Looks and feels more luxurious than its competitors, but don’t expect luxury car levels of performance.
The midsize sedan segment isn’t exactly the hottest part of the car world right now. Everytime a sedan tries to say “Hey, I’m comfortable and practical” it just gets punched in the face by a crossover; which is a shame. There are some really comfortable practical sedans out there right now. Like the 2018 Volkswagen Passat Highline. I just wish car makers would make cars like the Passat a bit more interesting so that more people would be motivated to buy them.
I drove this thing for a week, and it reminded me, yet again, that we don’t need a slightly jacked up crossover utility vehicle to commute in. A regular “car” will do just fine, thanks. The Passat comes with very comfortable eight-way power front seats, and an interior that exudes class. This tester had some very nicely coloured leather and interior surfaces and gave off a relaxed vibe when commuting down the highway. However, lateral legroom was only adequate, and the driving position wasn’t thought out too well. Thankfully, overall comfort wasn’t affected as features like high quality materials, a well placed armrest, and good visibility made it a nice car to commute in.
This Passat had the R-Line package, ($2,215) and it brought the overall price to $39,375. This gets you a whole bunch of R-Line cosmetics, paddle shifters, and some bigger wheels. It makes the Passat a fairly good looking sedan, but it doesn’t add to the performance. Which is too bad, because that’s the one place that this car is somewhat lacking. The whole car feels sluggish.
The 2.0L turbocharged inline four-cylindenr makes 174 horsepower and delivers it unceremoniously through a six-speed transmission. This motor replaces the 1.8 TSI (reviewed here) from previous years of the Passat but still, “lively” isn’t the word I would use to describe the driving experience. There are noticeable amounts of lag in the drivetrain, and the throttle response isn’t impressive. It’s as if they wrote off any young buyers or anyone with a fast paced lifestyle right off the bat. That said, the advantages are that you get really decent fuel economy. Expect to see numbers under 9.0L/100km in combined driving fairly easily.
The driving experience as stated above was a bit lacking, but comfortable overall. The electric power steering is light and lacks any real feel, and there isn’t really sense of connection to the road. The Passat controls its body motions well, and has a smooth ride on rough pavement, but I would have preferred a little more communication from the road.
Knowing what Volkswagen can do with the GTI and Golf R (reviewed here), balancing comfort and engagement, I was expecting a little more. I think the majority of my complaints come down to the drivetrain, which just didn’t feel like it responded to my inputs as well as the 2.0L has in other, sportier applications. It felt reluctant to change gears and the paddle shifters included with the R-Line package didn’t improve this at all.
Being a large sedan you get a generous amounts of rear leg room and a very large trunk. In fact unless you need to move furniture, I’m not sure why you would want any more cargo space. The Passat is an in-betweener, with pricing not far off from the likes of the Camry and Accord, but dimensions closer to the larger Avalon and Buick LaCrosse (reviewed here). The exterior proportions of the Passat aren’t bad at all and some LED lights up front make it good looking when compared to its bland competition. It has some nice angular styling features, and some R-line badging. It has more room than the similarly priced Camry (reviewed here), or Mazda6, but it feels notably more premium, as Volkswagens usually do. The Passat might not be exciting but it sure is solid.
The infotainment isn’t exactly cutting edge, but a physical volume knob is nice, and I found the sound system to be very acceptable. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are on board, which is excellent. Once you get going in the Passat, the Driver Assistance Package features ($1,365) like adaptive cruise control, keep you comfortable on the highway. This is the one area the Passat excelled without question. It never had a problem keeping you at speed on the highway and keeping you comfortable. The Passat starts at just $26,195, and the top-level Highline has a baseline of $35,795. An optional 3.6L VR6 model is also available, but our as-tested four-cylinder Highline stickers at a very reasonable $39,375 with the R-Line package and aforementioned Driver Assistant Package.
If you are shopping for a more premium sedan for a good price and you value solidity and good construction, then the 2018 Volkswagen Passat Highline is a good choice. It looks and feels more luxurious than its competitors, but don’t expect luxury car levels of performance. The typical Passat buyer isn’t interested in 0-60 times, and if that’s the case for you as well, then you probably won’t find any issues with this vehicle. I do think that Volkswagen could attract some younger buyers and new families back into the sedan world, I hope we see an ‘R-line” package for this car in the future that puts the ‘R’ into more than the appearance.