Technically, the Volkswagen Passat is not dead yet; VW will end production after 2022. In spirit, though, the once venerable sedan nameplate has been dead since 2019, when VW introduced the “new” second-generation NMS version for America — a car that was the same dated sedan the carmaker had been selling for some time. Well, not exactly the same: worse. Volkswagen stripped the six-cylinder engine and manual transmission options that made previous Passats exciting.
Nixing the Passat shouldn't bewilder anyone. No one wants a midsize sedan anymore — unless it’s a complimentary upgrade from Hertz. SUVs now make up more than 70% of Volkswagen’s American sales; so VW, naturally, is adding new crossovers like the Taos and cutting classic nameplates like the Golf and the Passat.
Still, the swift demise is an ignoble end for the Passat, which has been and continues to be a great value sedan. Here are five reasons not to sleep on the Volkswagen Passat.
I drive fancy cars almost every week; my friends and relatives are accustomed to it. But the mainstream Passat elicited unsolicited comments about how expensive it looked inside and out. The Passat still fulfills its mission: doing a passable impression of the sophisticated, business-like Audi A6 for about half the price. The interior material quality feels a cut above entry-level VWs. The Passat isn’t super-flashy or avant-garde, but there’s no need for it to draw attention to itself.
The only engine to be found in the Passat now is VW’s 2.0-liter inline-four putting out 174 horsepower, which comes with a sub-optimal six-speed automatic, rather than the eight-speed automatic, the seven-speed DSG or the six-speed manual VW could have pulled out of its parts bin. But the Passat still delivers a smooth ride, thanks in part to its hearty 206 lb-ft of torque. It’s not as engaging as a GTI, but it handles confidently. And while I wouldn’t recommend steering the vehicle dad-style with one palm, the Passat’s steering is perfectly weighted to do that.
Midsize sedans are practical in general, and the Passat is a particularly practical midsize sedan. The rear seating area is spacious, whether you’re packing in multiple car seats or multiple full-size adults. The trunk is surprisingly voluminous and more than adequate for strollers and miscellaneous family gear. Sure, the Passat doesn’t come with VW’s 4Motion all-wheel drive, but it does pretty much everything else families buy crossovers to do.
VW revolutionized its infotainment system for the ID.4, delivering it with a newfangled digital cockpit and haptic-feedback touchscreen "buttons." The Passat, however, comes from an alternate universe where Volkswagen just updated the previous system, which had a very intuitive layout. The analog instrument cluster presents salient information clearly, without bombarding you with notifications. The climate and volume knobs feel natural. The steering wheel features physical buttons you can’t inadvertently graze under spirited driving. The touchscreen doesn't dwarf an iPad, but hey, it works.
I drove the top-tier R-Line trim Passat: it came fully loaded for $29,995. With the destination charge, the total came out to $30,990. So you can get a premium Passat for about $7,000 less than an absolute barebones Arteon — and $15,000 less than the equivalent R-Line trim. And for 2022, VW is making the R-Line $700 cheaper, to make way for the Limited Edition model with fetching green metallic paint and perforated leather seats for just $30,295.
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