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VW Soldiers on with 2016 Passat Gas Engines

By Frank A. Aukofer, November 7th, 2015

In the face of adversity, soldier on. Volkswagen does that with the introduction of its 2016 Passat midsize sedan.

It's no secret that the German manufacturer is in deep doo-doo after admitting that it equipped millions of its diesel cars worldwide with software that falsified emissions tests.

That means, of course, that there will be no diesel Passats for some time, which certainly will put a substantial crimp in VW sales, not to mention income and profits. One quarter of Passat sales have been models with diesel engines.

But there still are proven gasoline engines available to power the 2016 Passat. The sedan can be ordered with a 170-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder engine with 184 lb.-ft. of torque, the test subject here, or a 280-hp, naturally aspirated VR6 engine that delivers 258 lb.-ft. of torque.

Either way, the Passat has undergone a substantial facelift. The entire front end is new from the windshield forward, including a new hood, front fenders, bumper and grille. In back, there's a new bumper. Unchanged are the doors and roof. Inside, the instrument panel, steering wheel and console also are new.

The exterior changes are subtle. It retains its unmistakable Passat appearance, to the point where some observers would be hard pressed to identify it as restyled, unless it were parked next to a 2015 model.

In addition, the underpinnings -- engines, transmissions, suspension systems -- all are carried over from the 2015 model, so there is much that is familiar about the new Passat.

It still exhibits that characteristic many customers define as "German feel" - a confident balance of handling and ride. Moreover, since its overall redesign in 2012, the Passat is only a couple of cubic feet shy of certification as a large car under federal government guidelines. A large car contains 120 cu.-ft. or more of interior space, including the trunk. The Passat has 118 cu.-ft.

In its bigger iteration, along with the fact that it is built in a VW factory in Chattanooga, Tenn., the Passat now qualifies as tasty American pie, though it retains that German feel.

Seven versions are available, starting with the 1.8T S with a price tag of $23,200, and ranging up to the VR6 SEL Premium, loaded with the six-cylinder engine, dual-clutch automated manual transmission and all the available options. It checks in at $37,205, including the destination charge.

The base 1.8T S comes with a decent level of equipment that easily could satisfy customers with modest incomes. It has a six-speed automatic transmission, dual-zone climate control, 16-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery, cruise control, a rear camera, audio system with CD player and Bluetooth connectivity.

There's also a 1.8T R-Line model at $24,795, which doesn't perform any differently than any of the four-cylinder cars. But it is equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels and sporty exterior styling.

Driven for this review was the top-of-the-line four-cylinder model, the 1.8T SEL Premium, which came with high end equipment like parking assist, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, Fender audio, leather upholstery, 18-inch alloy wheels, and a power driver's seat with memory and lumbar support. It had a final sticker price of $35,090, which VW says includes $1,520 worth of features over the 2015 model.

The new Passat, as before, is a quiet and roomy family sedan. Front seats, whether covered in cloth, leatherette or leather as on the test car, are supportive and accommodating for long distance travel.

Outboard back seats are similarly comfortable, with plenty of headroom even in models with motorized sunroofs, and knee room that would do justice to a large domestic car. As is usual in most sedans, the center rear seating position is compromised by a center floor hump and high, hard cushion.

On the road, the tested 1.8T SEL Premium cruised quietly, with little intrusion of wind, mechanical or road noise. Instruments are large and legible, and controls are where you expect to find them.

VW names the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion and Nissan Altima as the Passat's main competitors. Though the diesel scandal may cost Volkswagen some customers, the Passat gasoline car is still a good choice for buyers seeking VW's brand of German handling and feel.

Specifications

Base price $34,270 (as tested: $35,090)
Curb weight 3,263 lbs.
Displacement 1.8-liter
Engine type 16-valve turbocharged 4-cyl. w/DI
Epa mileage rating 25 mpg city, 38 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 18.5 gal.
Horsepower (net) 170 at 6200 rpm
Overall length 191.9 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 184 at 1500 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger FWD midsize sedan
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