Test Drive: 2018 Volkswagen Passat impresses

The midsize sedan remains a drag on many automakers’ balance sheets, as the American love affair with sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks goes on. Yet most automakers continue to place substantial bets on the lowly sedan. During the past year, we’ve driven some of the America’s and Asia’s best medium-priced, midsize sedans, including the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Mazda6, Hyundai Sonata and Chevrolet Malibu. Some folks may have forgotten that there’s a European automaker in the mix: the Volkswagen Passat.

Built in Chattanooga, Tenn., the Passat is a five-passenger, four-door sedan engineered for a high level of interior comfort, a smooth ride and sound handling qualities. VW offers a choice of two engines — a 174-horsepower turbocharged inline Four, and a 280-horsepower V-6.

The base Passat S starts at $23,845. Our test car, a 2018 Passat GT V6, had a sticker price of $29,995. That’s in line with comparable Japanese, Korean and American models.

We drove our Reflex Silver Metallic Passat 600 miles from western Connecticut to upstate New York and back, so we got a glimpse of the car’s comfort and road manners. All were impressive. The cabin is spacious, front and back. Folks who carry more than one adult passenger may find the Passat’s back seat ideal for their purposes. Meanwhile, the Passat’s trunk not only is larger than most, at 15.9 cubic feet, but it’s conveniently configured.

Fuel economy is a liability, albeit a minor one. Equipped with the V-6 engine, the Passat is rated at 19 mpg city, 28 highway, and is one of the fastest midsize sedans in its price range. The turbocharged Four ‘s fuel economy is significantly better: 25/36.

In GT V6 trim, the Passat’s standard features included a long safety-technology list: rear-view camera, blind-spot monitor with rear-traffic alert, forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking. The Passat also earned a 5-star rating in government crash tests.

Among the standard interior features were dual-zone automatic climate control, tilt-telescoping steering column, heated driver’s seat with power adjustment and lumbar support, V-Tex leatherette upholstery, satellite radio, and the VW Car-Net infotainment system. On our long trip, this system proved its worth by efficiently and reliably keeping us in touch with friends and family.

VW seems to have broken clear of the government penalties, internal shakeups and negative publicity surrounding the diesel-emissions scandal that began in 2015: sales overall have increased 7.2 percent this year. VW’s strong warranty — six years or 72,000 miles, bumper to bumper — suggests confidence in the cars and the company’s future.

However, sales of the sedan lines, including the Passat, are declining. A major factor in VW’s success so far this year is its new midsize SUV, the Atlas, which we test-drove a few months ago. Also continuing to sell briskly is the longer-in-the-tooth Tiguan. But the Passat, awaiting a redesign for the 2019 model year, is running 36.4 percent below its 2017 numbers.

2018 Volkswagen Passat GT V6

Price: $29,995

Engine: 3.6-liter V6, 280 horsepower, 258 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed automated manual

Drive: Front-wheel

Weight: 3,571 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 19×8-in. alloy

Tires: 235/45R19 H

Seating capacity: 5

Luggage capacity: 15.9 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 18.5 gallons

Fuel economy: 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway

Steven Macoy ([email protected]) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.