2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE Review

Wednesday March 15th, 2017 at 11:33 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE

By David Colman

Hypes: Interior Layout Simplicity, Handling Balance
Gripes: Launch Hesitation in First Gear, Sticky Brake Feel

For 2017, Passat continues to benefit from the major makeover it received in 2016. In addition to restyled front and rear fascias, the Passat’s 6.3 inch graphic user interface touchscreen now includes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Also now standard are VW Car-Net upgrades, including App-Connect (Smart Phone integration and interface) and Security & Service (Emergency Assistance). This latter feature is operable at delivery time, but must be subscribed for continued service. Also standard on Passat is a suite of technology safety upgrades. A rearview camera helps you reverse safely. Front Assist helps bring your Passat to a halt when frontal blockage is detected. Blind Spot Monitor is now standard, and features Rear Traffic Alert. These safety improvements operate silently and seamlessly, without the noisy intrusiveness characteristic of many such systems.

2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE

If you select the SE level of Passat, VW literally upgrades your wheels from 16 to 17 inch silver alloys wearing Continental ProContact mud & snow rubber (215/55R17). Another advantage of opting for an SE level Passat is inclusion of KESSY, keyless access with push button start. After spending a week fumbling for the keys of a VW Alltrack to gain entry and start the engine, the proximity system and push button of the Passat saved a lot of key search time. The Passat’s huge 16 cubic foot trunk includes a spare tire buried in a mat covered well. This emergency unit is made by Firestone and measures a scant 135/90/16, but gets the temporary job done since it matches the rolling diameter of the Continental radials. A jack and lug wrench are included.

2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE

The Passat is not designed for extroverts. You appreciate its subdued nature the minute you scan the quiet color choices available: 3 shades of silver or gray, muted blue, very muted red, beige or black. You certainly won’t find VW’s outrageous Beetle shade of Fresh Fuchsia Metallic available to dress your Passat. Rather, our test sample was painted Platinum Gray Metallic, set against a Titan Black interior. This is not to say the combo was objectionable. In fact, it looked handsomely subdued, in the way a Brooks Brothers suit is fashionably reserved. Adding to the pleasing medley of interior tones and patterns is a wide strip of what appears to be varnished driftwood. This material, set off in turn by an inlay of finely corrugated matte aluminum, stretches across the dash, and continues through all four door panels.

2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE

What we continue to love about VW vehicles and the staff that designs them is their resistance to sublimating vehicle operation to touchscreen menus. Here is a short list of vintage features that make Passat so much easier to operate than the current competition: a fly-off handbrake that is conveniently located and easy to operate; three large knobs to control temperature and fan operation; seven prominently positioned buttons to operate seat heaters and air flow; one overhead swivel knob to control slide/tilt operation of the standard sunroof; conveniently located manual lift/slide/rake controls for both front seats. Car designers today have abandoned this mode of simplicity in favor of complex, unnecessary, menu-driven operations that invariably deflect your attention from the serious requirements of driving. Bravo to VW for refusing to turn their Passat into a motorized smart phone.

2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE

This largest of all VW sedans is meant to be a family hauler, a mission it accomplishes with customary German dexterity. The Passat is without question a spacious sedan, with its wheelbase of 110 inches insuring that both front and back seat occupants will never wont for legroom. Even though the weight distribution of the Passat’s 3,220 pounds is heavily biased toward the front (59%F/41%R), this mini limo still covers twisty back roads with surprising agility. The front end never plows through tight turns, and the lively 170hp TSI turbo 4 unleashes enough zip to make exiting corners exhilarating. While the Passat’s deadpan looks may not give a clue from the outside, its sporting nature is always ready to be unleashed. If 170hp is insufficient, VW offers an even quicker variant in the V6 Passat, which makes 280hp from 3.6 liters. Either way, the Passat earns its stripes as a premium German sedan, which flies fast under the radar, and does so without draining your wallet.

2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE

2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE

  • Engine: 1.8 liter DOHC turbo 4 cylinder with direct injection (TSI)
  • Horsepower: 170hp
  • Torque: 184lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 23 MPG City/34 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $26,315
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL

Tuesday October 21st, 2014 at 8:1010 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL

By David Colman

Hypes: Tremendous Range, Low Speed Torque, Luxury cabin
Gripes: VW lags competitors in JD POWERS IQS (Initial Quality Survey)

It’s really too bad that you can’t use your X-ray eyes to look through the engine shroud covering VW’s all new turbo diesel EA288 engine. If you could, you would realize just how much more sophisticated this new diesel is than its predecessor, the EA189. Only the cylinder bore center dimension remains the same. Everything else about the EA288 is new and improved. Inside you’ll find a cast iron block mated to an aluminum cylinder head, with overhead camshafts operating both intake and exhaust valves from the same cam. This novel arrangement promotes greater air delivery and swirl in the combustion chambers. Net result to you is improved performance and better mileage than before. The new diesel bumps horsepower output to 150 hp (from the EA189′s 140 hp). Torque is abundant, with a wallop of 236 lb.-ft. hitting home at just 1,750 rpm. Best of all, the new diesel’s intelligent architecture yields an eye popping mileage dividend. If you order your TDI with 6-speed manual transmission, expect 44MPG on the highway and a cruising range of 814 miles between refueling stops.

