 39.1-inches). Combined with the arcing roofline, it had ample head room and was just fine for even taller passengers. The rear seat can accommodate three adults, which would be fine for commuting, but, as with most cars, for longer trips two in the rear seat would be preferred for comfort and space. The 60/40 folding rear seat, with a folding armrest and cup holders, is backed by a very large 15.9 cubic feet trunk that provides excellent storage capacity. The GLE trim level has heated rear seats and a foot-activated trunk lid opening feature.
The six-speaker sound system delivers deep, full crisp tones for the AM/FM/CD/HD radio, plus USB and Aux jacks with MP3 playback. Also part of the infotainment system is a capacitive, 6.3-inch touchscreen that controls the radio plus the three-month trial of SiriusXM (a must for those long, fuel efficient road trips), Bluetooth for telephone and streaming music, and VW’s Media Device Interface, or MDI, which includes a SD card slot. Navigation is available on the Passat SE and SEL trim levels, with the fore-mentioned VW Car-Net Connectivity system that included apps for telephone, security, locating a parked car, vehicle service updates and emergency roadside service. Car-Net also has VW’s Family Guardian technology that sends a text or email when pre-set geographical boundaries and speed maximums have been exceeded. Hey kids…Gotcha!
Other conveniences are the power tilting and sliding sunroof, power windows with one-touch operation and pinch protection, dual zone automatic climate control with rear passenger vents, center console with folding arm rest, cupholders and USB port, carpeted floor mats, power adjustable and manual folding heated exterior mirrors and a rearview camera. Another nice touch are the heated, windshield washer nozzles. Living in Southern California heated nozzles may not be used too often, but in cold weather climates they make perfect sense.
The 2016 Volkswagen Passat’s adaptive cruise control is a technology I am relying on more and more; I feel naked when test driving a car that is not equipped with it. Adaptive cruise control uses forward-facing radar to maintain the speed and distance from the car in front. You, the driver, set these parameters from the buttons on the multi-function steering wheel, with all settings and functions appearing on the multifunction display located between the tachometer and speedometer gauges. Adaptive cruise control is different from standard cruise control in that it will slow or accelerate the car based on the driver’s settings. The car, and this is a real trip the first time you experiment with it, will come to a complete stop without the driver pressing on the brake pedal. It may take a couple more decades for autonomous cars to hit our roads, but you will get a feel for what it will be like with advanced driver technologies like adaptive cruise control.
Driving Experience: Exterior
The Passat SE exterior—Clean Fleet Report’s was in Reflex Silver Metallic—has been refreshed for 2016 with subtle changes to the front and rear. Volkswagen’s head of design Klaus Bischoff says
the company “has integrated several new design elements, including a sculpted, domed hood.” Also part of the new design are slimmer headlights and a beefier front four-bar grille that, along with the new hood, give the Passat a “wider, more planted stance from the front.” Out back, the rear for 2016 has a European-style flush license plate area and a chrome strip that makes a connection between the trunk and taillights.
As part of the optional Lighting Package, Clean Fleet Report’s Passat had LED headlights, running lights and taillights.
Overall, I like the conservative-leaning Jetta exterior styling with its clean lines and no useless cladding or body panels. VW calls this “class-up appeal” in which they offer more for less. I agree.
Safety and Convenience
2016 Volkswagen Passats come with six airbags, keyless access, a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and intelligent crash response system (ICRS). The Passat has earned a US Government National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 5-Star Overall Vehicle Score, where 5 Stars is the highest safety rating, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gave the Passat its Top Safety Pick.
Pricing and Warranties
Clean Fleet Report’s 2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE had an MSRP of $27,375 that included the $1,095 Lighting Package. Base prices for the gasoline-powered 2016 Passat models range from $22,440 to $36,835, not including any optional packages you may order. All prices exclude the $825 destination charge.
All 2016 Volkswagen Passat models come with these warranties:
- Basic – Three-year/36,000-mile
- Powertrain – Five-year/60,000-mile
- First Scheduled Maintenance – One-year/12,000-mile
- Roadside Assistance – Three-year/36,000-mile
- Corrosion Perforation – 12-year/Unlimited-mile
Observations: 2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE
The 2016 Volkswagen Passat comes in seven different trim levels with the 1.8-liter turbocharged engine. The good fuel economy, excellent handling and clean styling make the Passat a keen competitor versus others in its class. But, as stated at the start, it will take a savvy shopper such as yourself to visit a Volkswagen dealership, take a lengthy test drive and see how the Passat fits your driving style and needs.
Whatever you end up buying, enjoy your new car and as always, Happy Driving!
Related Stories From Other Midsize Sedans You Might Enjoy (this is one of the most competitive segments in the auto world, so here’s a good run-through of many of the options out there that we have tested):
Road Test: 2016 Kia Optima
Road Test: 2016 Volkswagen Jetta
Road Test: 2016 Honda Accord
Road Test: 2016 Mazda6
Road Test: 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid
First Drive: 2016 Nissan Altima
Road Test: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid
Road Test: 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid
Road Test: 2015 Chrysler 200
Road Test: 2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid
Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at firstname.lastname@example.org.