There’s certain elegance to the profile of a well-proportioned sedan.
Sometimes you can only have one car, and that car needs to do everything. For me, that means commuting to the office, driving to meetings around the city, hauling groceries, building material or car parts, and taking my better half for the occasional night out. Despite all the recent interest in crossovers and hatchbacks, my vehicle of choice would still be a traditional mid-sized sedan. There’s a certain elegance to the profile of a well-proportioned sedan, and something with a huge trunk and comfortable spacious interior would suit my needs just fine. When it comes to sedans, the Passat has been near the top of my list for a while now; so I selfishly set myself up for a week with the freshly released 2016 Volkswagen Passat TSI to see if the new car would still be a favourite.
Now, I am probably old fashioned, but I don’t like a sedan that tries to look like something it isn’t. One of the things I love about the Passat is that it’s honest – its exterior design doesn’t allude to being anything more than a tasteful sedan; it’s not writing cheques it can’t cash. The 2016 facelift has brought some subtle changes to the exterior; mostly to the front and rear facsias. What stands out the most to me is the cohesiveness of the entire design. Each line has a purpose, and each detail flows nicely. While the basic design hasn’t changed much over the years, I have no doubt that the designers at Volkswagen have painstakingly worked on every aspect. I am sure some buyers might not notice or care, but the fluidic design is what lends the Passat its stately and elegant look, which I think subtly sets it apart from the competition.
The interior of the new Passat is a perfect complement to the exterior. It’s not immediately impressive, but once you spend some quality time in the car, you can’t help but notice the interior build quality and clean traditional design. All of the controls are right where they’ve always been – easy to reach and intuitive, gauges are simple and easy to read, and the power heated leather front seats make it easy to get comfortable. What sets the interior apart for me though is the fact that every piece fits together perfectly, there are no awkward gaps, no squeaks or rattles, everything feels durable and materials are soft touch matte plastics complemented by matte finish wood.
Just like the exterior, the cabin of the Passat is understated, yet carries a particular elegance that’s achieved through an overall feeling of quality. From a practicality standpoint, I had no complaints about the amount of space or storage up front in the Passat, and the rear passenger legroom is simply massive. The trunk seems a little shallower than other cars in this class, but it’s plenty deep and easily swallowed up our week’s worth of groceries.
A welcomed addition to the inside of the Passat is a new infotainment system. VW’s latest touchscreen is fast to respond and the display looks great. Gone are VW’s proprietary cables in favor of a conventional USB port, and the Bluetooth connection process is now a breeze. The navigation system in my Passat worked just as well, however I am not sure it’s necessary anymore due to the addition of Apple CarPlay to the entire VW lineup (with the exception of the Touareg) for 2016. With the new system, I simply plugged my iPhone into the Passat’s USB port and my phone’s content was instantly displayed on the car’s display screen. This made calling, sending text messages via voice command, and even using map and traffic applications extremely intuitive.
The MSRP on my test car is a very palatable $33,795 for the Highline trim level, which represents the top trim level available for a Passat equipped with the standard 1.8L turbocharged four-cylinder. The only way to get into a Passat with the powerful 3.6L VR6 is to upgrade to the Execline trim for an extra $5000. As you might imagine, the Highline comes very well equipped with gorgeous 18” rims, the larger 6.3” infotainment screen, blind spot detection, adaptive cruise control, leather, sunroof, heated seats all the way around and a serious Fender eight-speaker stereo system. Add those to the standard features already on board lesser Passats and you’ve got a very nice package for under $35,000.
The Passat is equally pleasant on the road too. Even though the 1.8L TSI engine is only rated at 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, it is exceptionally refined for a 4-cylinder. The six-speed automatic does its job well to make the most of the turbo-four’s power. I can honestly say I was never left wanting for more. While perfectly comfortable and competent in the city, like most VWs the Passat really shines out on the highway.
Long distance highway cruising is phenomenally smooth and quiet, and the gearing is just right, keeping the RPMs low enough to maximize efficiency, but not too far out of the turbo’s power band. The steering is nicely weighted and the on-centre feel while cruising along is excellent, the Passat also tracks very well, even on uneven surfaces making for a relaxing drive as you never find yourself fighting the wheel and overcorrecting. This is the type of car where you can get on the highway, set the adaptive cruise control and enjoy the ride as the kilometers just melt away beneath you.
Fuel economy was another strong point of the Passat with my weekly average ending up at 7.8L/100kms in mostly rush hour commuting and all on 87-octane gas as recommended by VW. With the Passat’s large 70L fuel tank filled, the car’s range topped out at 1000kms, that’s pretty impressive for a midsize sedan and it would sure be useful on road trips. With the current controversy around the four-cylinder TDI powertrain, diesel Passats are not being sold at the time of this article’s writing.
By now it has to be pretty clear that I really like the 2016 Volkswagen Passat TSI, and after spending a full week with this one I came away confident that if I were in the market for a competent midsize sedan, the Passat would still be my choice. In such an established and competitive segment it would be easy to find cars that are better that the Passat on certain criteria, namely the Mazda6 and Honda Accord, but the Passat has a certain quality and grace that really sets it apart in my eyes. This is the type of car that I could happily drive every day without complaint; it’s just a great, honest, well-rounded car.
2016 Volkswagen Passat TSI Gallery