2016 Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium

Design, New Features Make the Best Passat Ever
By Durhl Caussey
Durhl Caussey
Durhl Caussey
October 25, 2015 Updated: October 25, 2015

The new Passat is a five-passenger sedan that has a striking front and rear design, making a more dynamic, refined appearance.

“We applied a progressive design strategy with the new Passat, giving the car a dynamic presence and more sophisticated look,” said Klaus Bischoff, Head of Design, Volkswagen. “We have integrated several new design elements, including a sculpted domed hood that significantly sets the car apart from its predecessor.”

I had the opportunity to drive the Passat so described by Bischoff through the Green Mountains of Vermont recently. As the early morning snow melted and the cool wind blew golden, surrounded by red and yellow leaves from a variety of tall trees, I put the Passat SEL through its paces. The slimmer headlights, fully chromed four-bar grille, and the muscular hood combined to make the Passat a wide, strong-standing vehicle, especially when viewed from the front. All these rest on 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in all-season tires.

New LED headlights and taillights are available on all VW sedans in the U.S. market. Better lighting performance with reduced energy use combined good looks with environmental friendliness.

The rear bumper and trunk lid help to give this new Passat a grand look. A chrome strip on the lid connects the taillights and the European-style flush rear license plate area is immediately below.

The 2016 Passat “remains a generously proportioned four-door sedan.” From hood to tail, it measures 191.9 inches long, 72.7 inches wide, and features a 110.4-inch wheelbase.

Personally, the best feature for me was the best-in-class 39.1 inches of rear seat leg room.

The Easy Open system senses the driver behind the car, and recognizes a certain foot movement to open the trunk hands-free.

A generously proportioned four-door sedan.

Seats are comfortable, even in the base model. The driver’s seat was 8-way power adjustable with lumbar support. Cloth trim is standard, but SEL Premium comes in leather surfaces.

Inside, two large GTI-inspired gauges are accompanied by a sophisticated center console stack in elegant piano black accentuated by chrome. The new Passat features the MIB II, a new-generation VW touchscreen infotainment system that is standard on most models. It comes with a 5-inch or a 6.3-inch color display depending on the model, with an impressive range of features. However the 6.3-inch screen was still too small for me to read easily.

The capacitive touch screen supports familiar gesture controls like swiping and pinch-zooming. Proximity sensors detect when the hand is near and automatically switches its display to allow easier selection of specific venues. If you have two phones you can connect both at the same time and are able to make and receive calls on each.

The Passat lineup features two engine options: the 1.8 L turbo-charged 4-cylinder TSI engine offering 170 hp and a strong 184 lb-ft of torque, and the powerful 3.6 L V6 FSI that produces an impressive 280 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. EPA estimated highway is 36 mpg for the 4-cylinder and 28 mpg for the V6. Power is handled by a standard 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission with paddle shifters.

Safety is enhanced with structurally-reinforced cabin. Depending on the model and options, Passat also offers, among others, adaptive cruise control, Lane Assist (lane departure warning and correction), forward collision warning, and automatic emergency braking.

Pricing starts at $21,340 for the base 1.8T S model with 5-speed manual transmission. Add $1,100 for the 6-speed auto. At the other end of the lineup, the 1.8T SEL Premium starts at $31,790. Opting for the V6 bumps the price up to $35,995. For the first time, the Passat family will also get a R-Line trim for $23,975.

The new 2016 Volkswagen Passat is designed for the American lifestyle and is built in a state-of- the-art factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee. About $600 million will be invested in the Tennessee plant to build the new vehicles at the end of 2016. This is on top of the additional $900 million for production of a newly-developed seven-passenger SUV that will create an additional 2,000 jobs.

Durhl Caussey writes a car column read around the world. He may be reached at this paper or dcaussey@sbcglobal.net