2016 VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT
A PLAYER IN THE MIDSIZE SEDAN FIELD
According to a recent story from the Automotive News website, sales of midsize sedans (i.e, Toyota Camry, Honda Accord) are on the wane and could be taken over by compact crossovers (i.e., Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V) by the end of this year.
In fact, the trend is so strong that midsize sedans could actually drop to fourth behind the crossovers, full-size pickups and compact cars by the time all the numbers are in for 2016. Already, RAV4 knocked off the Camry as Toyota’s No. 1 seller for August with 33,171 RAV4s sold to 32,864 for Camry.
The Camry still leads in year-to-date sales 266,746, but the RAV4 is not far behind at 230,942.
(You can check all this out by clicking here for the Automotive News story (subscription required) or here for all the sales figures through August.)
I bring this up now because there is a touch of irony here. As the overall numbers go down, this is probably the deepest field of midsize sedans in quite some time, maybe ever. Many approach entry-level luxury sedans when it comes to styling, quality, and technology while rivaling smaller cars in terms of handling and fuel economy.
The options are myriad, and I’m not talking exclusively traditional segment leaders Camry and Accord here. The Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Mazda6, and Subaru Legacy are worthy of being on your shopping list as well.
So, too, is the sedan I had last week, the 2016 Volkswagen Passat.
When it showed up in my driveway, I was looking forward to getting behind the wheel because my wife has driven a Passat wagon for several years now and we both like it very much. I was curious to see if the 2016 VW Passat sedan lived up to my expectations, and I’m glad to say it did.
Oh, it’s not perfect (I’ll get into that with my comments on what I liked and didn’t like about it) but I’ll stack it up pretty much against any of its competitors.
As with most German cars, the interior has a luxurious feel to it, not necessarily nicer but bolder than what you find on the models from the other side of the world. At the risk of being labeled a sexist, I’d say the emphasis on the darker interior colors gives off a more masculine ambiance, especially with leather seats that are standard on the top-of-the-line Passat SEL and SEL Premium models.
Built in VW’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Passat is offered in five trims (S, R-Line, SE, SEL, and SEL Premium), all front-wheel drive with either a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder or a 3.6-liter VR6 under the hood. The 1.8-liter is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and the V6 to a six-speed automated manual (DSG) shiftable with steering wheel-mounted paddles.
The four-banger is rated at 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque with estimated fuel economy of 25 miles-per-gallon city, 38 highway, and 29 combined, which the company notes is an improvement of 2 mpg over the 2015 model. Numbers for the VR6, available only on the SEC Premium models, are 280 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque drinking premium fuel at the rate of 20/33/28. Fear not. The company says you can also use regular fuel with the VR6.
The SEL-Premium model I had featured the four-banger, but it certainly didn’t lag when it came to performance. Edmunds.com clocked the 1.8 SEL’s zero-to-60 mp time at 7.7 seconds. Not surprisingly, the VR6 made the trip in over a second quaicker at 6.4.
Pricing for the 2016 VW Passat starts at $23,260 (including the $820 destination and delivery charge) for the 1.8T S models and tops out with an MSRP of $36,835 for the V6 SEL Premium.
The 1.8T SEL Premium I had, which included such standard features as keyless entry with push-button start, navigation, 18-inch alloy wheels, LED automatic headlights, power sunroof, dual-zone climate control, power front seats with lumbar support, adaptive cruise control, blind spot warning and lane departure warning systems, Bluetooth communications, and a rear-vision monitor, came in at $35,090.
What I liked about the 2016 Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium: There is a near luxury feel to this car. It handles well, and the ride is comfortable and quiet. You can adjust the radio and A/C blower and temps with knobs on the center stack! Whoopee!
What I didn’t like about the 2016 Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium: The screen for the navigation system is on the small side and it’s not easy to read what’s there at a glance. Responses to the voice commands can be erratic (or maybe that’s just me). Phone calls came in through the system without ringing a couple of times, which I found strange.
Would I buy this car? Yes, and I’d go for the SEL Premium if it was in my budget. If it wasn’t, I would look over one of the lower trims. In any case, forget what you may have heard/read about VW’s fudging on diesel emissions testing. That has nothing to do with the 2016 (or 2017) Passat.