2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL

Our test TDI was equipped with VW’s dual clutch automatic DSG gearbox, a no-charge option on the SEL Premium model. Although the DSG slightly lowers highway mileage to 42MPG, you can still expect 34MPG in overall driving. The DSG is unquestionably one of the best automatic transmissions on the market today. Like the manual, it also offers 6 speeds, with an opportunity to select individual ratios by slotting the floor mounted stick into the manual segment of its gate. However, because the diesel affords so much torque so low in its rpm range, manual gear control is hardly ever necessary. Just press the accelerator and feel that gratifying rush of instant torque.

2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL

The rich interior of the Passat SEL belies its reasonable $33,585 window sticker. If you opt for the SEL Premium version, you will receive leather, rather than vinyl seating surfaces, comfort sport seats, rain sensing wipers, Fender premium audio with 8 speakers and sub woofer, RNS 510 navigation system, 8 way power seats for both driver and passenger, and wood grained dash and door trim. In other woods, the appropriately named “Corn Silk Beige” cabin of this Passat matches up well with BMW and Mercedes products costing twice as much. We put the Fender audio to the test by slipping Linda Ronstadt’s new Starbuck’s CD into the dash slot and cranking the volume way up. The 8 speakers and sub woofer translated her old standards into concert hall sound while conveniently displaying the name and time of each cut on the navigation screen panel. In an increasingly digitized world, the Passat’s interior strikes a calming classic note, with its analog clock face prominently displayed atop the center stack of the dash. Large, round, easily read instrument faces of the 6,000rpm tachometer and 160mph speedometer also fly in the face of the flashy, confusing TFT dials that have become so popular today.

2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL

Handling has long been a VW asset, and the latest Passat continues the tradition, with its finely balanced strut front/multi-link rear independent suspension design. Ride comfort is excellent, thanks in part to the cushy all-season Continental Pro Contact tires (235/45R18) which stress bump absorption over ultimate grip. New for 2015 is electro-mechanical power steering, which places a premium on feedback and precision. Turning radius of the Passat is a scant 36.4 feet, making this sizeable four door feel more like a sports car than a ponderous sedan.

2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL

VW stresses horizontality in the styling of the Passat. Strong chrome grill bands emphasize the sedan’s substantial 72.2 inch width. A swept back roofline culminates in a nearly flat rear window which gives this sedan coupe-like grace. Understated elegance characterizes the interior and exterior design language of the Passat. There is a certain timeless quality to good design, and the latest Passat enjoys that ephemeral virtue. Build quality from VW’s new plant in Chattanooga, TN matches the best output from Wolfsburg, Germany. Doors open smartly to pre-determined detents, interior trim surfaces mate precisely, even the glovebox door glides open slowly and deliberately. No obvious corners have been cut in fabricating this VW.

2015 Volkswagen Passat TDI SEL

  • Engine: 2.0 Liter inline 4 diesel with Direct Injection and turbocharging
  • Horsepower: 150ho @3,500rpm
  • Torque: 236lb.-ft.@1,750rpm
  • Fuel Consumption: 30 MPG City/42 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $34,405
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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Review: 2014 Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium

Monday March 24th, 2014 at 10:33 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Hypes: Flourish-Free Styling, Beckoning Interior, 15.9 Cubic Foot Trunk
Gripes: Slow To Defrost, No Rear Wiper

Psst. Hey, buddy, want buy a German sports sedan? How about a German sports sedan that’s built in Chattanooga, Tennessee? With a Mexican engine and a Japanese transmission, no less. Regardless of where the components are sourced or assembled, one drive in this latest iteration of VW’s spacious family hauler will send you a singular message: this is a German sports sedan of the first order. Its handling is superb, its fit and finish impeccable, and its breeding long and distinguished.

For 2014, the SEL model I tested is currently the only Passat equipped with the new 4 cylinder turbo. VW also offers a 3.6 liter, 280hp V6 as an option on the SEL. The turbo motor makes 170hp from 1.8 liters and replaces last year’s 170hp inline 5. The turbo laso makes 7 more lb.-ft. of torque than the I-5 (184 vs. 177), and returns better mileage (28 MPG) than the I-5 as well. Thanks to the extra torque, the latest Passat feels livelier than its forerunner when you jump on the accelerator. A 6-speed automatic gearbox takes good care of torque management, with a sport override feature available to allow specific gear choices as needed. Gear selection is then digitally displayed in the central information panel between the speedometer and tachometer.

