2018 Volkswagen Passat

2018 Volkswagen Passat Review

Its timeless style is a testament to all that the Passat gets right.
3.5 star edmunds overall rating
author
by Dan Frio
Edmunds Editor

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.



what's new

For 2018, the Passat gets an updated four-cylinder engine with more power and improved fuel efficiency. A new GT trim level debuts featuring the V6 engine, 19-inch wheels and a sport-tuned suspension. Base models can now add optional driver aids such as blind-spot monitoring and automatic emergency braking.

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You can get a nicely equipped Passat in SE trim, but for more upscale character, opt for the SE's Technology package. An SE with this package is a solid value and has just about everything you'll need in a family sedan, including keyless ignition, a power-adjustable driver seat, Apple CarPlay-Android Auto smartphone integration, forward collision mitigation, navigation, front and rear heated seats, and a hands-free trunk opener. We're intrigued by the new GT trim, however, with its V6 engine and sport suspension tuning. It could be the best answer to the Passat's otherwise sedate nature.

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.

trim tested

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.

Edmunds Scorecard

Overall3.5 / 5.0

Driving

2.5 / 5.0

Acceleration4.5 / 5.0
Braking2.5 / 5.0
Steering2.5 / 5.0
Handling3.0 / 5.0
Drivability2.5 / 5.0

Comfort

4.5 / 5.0

Seat comfort3.0 / 5.0
Ride comfort5.0 / 5.0
Noise & vibration5.0 / 5.0

Interior

4.0 / 5.0

Ease of use3.0 / 5.0
Getting in/getting out4.0 / 5.0
Driving position2.5 / 5.0
Roominess4.0 / 5.0
Visibility5.0 / 5.0
Quality3.5 / 5.0

Utility

4.5 / 5.0

Small-item storage3.0 / 5.0
Cargo space5.0 / 5.0

Technology

3.0 / 5.0

Audio & navigation3.0 / 5.0
Smartphone integration4.0 / 5.0
Driver aids4.0 / 5.0

driving

edmunds rating
The Passat's punchy turbocharged four-cylinder engine should appeal to any midsize sedan shopper looking for their car to provide a good, solid kick in the back side. Sadly, other performance elements that come into play in everyday driving are subpar.

acceleration

edmunds rating
The Passat's turbocharged power makes it quicker than many base-engine rivals. With the previous 1.8-liter engine, the Passat accelerated from 0 to 60 mph in a quick 7.7 seconds. This year's 2.0-liter Passat could be a tad quicker.

braking

edmunds rating
Our Passat has the same sort of long, spongy brake pedal we've experienced on other VWs before. It's not offensive during light applications on the highway, but it's irritating in town or when driving aggressively. Its panic-stop braking distance is average.

steering

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Vague response and nebulous feel in slower, normal driving doesn't inspire much driver confidence in the Passat. As speeds rise on the open highway, though, it stays on the straight and narrow.

handling

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Driving around long sweepers and tight corners, the Passat feels less like the big family sedan that it is. The front end seems eager to bite into a corner, but it ultimately lacks the coordination and athleticism of its rivals.

drivability

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Though the engine itself is powerful, throttle pedal response is sluggish in the default setting. You can switch to Sport mode, but then it feels too jumpy. The engine makes plenty of power, but it takes effort to drive it smoothly.

comfort

edmunds rating
The Volkswagen Passat shines as a supremely comfy and quiet cruiser, especially when long-distance driving is considered. If you go on a lot of road trips, especially with a full load of family or friends, it's a great choice.

seat comfort

edmunds rating
The firm, supportive front seats further the Passat's claim as one of the best long-distance cruisers in the segment. There is a ton of rear seat room, but the rear backrest is more upright than that of an Accord or Camry, which some could find less comfortable.

ride comfort

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The Passat is one of those cars that favors comfort over agility. It's big, soft and cushy, yet its suspension maintains control over highway bumps. It should be exactly what most family sedan shoppers are looking for.

noise & vibration

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With its torque-rich turbocharged engine that doesn't have to work so hard, there tends to be less noise emanating from its engine bay. This is especially true should you find yourself chugging up hills. Road and wind noise is nonintrusive.

interior

edmunds rating
The Passat is very roomy inside and easy to see out of. The controls are easy to use, too. Really, this German sedan is one of the most old-school American cars on the road. Essentially, it's a full-size sedan for the price of a midsize one.

ease of use

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The interior is not cluttered with buttons, and basic controls are easily found and deciphered. However, the touchscreen is on the small side and is placed a bit too low. The same goes for the otherwise simple climate controls.

getting in/getting out

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The doors are big and light with good-size openings. The rear is easier to access than some competitors (Ford Fusion, Mazda 6) that have sleeker, lower rooflines.

driving position

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The driver seat adjusts only six ways (most rivals offer eight) and lacks the seat cushion tilt that provides extra under-thigh support. Taller folks and long-legged drivers might wish for more steering-wheel telescoping range so they can avoid driving with their arms straight out.

roominess

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The Passat looks, feels and is enormous. The large, airy cabin has tons of head- and legroom all around. The rear passengers won't feel claustrophobic.

visibility

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Visibility is superb, aided by big windows, thin-ish pillars and a squared roofline. It's easy to see out. The long rear deck could make it difficult to back in, but a rearview camera is standard.

quality

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The Passat does not boast the standout, best-in-class interior quality of past VWs. Many materials are pleasing to touch and the switchgear is excellent, but there are a lot of hard plastics that make it seem otherwise average.

utility

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The Passat's trunk is impressively large. Never mind the numbers, it really is one of the best. Small-item storage is unremarkable and bettered by that of others, but there's still enough storage for most.

small-item storage

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It's a typical array of storage here. There's a covered bin under the center stack that holds a USB port and is big enough for even phablets. Two cupholders are of average size. The under-armrest bin is a bit small.

cargo space

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Yes, its 15.5-cubic-foot measurement is average for the segment, but in practice the exceptionally deep and wide trunk has plenty of usable space. All four adults in the cabin can each store a rather sizable suitcase.

child safety seat accomodation

edmunds rating
The Passat has two sets of LATCH anchors in the outboard back seats, which are easy to use. There are three tether anchors on the parcel shelf. Rear-facing car seats fit easily, and the front passenger seat doesn't need to be moved.

technology

edmunds rating
The Passat's technology is acceptable, both in terms of its features and the controls for them. There's little missing, but there's also little that's above and beyond the norm. Its controls are also fine, relatively vice-free, but others are better.

audio & navigation

edmunds rating
Both the standard 5- and optional 6.3-inch touchscreens are on the small side and positioned too low. Their functionality is just OK — it doesn't confuse or frustrate — but others are better and have sharper and better-looking graphics.

smartphone integration

edmunds rating
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard on every trim level except the base S, which is nice. The rest of the Passat's setup is pretty standard.

driver aids

edmunds rating
The adaptive cruise control system maintains a natural distance and brakes and accelerates in a sensible manner. Lane keeping assist was a little obtrusive but did its job. Some unneeded forward collision warnings can happen when you're turning left onto streets with parked cars.

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.