When buyers are looking for a new sedan, they might think about the top-selling Toyota Camry and the popular Honda Accord. But the German-born Volkswagen Passat is usually forgotten about. It gets overlooked because it’s not flashy, but it is efficient and does nearly everything well.
This week, we drove the top-trim 2018 Volkswagen Passat 2.0T SEL Premium.
A 2.0-liter four-cylinder TSI powerplant replaces the previous 1.8-liter engine. A new GT trim level debuts featuring the V6 engine, 19-inch wheels, and a sport-tuned suspension. Base models can now add optional driver aids like blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking.
Features & Options
The 2018 VW Passat 2.0T SEL Premium ($31,650) comes standard with automatic headlights, a rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, 60/40-split folding rear seats, Bluetooth connectivity, a five-inch touchscreen, one USB port, and an auxiliary audio jack.
The SEL Premium also comes with 18-inch wheels, power-folding mirrors, a power-adjustable passenger seat, driver-seat memory settings, leather upholstery, and automatic wipers. The SEL Premium also adds a Fender audio system, a separate ski pass-through for the 60/40-split rear seats, an automated parallel-parking feature, and a lane departure warning system.
Total MSRP including destination: $32,500.
The interior of the 2018 VW Passat is one of its strong points. Material quality is high, the fit and finish are top rate, and there’s extra legroom in the back. The trunk’s capacity of nearly 16 cubic feet is at the top of the segment. We sank into the heated front seats and got comfortable quickly with the six-way power adjustments. The only complaint is the use of hard plastics in this upper trim.
The controls are easy to figure out and use. We didn’t need to spend 20 minutes messing with them. However, the touchscreen is on the small side, and we think it sits too low along with the climate controls.
The SEL is more expensive but it does get standard automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, and a moonroof. It comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, and the dual-zone automatic climate controls made our time in the Passat more comfortable. Visibility is excellent too. The park distance control and rearview camera kept us from hitting things this week.
Engine & Fuel Mileage Specs
The Volkswagen Passat’s turbocharged 2.0-liter produces 174 horsepower and 184 lb-ft. of torque. It’s coupled with a six-speed automatic that sends power to the front wheels. EPA fuel mileage estimates come in at 25/36 city/highway and 29 combined.
Driving a sedan is not typically an enjoyable experience, but the 2018 VW Passat is higher on the fun-to-drive meter than most. The new turbo engine is impressively smooth with enough power for all situations. The other impressive part is fuel mileage. We got close to 30 mpg for the week, and that was with driving at altitude, pressing hard on the pedal going up I-70. Every day.
The six-speed automatic matches the smoothness of the engine, and with the Tiptronic and Sport modes, it’s perfect for driving enthusiasts.
The ride is on the firm side, which is a good thing if you do any driving in the mountains or on tighter roads. The suspension isn’t dialed-in like that of a sports sedan, but it does give the driver confidence. The Passat’s ride and handling is composed enough overall, especially through the curves.
We checked out the adaptive cruise control system and found it maintains a normal distance. It even brakes and accelerates in a sensible manner. The Lane Keep Assist was a little obtrusive at times but did its job. The collision warnings are too touchy, especially when turning left onto streets with parked cars.
Overall, the 2018 VW Passat shines as an especially comfortable and quiet commuter. If you regularly take long road trips, it will get you there without too many stops for gas. It’s efficient but the SEL Premium trim can be pricey.
Denis Flierl has invested over 25 years in the automotive industry in a variety of roles. Follow his work on Twitter: @CarReviewGuy