2018 Volkswagen Passat Review

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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Andrew Ganz Andrew Ganz
November 7, 2017

The 2018 Volkswagen Passat does little wrong, but its stoicism means it isn’t much fun.

The 2018 Volkswagen Passat is a mid-size sedan that’s heavy on practicality but light on personality. It’s roomy, powerful, and well-equipped with advanced safety tech, but the Passat was designed to check boxes and not to thrill consumers.

We’ve rated the 2018 Passat at 6.7 out of 10 points. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

This year, a larger, more powerful turbo-4 is standard on most Passat trim levels. A new Passat GT variant adds some—but not too much—spice to the lineup and the automaker has shuffled around some standard and optional equipment on each trim level.

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The Passat lineup consists of S, SE, SEL, GT, and R-Line trim levels. Most Passats you’ll find on dealer lots have a new 2.0-liter inline-4 engine under their hoods. This turbocharged engine puts out 174 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque and it shuttles power to the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic transmission. Optional on the Passat SEL and standard on the Passat GT is a 3.6-liter V-6 rated at 280 hp and 258 pound-feet of torque also paired to a 6-speed automatic and front-wheel drive.

We’ve driven Passats and we’ve driven other VWs with the new turbo-4, but we’ve not had the opportunity to pair the two together. In other VWs, the engine is smooth and responsive, but given the sedan’s 3,300-pound curb weight, acceleration likely will be adequate rather than fast. The V-6 is much stronger, but also much thirstier at 22 mpg combined versus 29 for the inline-4.

The Passat’s steering is light but responsive and its chassis delivers a firmer ride than some more softly sprung rivals. Don’t confuse that with sportiness, but the Passat is composed and confidence-inspiring on a curvy road.

Where the Passat really excels is inside. Although sized a little narrow compared to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, the Passat’s interior boasts true stretch-out room in the back seat and mostly high-grade materials. A nearly 16 cubic-foot trunk is another asset.

At the entry level, the Passat S can feel basic—it lacks the heated seats, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, and keyless ignition we’ve come to expect at around $24,000. Rivals mostly offer more for less. Higher-spec Passats are more loaded, and they’re a better value for the money. In our eyes, the sweet spot is the Passat SE at about $27,000 with its standard automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, synthetic leather upholstery, moonroof, CarPlay/Android Auto, and dual-zone automatic climate control.

Every trim is available with automatic emergency braking and the Passat has generally scored well in crash-testing.

5

2018 Volkswagen Passat

Styling

Want to blend in? The 2018 Volkswagen Passat is the sedan for you.

The 2018 Volkswagen Passat’s styling will offend few, thrill fewer. It’s a solid 5 out of 10, a perfectly average sedan with not a single line out of place but no memorable cues inside or out. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Even this year’s new Passat GT won’t raise your heart rate.

The Passat follows a conventional three-box shape and its exterior is dressed up with hints of chrome on higher-spec models. Alloy wheels are standard at every level, but even their designs are hardly inspiring.

The GT channels the company’s Golf GTI with blacked out exterior trim and a thin red line grafted into its grille, but even its 19-inch alloy wheels won’t garner more than a brief second glance.

The Passat is a wallflower, albeit one without a single hair out of place.

It’s much the same story inside with clean lines and a high degree of functionality, but little emotion. Audio and climate controls are grouped separately on the symmetrical dashboard, which makes them easy enough to locate at a quick glance. The cloth trim standard on the Passat S has a nice, thickly woven look and the leatherette fitted to all but the SEL (which has real leather hides) looks like it’s the real McCoy.

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2018 Volkswagen Passat

Performance

The 2018 Volkswagen Passat has good road manners.

The 2018 Volkswagen Passat is available with two engines, but neither turns it into a thrilling sports sedan. We’ve awarded the lineup a single point above average for a comfortable ride. It gets a 6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Most Passats leave the automaker’s Chattanooga, Tenn., assembly plant with a turbo-4 engine. This year, it’s a 2.0-liter unit that’s a little larger but not much more powerful than last year’s 1.8-liter. By the numbers, it checks in with 174 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque, the latter of which comes on at a low 1,500 rpm. A 6-speed automatic shuttles power to the front wheels.

We’ve not yet driven a Passat with the new 2.0-liter, but we have driven this engine in the smaller Jetta and have found adequate, if not exactly exciting performance. Tack on a couple hundred pounds to get to the roughly 3,300-pound Passat and it’s easy to imagine acceptable acceleration.

Included with the Passat GT and optional on the SEL is a 3.6-liter V-6 engine rated at 280 hp and 258 lb-ft—figures VW achieved using premium fuel, not the acceptable regular unleaded. A 6-speed automatic again sends power to the front wheels only. The V-6 is a strong performer that delivers confident passing power, albeit with more underhood grumbling than we’d like to see at these prices.

A turbodiesel was once offered on the Passat, but it’s gone after VW admitted to cheating on federal emissions tests. Don’t look for another Passat TDI any time soon—if ever.

Most Passats share the same suspension tuning, which is relatively taut and delivers good body control without feeling too harsh over rough pavement. Larger alloy wheels like the 19-inch units on the R-Design amplify road imperfections, so shop carefully if you live where the tarmac resembles the moon’s craters.

Though the Passat’s suspension is more for comfortable touring than corner carving, its light, direct steering is a delight to hustle along on a curvy road.

This year’s new Passat GT has a firmer suspension and its own steering parameters, but we’ve not driven one yet. We’ll update this space when we’ve had more time behind the wheel.

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2018 Volkswagen Passat

Comfort & Quality

A roomy back seat tops the list of the 2018 Volkswagen Passat’s interior virtues.

The 2018 Volkswagen Passat delivers above average interior space, especially for rear-seat passengers and for luggage. Its interior isn’t particularly dressy, even in high-zoot SEL trim, however.

The Passat earns 7 out of 10 available points for comfort and quality. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

All Passats come standard with a power-adjustable driver’s seat. A full-power passenger seat is included on higher trims. The base Passat S features durable fabric upholstery. Synthetic leather is included on the SE, GT, and SEL, while the SEL’s Premium package includes real leather. VW’s leatherette is tough and reasonably convincing, plus it will wear better over time than actual leather.

While the front seats are comfortable, it’s the back seat that earns the Passat its real accolades. It’s positively palatial, with much of the sedan’s nearly 118 cubic-feet of interior volume allocated to row two. Three abreast can be tight, but two passengers will feel like they’re in a small limousine. Similarly, the Passat’s 16 cubic-foot trunk has a wide opening and a flat floor.

Also helping the Passat is its low window line and skinny roof pillars, which offer a terrific view out compared to rivals with increasingly low roof lines. That’s a trade-off for the Passat’s upright, dull exterior styling, and it’s fine with us.

Where the Passat comes up short is its interior finishes. Every Passat we’ve driven has had a tight, quality feel, but chintzy plastics abound. That’s acceptable at the Passat’s lower end, but dressier models easily top $30,000 without any improvement in interior materials.

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2018 Volkswagen Passat

Safety

Good crash test results and a high level of standard and available collision-avoidance tech help the 2018 Volkswagen Passat score well for its safety.

Most versions of the 2018 Volkswagen Passat come from the factory with a high level of advanced safety tech and the four-door has earned good results in crash-testing.

Overall, the 2018 Passat rates 8 out of 10 for safety. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

All Passats come with a rearview camera, anti-lock brakes, six airbags, and stability control. Optional on the base Passat S and standard otherwise are automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts. On the Passat S, those features run a reasonable $495.

SE and higher trims include adaptive cruise control.

In government testing, the Passat earns five stars overall—albeit just four stars for rollover and front-crash protection.

