Used 2015 Volkswagen Passat Review
If you'd like to drive a roomy midsize sedan with European breeding and style for the price of a mainstream midsizer, you have exactly one option: the 2015 Volkswagen Passat. Fortunately, this lack of choice doesn't equate to a lack of desirability. With its neatly tailored styling, accommodating cabin, composed handling and refined ride, the Passat will very likely impress you on a test-drive. But its appeal runs deeper than that, as it is the only car in its segment available with a fuel-sipping diesel (TDI) engine. It's rated at an impressive 34 mpg combined, and yet we've seen considerably higher than that in our long-term test of a Passat TDI.
The Passat's spacious interior caters to American tastes by allowing stretch-out room for adults both front and rear, as well as generous cargo capacity within its voluminous trunk. Given that Volkswagen builds the Passat in Tennessee expressly for the American market, this made-for-the-U.S. theme should come as no surprise. Furthermore, shoppers have a variety of engines from which to choose. In addition to the thrifty diesel, the Passat can be had with a peppy yet fuel-efficient turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder or, if maximum thrust is what you seek, a potent 3.6-liter V6.
Although there's much to like about the 2015 Volkswagen Passat, we can say the same about many of its rivals in this very competitive segment. The Nissan Altima and Honda Accord are a couple of staff favorites, as their base four-cylinder gasoline engines are even more fuel-efficient than the Passat's 1.8T. We also like the Mazda 6, which has the sportiest handling of the group, as well as the stylish 2015 Ford Fusion, whose eco-themed counterpart, the 2015 Fusion Hybrid, makes for a compelling alternative to a diesel Passat. With so many worthy competitors, the 2015 Volkswagen Passat falls just short of our top marks with an overall rating of "B," but still comes highly recommended.
trim levels & features
The 2015 Volkswagen Passat sedan is offered in six main trim levels: S, Wolfsburg, Limited Edition, SE, Sport and SEL Premium. The diesel-powered TDI variant is essentially available in SE and SEL Premium trims.
The base S comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry, full power accessories, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat (with two-way manual lumbar adjustment), a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, cloth upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, a trip computer, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.
The Wolfsburg edition adds 16-inch alloy wheels, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a six-way power driver seat (with two-way power lumbar), heated front seats, satellite radio, an iPod interface and VW's Car-Net telematics system.
With the Limited Edition you get 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a rearview camera, keyless ignition and entry and an eight-speaker sound system with a touchscreen interface. At the SE trim level you lose the keyless ignition and entry but gain heated mirrors, rear seat air vents, a sliding front armrest, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and upgraded gauges and displays.
The Passat Sport is similar to the SE, but has 19-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles (with the automatic transmission), front sport seats and faux carbon-fiber interior accents.
The top-of-the-line SEL Premium includes all of the SE features as well as 18-inch wheels, a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, remote ignition, a six-way power passenger seat (with two-way power lumbar), driver memory functions, leather upholstery (with simulated suede seat inserts), wood grain interior trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, a navigation system, upgraded audio (with music storage and HD radio) and a separate ski pass-through for the 60/40 rear seat.
Many of the upper trims' features can be had on lower trims as options, either individually or via packages.
performance & mpg
The 2015 VW Passat is front-wheel drive and comes with a choice of three distinctly different engines.
All trim levels except the TDI have a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine rated at 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The Sport and S trims can be had with either a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic, while the Wolfsburg, SE and SEL Premium come only with the automatic. In Edmunds performance testing, the Passat 1.8T SEL went from zero to 60 mph in a quick 7.7 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates are 28 mpg combined (24 city/36 highway) with the automatic and 28 combined (24/35) with the manual. These are respectable numbers for a four-cylinder midsize sedan, though other top rivals are typically 2-3 mpg better.
The TDI, available in SE and SEL Premium versions, comes with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine with 150 hp and 236 lb-ft of torque. The SE version comes with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automated manual transmission (known as DSG) while the SEL Premium is DSG only. The EPA-estimated fuel economy is an excellent 34 mpg combined (30 city/42 highway) for the automatic and 35 mpg combined (30/44) with the manual. In extensive Edmunds fuel economy testing of the previous Passat TDI, we saw that the car easily met or exceeded its EPA estimates. That's not typically the case with hybrid sedans.
The strongest engine available on the Passat is a 3.6-liter V6, which churns out 280 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. It's optional on the SEL Premium and comes with the DSG automated manual transmission. In Edmunds testing, a Passat 3.6 accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds, which is quick for this class. EPA-estimated fuel economy is 23 mpg combined (20 city/28 highway).
Standard safety features for the 2015 Volkswagen Passat include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is standard on SE, Sport and SEL trims. VW's Car-Net telematics system, standard from the Wolfsburg model on up, includes automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, remote vehicle access, stolen vehicle location and geo-fencing (which allows parents to set boundaries for teenage drivers). A Car-Net smartphone app lets owners control many of these functions on the go. However, features increasingly available on family sedans, such as blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and frontal collision warning aren't available.
In government crash testing, the Passat scored a perfect five stars overall, with five for frontal impact protection and five for side crash protection. Similarly, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Passat its top score of "Good" for frontal moderate-overlap, side-impact and roof-strength tests. It received the institute's second-highest rating of "Acceptable" in the small-overlap frontal-offset crash test. The Passat's seat and head restraint design was rated "Good" for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
In Edmunds brake testing, a Passat 3.6 SEL came to a stop from 60 mph in about 130 feet, which is longer than average. However, a 1.8 SEL stopped in a class-average 123 feet, while a TDI SEL took 124 feet.
We think most buyers will be quite happy with the 1.8-liter engine. It's quick and smooth and provides good fuel economy. It's quicker than the TDI, too, but the latter boasts lively low-end power and returns truly extraordinary fuel economy and fuel range. For those who care more about high power than high fuel mileage, the 3.6-liter V6 engine delivers much more enthusiastic acceleration.
The DSG automated manual transmission that's available with the TDI engine and standard with the V6 generally feels like a regular automatic transmission and, in some cases, it's better -- it provides impressively quick downshifts in highway passing situations. One negative is the DSG's lackadaisical responsiveness. Unless it's in Sport mode, there's a slight but noticeable delay between the time you press down on the gas pedal and when the engine actually responds. Most owners get used to this quirk in time, or, if they want snappier response, select Sport mode.
On the highway, all 2015 Volkswagen Passats are impressively quiet and comfortable, snuffing out bumps large and small. Around turns, the steering is reasonably precise, although there's not much feel for the road and some drivers find it a tad heavy at low speeds. Overall, though, the Passat earns high marks for its relaxed, refined demeanor in everyday driving.
"Spaciousness" is the operative word when describing the Passat's cabin. Space up front is good. However, even with the power seats, there is no seat bottom tilt adjustment (the seat bottom just moves straight up and down) found in most competitors. In back, the Passat verges on full-size sedan dimensions, as even 6-footers will have room to stretch out their legs. The seatback cushion is fairly upright, however, which can result in taller occupants' heads grazing the roof. The ample trunk can swallow 15.9 cubic feet of cargo -- a number that bests many competitors' -- and you can haul bulkier items when the 60/40 rear seatbacks are folded down.
The quality of the VW Passat's interior materials is among the best in the class. The overall cabin design is decidedly upscale, while the layout of gauges and controls is refreshingly simple. The premium Fender audio system will please even hard-core audiophiles. Our only significant complaint involves the optional navigation systems. The SE models have a lower-cost navigation unit with a small touchscreen display. You get a usefully larger screen in the SEL, but we've found this higher-end interface is slower to process commands whether you're changing a radio station or entering a destination.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.