VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT SEL PREMIUM FIGHTING TOUGH BATTLE IN SHRINKING SEGMENT
The midsize family sedan may be a dying breed with the public’s infatuation with crossovers and smaller SUVs at least putting it on life support, but, with the exception of Ford, apparently that doesn’t mean automakers are giving up on the genre.
In fact, of the seven vehicles U.S. News & World Report lists as the “most improved” cars of 2018, four are sedans, including traditional midsize leaders Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.
So maybe there’s a bit of hyperbole when it comes to calling it the “death” of the midsize sedan, but there is no doubt sedan sales are ailing a bit. Of the top 10 selling midsize sedans for 2018, nine showed a decline in sales through May.
This included my recent ride, Volkswagen’s venerable Passat.
Passat sales also were down for June with 3,793 sold for the month, a drop of 28 percent from the 5,267 that were old in June 2017. Year-to-date numbers were even worse. Through the first six months of 2018, VW sold 22,356 Passats, a drop of 36.4 percent from the 35,137 sold in the first six months of 2017.
In addition to the disenchantment with sedans in general, another factor in Passat’s decline could be that VW has made few changes, certainly nothing major, to the Passat’s looks in recent years.
It has tweaked the headlight/foglight treatments a bit and given the 2018 model a sexier rear end, but overall you might have a hard time distinguishing the new Passat from an older one.
This can lead to a false impression that the Passat doesn’t have anything going in its favor and results in the word “aging” appearing in several current reviews.
But its roomy, comfortable cabin, smooth ride, and large trunk give it the kind of attributes many are looking for when shopping in the segment. The dash has a nice, clean look about itAnd if you are seeking something sportier, the GT trim comes with more horsepower and a more aggressive appearance.
The Passat was designed with an American audience in mind, resulting in a more spacious passenger room and a good-size trunk, and the car itself is put together in the company’s assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
U.S. and Canadian sources account for nearly as much content (30 percent) as does that from Germany (36 percent), though both the engine and transmission come from the home country.
The 2018 Passat features two engine options: a new turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 174 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque and a 3.6-liter V6 rated at 280 hp and 258 lb.ft. of torque.
Both run on regular unleaded fuel, though peak power on the V6 is achieved with premium. Each gets a 6-speed automatic transmission with GT and top-of-the-line SEL Premium models getting paddle shifters for manual gear selection.
In fuel economy, the 4-banger is rated at 25 miles-per-gallon city, 36 highway while the V6 gets numbers of 19/28.
In addition to the GT and SEL models, the Passat comes in four other trims — S, R-Line, SE, and SE with Technology starting at just under $23,000. My ride for the week, the SEL Premium, carried a base price of $34,650.
The company also has improved the warranty. As with most other 2018 VW models sold in the U.S., the Passat comes with the People First Warranty, a six-year or 72,000-mile (whichever occurs first) bumper-to-bumper New Vehicle Limited Warranty that can be transferred to subsequent owners throughout its duration.
What I didn’t like about the 2018 Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium: The navigation screen is on the small side, though to be fair it is very clear and easy to see at a glance. I’d like to see a bit better fuel mileage with the V6, but you’ve got to sacrifice something for the extra power.
Would I buy the 2018 Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium? Yes. The sedan segment may be shrinking, but this is a good alternative to a crossover or SUV.