Volkswagen’s Passat got a makeover last year and as a result doesn’t change much for the 2017 model year. The Passat is a front-drive mid-size sedan that’s hard to beat dollar-for-dollar. The SEL trim is discontinued for 2017, but lower trim levels get more in the way of standard features.
The new Passat, assembled in Chattanooga, has the same dynamite style from the 2016 model year with a wide and aggressive stance. The front-end design is really nice with terrific new headlights and horizontal bars above and below a pronounced VW logo.
The base 1.8T S starts at just $22,440. The R-Line starts at $23,975, the 1.8T SE starts at $25,495 and the 1.8T with Technology tops the trim lineup at $27,995. Our test car for the week was the 1.8T R-Line.
Powering my test car was VW’s 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that develops 170 horsepower and 184 lb.-ft. of torque. Made in Mexico, the engine is mated to 6-speed automatic transmission.
Also available is a 3.6-liter V6 that kicks out 280 horses and 258 lb.-ft. of torque using premium fuel. The larger engine, which is also capable of running on regular gasoline, gets EPA-estimated highway mileage of 28 mpg. The V6 is paired with a quick-shifting dual-clutch 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. The turbo four in the test car is fine for everyday driving, but the V6 turns the Passat into more of a sports sedan.
On the road, my Passat test car remained flat in hard cornering and had precise electro-mechanical steering that felt nicely balanced at both highway and parking lot speeds.
The Passat cabin remains true to VW style with simple elegance and room to spread out. The 5-passenger Passat feels like a sizable sedan with an overall length of 192 inches and a width of 72.2 inches. Headroom in the back is decent at 37.8 inches, and legroom is a comfortable 39.1 inches. Trunk volume is generous at 15.9 cubic feet.
The seats are comfortably firm, but could use a little more side bolstering. Controls and instrumentation are super easy to use, even the MIB II infotainment system. The touchscreen – either 5 inches or 6.33 inches – allows functionality like pinching and swiping similar to tablets and smart phones. The touchscreen also has a proximity sensor that allows the whole screen to be used. When a hand approaches the screen, selectable features appear. Bluetooth is standard.
VW’s available Car-Net connectivity system also features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink in one of the most comprehensive suites of connected vehicle services around.
Topping the center stack is an analog clock between two A/C vents, a nice touch found in more expensive lineups. Next is the touchscreen, then a row of climate control buttons. USB, 12v and AUX ports are at the front of the bottom tray, and another 12v outlet is in the console. Fit and finish are excellent.
When it comes to safety and driver assistance, VW takes a back seat to few other carmakers. The government gives the 2017 Passat five overall stars, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awards the Passat it’s “Top Safety Pick” designation. The IIHS gave the Passat its top score of “good” in every category save one. The IIHS dinged the headlights as “poor,” but I thought they were fine. Go figure.
All Passat trims get a standard rearview camera, and other standard and available features include adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear traffic alert, a lane departure warning system and a park assist system that can steer the car into parallel or perpendicular spaces.
There is very strong competition in the mid-size sedan category, but your search for one shouldn’t be completed until you test drive the 2017 Volkswagen Passat.
2017 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T R-Line
1.8-liter turbocharged four cylinder
$23,975 plus freight
EPA mileage estimates:
23 mpg city/34 mpg highway/27 mpg combined
Estimated highway range: