The sands of time have shifted for the Volkswagen Passat, a mid-size sedan that was once known as a powerful, upscale import with somewhat limited market potential. Beginning with the 2012-MY, the Passat was reborn as a U.S.-built, mass-market company car.
Sales have been modest and were further damaged by the ongoing emissions scandal and resulting stop-sale on TDI diesel models. But the Passat soldiers on, and a full redesign for 2016 could help keep it in the mid-size mix.
S, R-Line, SE, and SEL models are equipped with a 1.8-liter turbocharged inline four that delivers 170 horsepower (hp) and 184 pound-feet (lb.-ft.) of torque and is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. The base engine gets 29 miles per gallon (mpg) in combined city and highway driving, which is competitive but not jaw-dropping for the segment.
SEL Premium buyers can upgrade to a 3.6-liter V-6 that brings 280 hp and 258 lb.-ft. of torque to the party but drops the combined mpg rating to 23. The bigger engine gets a six-speed, clutchless manual.
The exterior has evolved, albeit subtly, and the interior was completely rebuilt. Borrowing a few styling cues from the VW Golf, the cockpit gets a new dash, center stack, instruments, and gauges, and full leather replaces the leather/faux suede combo on the outgoing SEL.
A rearview camera is now standard equipment, as are cruise control, power accessories, and dual-zone climate control. The R-Line trim includes 19-inch wheels, leather on the steering wheel and shifter knob, and an available Comfort package that includes imitation leather upholstery, heated and powered seats, and heated sideview mirrors.
The SE rides on smaller wheels, but it includes all the extras listed above plus a sunroof, adaptive cruise control, forward-collision avoidance, and autonomous braking. An available Technology package brings additional safety features plus keyless entry and ignition, navigation, eight-speaker stereo, and more.
Fleet buyers who opt for the top-of-the-line Passat SEL and SEL Premium trims will enjoy all of the above plus uptown add-ons such as leather, driver memory, automatic parallel parking, and power-folding mirrors. A Lighting package that includes foglamps and LED headlights and taillights is available across the lineup.
The 2016 Volkswagen Passat is in showrooms now. Prices start at $22,440 for the base model and top out at a hair under $37,000 for the top-of-the-line, V-6-powered SEL Premium.