If the 2018 Volkswagen Passat looks exceedingly familiar, that's likely because it's soldiered on with the same look since the current generation debuted six years ago. That's a long time without a significant, or even subtle, update, and most rival sedans have been redesigned during that time. But that's also a testament to all that the Passat gets right: reserved but timeless style to match its practical personality.
The Passat isn't the go-to sedan if you're seeking flash and flair, but its roomy cabin, large and useful shape of its trunk, and easy-to-drive nature make it an excellent family shuttle, a car for around-town driving with friends or colleagues, or long-distance road tripping in quiet comfort. And with six trim levels, two available engines, and a solid set of features spread throughout the lineup, there's a Passat right for all budgets.
For 2018, the Passat introduces an upgraded four-cylinder engine. The larger 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (174 horsepower, 184 pound-feet of torque) gains 4 hp and more miles of improved fuel economy, now 29 combined mpg (25 city/36 highway). This is still just average mpg for a midsize sedan, but what the Passat lacks in fuel efficiency, it makes up for with lively performance and pickup. The last four-cylinder we tested sprinted from 0 to 60 mph in 7.7 seconds, quick enough to make the optional V6 engine just that: optional.
trim levels & features
The 2018 Volkswagen Passat comes in six trim levels: S, R-Line, SE, SE with Technology, GT, and SEL Premium.
The base S starts with a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine (174 horsepower, 184 pound-feet of torque) and a six-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include 16-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, a rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, a power-adjustable driver seat, 60/40-split folding rear seats, Bluetooth, a 5-inch touchscreen, and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, one USB port and an auxiliary audio jack. The optional Driver Assistance package adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.
The R-Line adds 19-inch alloy wheels, heated side mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel (with shift paddles), heated front seats, simulated leather upholstery, a 6.3-inch touchscreen, HD and satellite radio, VW's Car-Net smartphone integration (includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink), and unique R-Line styling elements. The S trim's optional driver aids are included, along with adaptive cruise control. An optional R-Line Lighting package adds LED headlights and taillights.
The SE builds on the R-Line features (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. LED headlights and taillights are optional on the SE.
The new GT trim (delayed availability) is a mashup of R-Line and SE trims, with 19-inch wheels, sport-tuned suspension, sport front seats, and two-tone simulated leather upholstery among its distinguishing features. Powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine (280 hp, 258 lb-ft of torque) and paired to a six-speed automatic transmission, think of the GT as a Passat interpretation of the Jetta GLI.
The top-trim SEL Premium bundles nearly all features from the lower trims with 18-inch wheels, power-folding mirrors, a power-adjustable passenger seat, driver-seat memory settings, leather upholstery, automatic wipers, a premium Fender audio system, a separate ski pass-through for the 60/40-split rear seats, an automated parallel-parking feature, and a lane departure warning system. The four-cylinder engine comes standard, and the V6 is optional.
Each vehicle typically comes in multiple versions that are fundamentally similar. The ratings in this review are based on our full test of the 2016 Volkswagen Passat SEL (turbo 1.8L inline-4 | 6-speed automatic | FWD).
NOTE: Since this test was conducted, the current Passat has received some revisions, including a slightly more powerful and fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine. Our findings remain broadly applicable to this year's Passat.
noise & vibration
ease of use
getting in/getting out
child safety seat accomodation
audio & navigation
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.