FIRST DRIVE: The 2016 Volkswagen Passat Gets New Style and New Tech

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The 2016 Volkswagen Passat is making its debut at a difficult time for Volkswagen. The diesel emissions cheating scandal has been all over the news for the last month and it can’t be ignored, but that doesn’t mean that VW isn’t still in the business of making cars. The Passat’s debut might be overshadowed by the company’s current troubles, but it shouldn’t be overlooked as an affordable, comfortable, and stylish family sedan.

There are changes to the Passat all over starting with a styling update intended to give the car a more aggressive look. The hood, front fenders, grille, bumpers, and even the trunk lid are new. It’s particularly noticeable up front with slimmed down headlights and a new four-bar grille. The Passat has never been a bold car, but these updates do give it a little more punch. It won’t have anyone doing a double-take, but it has lost some of its milquetoast styling.

2016 VW Passat Rear Seats

VW makes nice nteriors and they’ve made the interior of the Passat even better. Though this is not an expensive car with a starting price of $22,440, it feels like one when you take a seat. The seats are supportive and comfortable with surfaces that feel nice to the touch. The instrument panel is redone as is the steering wheel and there are two-tone panels on the dash that add nice visual punch. It also has chrome and piano black accents. There are available heated rear seats so even rear passengers are coddled.

Infotainment includes standard touchscreeens on every model. The system features Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink which allow easy integration of compatible smartphones. USB and Bluetooth are standard on every Passat as is a rearview camera, and there’s a USB port accessible on the rear of the center console for passengers sitting in back.

2016 VW Passat Infotainment

There’s an interesting new safety feature that VW already rolled out on European vehicles and is bringing to the U.S. for the first time in the 2016 Passat. In addition to available safety features including adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitor with rear traffic alert, and lane departure warning, the Passat features automatic post-collision braking.

This system was developed based on studies that showed a large number of accidents involve more than one collision as a car rolls away from the initial impact into another vehicle or obstacle. Automatic post-collision braking keeps the car from rolling back into harm’s way after an accident.

2016 VW Passat Rear

Current powertrain choices include a 1.8-liter turbocharged and direct-injection TSI 4-cylinder or a 3.6-liter VR6. Yes, there is a 2.0-liter TDI diesel, but that’s on hold indefinitely. We drove the 1.8 with its 170 turbocharged horses paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. It’s what most will purchase as only 3-5% will opt for the 280 horsepower VR6.

The transmission and engine are impressive with quick response when you push the accelerator and plenty of torque. Combine the ready power supply with a smooth suspension that leaves you in control on the tightest of corners and this is a fantastic car for a drive.

2016 VW Passat Dash

Even at higher speeds, the Passat has a quiet interior. There’s no obtrusive engine noise no matter how hard you hit that pedal. It seats 5 passengers and is roomy and comfortable enough that all of them will still be speaking to each other at the end of a road trip. EPA fuel economy estimates of 25 city/38 highway/29 combined make that road trip even better.

The Passat starts at $22,440 which makes it a great value, but that’s for the base model. Start moving up the line and that number quickly moves up, too. The 1.8T SE with Technology squeezes in right under $30,000 while the premium V6 is nearly $40,000. The more you spend, the better it gets, but it also gets some tough competition from the likes of the Honda Accord and Mazda6. The Passat is the best deal when you’re looking at the lower trims.

2016 VW Passat Profile

Volkswagen is in the doghouse these days, but the 2016 Passat is moving on despite the drama. Updated styling, a fuel efficient and responsive engine, and a roomy, comfortable interior combine with an affordable starting price to keep the Passat in the game.