The 2017 Volkswagen Passat is a bit like the wise, elder statesman of the midsize sedan class. Indeed, VW has been selling the current-generation Passat since the 2012 model year, and every rival sedan has been redesigned in that time. Still, the Passat gets a lot right, particularly for the things that most shoppers are looking for.
True, this is a sedan to get if you're not interested in flash and flare. With reserved but classy styling, the Passat has a pretty timeless look to it. But it's a comfortable family shuttle thanks to its roomy backseat, big trunk and easy-to-drive nature. Highway manners are excellent, too. It rides smoothly, the cabin keeps out most of the wind and road noise, and the front seats should keep you comfy on a long road trip. VW gives you a solid set of features for the money, too.
The Passat shows its age in some areas, however. Its fuel economy and infotainment systems, in particular, aren't as good as what you'll find in rival sedans. For example, check out the 2017 Ford Fusion and the 2017 Honda Accord. Both have powerful optional engines and are more fun to drive but are still quite comfortable and fuel-efficient. We're also fond of the sporty-looking Mazda 6 and the well-rounded Hyundai Sonata. Still, the 2017 Volkswagen Passat, grayed at the temples as it may be, is a likable choice, particularly if comfort is a priority.
Standard safety features for the 2017 Volkswagen Passat include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, a rearview camera, front side airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags, and a forward collision mitigation system with automatic braking. Optional safety features include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and a lane departure warning system.
VW's optional Car-Net telematics system includes automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, remote vehicle access, stolen vehicle location, speed alerts and geo-fencing (which allows parents to set boundaries for teenage drivers).
In government crash testing, the Passat scored five out of five stars overall, with four stars for front-impact protection and five for side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Passat its top score of Good in all tests, including the small-overlap and moderate-overlap front-impact, side-impact, roof strength and seat/head restraint (whiplash protection) tests.
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.
trim levels & features
The 2017 Volkswagen Passat Sedan is offered in four main trim levels: S, R-Line, SE and SEL Premium.
The base S comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, full power accessories, a rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, height-adjustable front seats (with two-way manual lumbar adjustment for the driver), 60/40-split folding rear seats, cloth upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a collision mitigation system with automating braking, a 5-inch touchscreen, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, a USB port and an auxiliary audio jack.
The R-Line adds 19-inch alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel (with shift paddles), an eight-way power driver seat (with four-way power lumbar adjustment), heated front seats, imitation-leather upholstery, a 6.3-inch touchscreen, HD and satellite radio, VW's Car-Net smartphone integration (includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink), blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and unique R-Line styling elements.
The SE adds the features from the R-Line (minus R-specific styling and the large wheels) and further adds 17-inch wheels, adaptive cruise control, a sunroof, keyless entry and ignition, a sliding front armrest, rear air vents and added Car-Net functionality. The SE's optional Technology package gets you 18-inch wheels, LED headlights and taillights, foglights, automatic wipers, a hands-free trunk opener with foot sensor, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, front and rear parking sensors, remote ignition, heated rear seats, a navigation system, an eight-speaker sound system and an upgraded version of Car-Net.
The SEL Premium takes the features from the SE with Technology package and adds power-folding mirrors, an eight-way power passenger seat (with four-way power lumbar adjustment), driver memory settings, an automated parallel-parking feature, leather upholstery, a premium Fender audio system, a separate ski pass-through for the 60/40-split rear seats and a lane departure warning system.
A Lighting Package is optional for the R-Line and SE and comes standard on the SE with Technology and SEL Premium. It includes the foglights and LED headlights and taillights.
The 2017 Volkswagen Passat is front-wheel-drive and is available with one of two engines: a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine or a 3.6-liter V6. The four-cylinder is paired to a six-speed automatic transmission, and the V6 is mated to a six-speed dual-clutch automatic (known as DSG).
All trim levels come standard with the turbocharged four-cylinder, which is rated at 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. In Edmunds performance testing, a Passat with this engine accelerated from zero to 60 mph in a relatively quick 7.7 seconds. EPA fuel economy estimates for the 1.8-liter stand at 27 mpg combined combined (23 city/34 highway), which is a bit behind the segment average.
The 3.6-liter V6 is available on the SE and SEL Premium trim levels, and it produces 280 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. In Edmunds testing, a Passat with the 3.6-liter V6 made the sprint from zero to 60 mph in 6.4 seconds. It's rated at 23 mpg in combined driving (20 city/28 highway).
Though both available engines in the 2017 Volkswagen Passat are worth considering, most people will be satisfied with the standard 1.8-liter four-cylinder. It's quick compared to rivals and offers decent fuel economy. Unfortunately, the gas pedal's responsiveness is sluggish in the default setting. You can switch to Sport mode, but then it feels too jumpy. The 3.6-liter V6 makes for better acceleration, but fuel economy falls behind class leaders. Its transmission has delayed shift responses, too, and it's a bit clunky with gear choice at slow speeds.
Regardless of engine choice, the Passat is quiet and comfortable around town and on the highway. Steering is generally precise, but this isn't the car we'd recommend if you're looking for a sporty driving experience. It's a bit more relaxed and reserved, which may or may not be your preference.
One of the most inviting parts of the 2017 Volkswagen Passat is its reserved yet classy interior. Cabin materials are excellent, and the cabin layout is, as you'd expect from the German automaker, logical and simple. Competition is stiff in the family sedan segment, but the Passat still retains a vibe of simplicity and functionality that borders on luxurious. In contrast to that upscale interior feel, though, are the infotainment screens. Neither the base unit nor the upgraded 6.3-inch screen is very big, and graphics resolution isn't going to wow you. Still, they're easy to operate, and the robust suite of smartphone integration is certainly welcome.
We like the Passat's front seats, finding them properly bolstered and comfortable for almost any driver. Legroom is generous in the backseat, which means a comfortable fit for most adults and plenty of room for rear-facing child safety seats. The Passat is about tied with class leaders for trunk space at 15.9 cubic feet of cargo space. The trunk opening is large, and the 60/40-split rear seats mean plenty of space for larger items.
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.