The IIHS rates the Passat a Top Safety Pick when the sedan is fitted with automatic emergency braking. Its headlights rate “Poor,” which prevents it from scoring Top Safety Pick+ honors.

Additionally, the Passat doesn’t offer the same impact protection for front seat passengers as it does for drivers, according to the IIHS. VW’s mid-size sedan scored just a “Marginal” rating in the passenger-side small-overlap test, while it earned a “Good” when the same test was conducted on the driver’s side. The IIHS says that this could mean that the Passat was engineered specifically for its test, but the results don’t yet factor into the Top Safety Pick award.

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2018 Volkswagen Passat

Features

The 2018 Volkswagen Passat is available in a wide array of trim levels and a fantastic warranty, but not all represent a great value.

The 2018 Volkswagen Passat is available in five different trim levels, but the value equation varies considerably. Base models are spartan, but the mid-level SE is loaded up with safety, luxury, and convenience features and a reasonable price. Moreover, the entire range now includes a 6-year, 72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty that lifts the Passat to a 7 out of 10 here. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

The Passat S is the gateway to the lineup at $23,845 including a mandatory $850 destination charge. It’s not missing much, but rivals almost universally offer more for the money on their base trims. You’ll find power windows and locks, keyless entry, air conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, an audio system with a single USB port and a 5.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, and a rearview camera. Optional—and worth the money—is a $495 package that includes automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, and rear cross-traffic alerts.

For an extra $2,000, the Passat R-Line adds some sporty styling touches, 19-inch alloy wheels, synthetic leather upholstery, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual-zone automatic climate control, a 6.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitors, rear cross-traffic alerts, and paddle shifters. That’s not much coin for a lot of additional features.

Next, the Passat SE drops the body kit and 19-inch wheels but adds a moonroof, keyless ignition, and 17-inch alloy wheels for a hair over $27,000.

Optional on both R-Line and SE trims is a package with LED headlights. SEs can be further upgraded with the Technology Package that adds navigation, remote start, a trunk that can be opened with a kick under the rear bumper, heated rear seats, and 18-inch alloy wheels for a little over $30,000.

The Passat SEL builds on the SE’s Technology group with real leather upholstery, a Fender-branded audio system, and a power passenger seat for an additional $2,000. Another $3,000 buys the V-6 engine, which seems awfully expensive to us.

This year’s new Passat GT is specified about like a Passat SE, except with the V-6 and a firmer suspension.

All in, the priciest Passat runs $35,500, but we’d stick with the balanced value of the Passat SE.

This year, the bumper-to-bumper warranty grows to the industry’s best: 6 years or 72,000 miles after the car is sold new, whichever comes first. Unlike big warranties offered by some rivals, VW’s can be transferred to the next owner.

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2018 Volkswagen Passat

Fuel Economy

The 2018 Volkswagen Passat offers competitive fuel economy, as long as you stick with the turbo-4 engine.

The 2018 Volkswagen Passat sedan is thrifty when powered powered by the standard turbo-4 engine. We can’t say the same about the optional V-6, however.

Our 7 out of 10 score here is calculated from the base engine, which is rated at 25 mpg city, 36 highway, 29 combined. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

That engine comes standard on the Passat S, SE, SEL, and R-Line trim levels and is designed to run on regular unleaded. Optional on the SEL and included with the Passat GT is a 3.6-liter V-6 that guzzles at a rate of 19/28/22 mpg, VW says. The optional V-6 runs on regular fuel, but VW says that owners will achieve better performance when they use premium unleaded.  

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$22,995
MSRP based on 2.0T S Automatic
 
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6.7
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 5
Performance 6
Comfort & Quality 7
Safety 8
Features 7
Fuel Economy 7
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2018 Volkswagen Passat Pricing Insights

  • 2018 VW Passat offers a new base engine
  • Rebates: $1,000 bonus cash + $500 college grad credit
  • Finance: From 0% APR for 72 months
  • Lease: Previously from $229 per month for 36 months
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