The SEL treatment includes standard 18 inch alloy rims which mount 235/45R18 Continental Sport Contact rubber. This generous footprint produces neutral behavior no matter how hard you press this VW in corners. Despite the fact that this is a front-wheel-drive (FWD) sedan with 60 percent of its of 3,450 curb weight pounds allotted to the front wheels, the Passat never understeers. In fact, it’s hard to tell that the layout is FWD, which is a high compliment indeed to the refinement of the suspension. Standard SEL handling-related features include an electronic differential lock (EDL) which synchronizes wheel speed from side to side, Anti-slip Regulation (ASR), which limits wheel spin, and Electronic Stability Control (ESC) which corrects driver error in extremis. The cornering limits limits allowed by ESC are high enough to permit you to have some sporting fun with your Passat.

Done up in “Candy White” with a “Cornsilk Beige” interior, the starkly handsome sedan comes off looking a bit like Tom Wolfe in a white pinstriped suit: dandy but inarguably handsome. Its fit and finish exceed what you’ve come to expect in a $30,000 automobile. VW has effectively banished the word cheap as a descriptor of this product. Once you slide into those comfy biscuit colored seats, activate their three stage cushion heaters, and finger the Fender Premium Audio for your favorite SiriusXM band, you’re excused if you confuse the Passat with something substantially pricier, like say a BMW 3 or an Audi A4. Not until you check the bottom line of the window sticker do you realize that this VW’s price range stops well south of where the others start.

Clearly, in a world where parts for the same car are sourced from locations as disparate as Mexico, Japan and the USA, it’s the overall vision of design that counts. VW calls this supervisorial role the “Power of German Engineering.” From the moment you operate the chunky control stalks of the Passat, you know you’re driving a German car. The multi-function steering wheel is fat rimmed, leather swathed, and responsive to the most minute change of direction. VW has adapted electronically controlled power steering in lieu of hydraulics for 2014, and if anything, the feedback at the wheel is even more informative than before. Such subtle touches make the Passat SEL more satisfying to drive than anything else in its price range, and indeed many competitors well beyond that range.

2014 Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium

  • Engine: 1.8 Liter Inline 4, turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 170hp
  • Torque: 184 lb.-ft.
  • Fuel Consumption: 24 MPG City/34 MPG Highway
  • Price as Tested: $31,715
  • Star Rating: 9 out of 10 Stars

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2012 Volkswagen Passat 2.5 SEL Review

Wednesday February 15th, 2012 at 11:22 AM
Posted by: D.Colman

By David Colman

Pros: Immaculate construction, Spacious, Handsome
Cons: Underpowered, Niggling mirror controls, Loose rear arm-rest pass-thru cover

The long-awaited, built-in-USA Passat is finally here, imported from Chattanooga, TN. VW hasn’t built anything on our shores since they closed the Westmoreland, PA Rabbit factory back in the early 80s. So the newly reborn Passat, much larger than the car it replaces, not only carries a lot of baggage in its commodious, 15.9 cubic foot trunk, but some ancillary “baggage” concerning its domestic derivation. Is the new Passat a legitimate VW in terms of fit, finish and quality? The answer is an unqualified yes. If you can find any trace of sloppiness in construction, any evidence of mismatched panels, or cheap material, please let me know, because my persnickety analysis led me to conclude that the Tennessee Passat is every bit as good as anything VW builds in Germany. Panel gaps are consistently slight, doors thunk with customary VW certainty, interior switchgear and fabric appear to be of the highest quality. In fact, Passat construction is so sound and tight that the end product is reminiscent of much more expensive VWs of yore like the W8 sedan and the $100,000 Phaeton.

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2008 Volkswagen Passat Turbo – A Great Value…Depending on Options

Friday October 31st, 2008 at 6:1010 AM
Posted by: Kurt Gensheimer

By Kurt Gensheimer


  • Powerful yet fuel efficient 2.0T engine
  • More room than a Manhattan loft
  • Smooth 6-speed manual transmission
  • Terrific highway cruiser


  • Goofball keyless ignition system and e-brake
  • No stereo controls on steering wheel
  • Front end feels heavy with noticeable understeer
  • Depending on options, pricing can get ridiculous

Ruling: In its base Turbo trim, the Passat is incredibly powerful and fuel efficient, and an outstanding overall value. But once you surpass the $30K threshold, all bets are off.


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