The midsize family sedan market seems to have fallen out of favour with consumers these days, given the influx of small-ish crossovers that offer more cargo and room for similar prices.
Despite that, there are still vehicles in this class that are worth a look, including the 2017 Volkswagen Passat.
The Passat comes with two available engines; the base offering a 1.8-litre inline four-cylinder turbocharged engine. This TSI engine delivers 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, which are decent numbers, but not overly inspiring.
My Urano Grey tester is a Passat Highline equipped with the optional 3.6-litre V6 engine. It has considerably more pop to it than the TSI powerplant, with 280 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.
On the whole, I have to say that the V6 engine is a pleasure to drive, except for one thing.
Off-the-line acceleration is a tad sluggish. When pressing the gas pedal leaving a traffic light, there is a slight delay in engine response before it finally gets moving.
However, after that initial pause, the engine is smooth and the power delivery is good. Accelerating onto the highway and passing slower traffic is seamless.
The V6 engine is paired with a 6-speed DSG automatic transmission with Tiptronic for manual shifting if desired. Still, the electronically controlled dual-clutch gearbox does quite well left to its own devices, so I resist the urge to click those pedals.
My Passat tester features remote starting, which is a welcome addition as the nights grow colder and frost covers the windshield in the morning.
Fuel economy for the V6 Passat is rated at 11.9L/100 km in the city and 8.5L/100 km on the highway. My testing results in an average of 11.3L/100 km.
The current generation of Passat, a model that dates back to the 1970s, received an exterior refresh in 2016 after a redesign for the 2012 model year.
This refresh includes a new hood, front fenders, both bumpers and the trunk lid, providing the Passat with an elegant exterior design.
The wide, horizontal lines of the front grille give it an athletic stance and blend right in to the headlight assemblies, which feature LED lighting.
A crisp shoulder crease and nicely designed dual exhaust at the rear cap the exterior design.
Fresh design cues continue inside the Passat, with clean, crisp lines, an easy to decipher dashboard and a very comfortable steering wheel, with the flat-bottomed treatment.
Our tester features two-tone leather seats (Black / Golden Oak) that add an air of luxury to the cabin and I find the seats to be comfortable and easily adjusted for a proper driving position.
Rear passengers have a generous amount of legroom, with taller occupants having no problem sitting comfortably behind me during the drive route.
And despite an abundance of black plastic in the interior, the cabin is kept airy thanks to a large sunroof that helps bathe everything in sunlight.
One thing about the interior layout that takes me some time getting used is the start/stop button located just to the left of the shifter. My finger keeps automatically going to a spot to the right of the steering wheel where many other vehicles have their ignition switch. That said, this is hardly going to be an issue for anyone who owns this vehicle.
A few centimetres above the start/stop button is the Passat’s infotainment screen, a 6.33-inch touchscreen that features proximity sensor.
What this means is that as your hand approaches the screen, menu items will pop into view according to what section you are in (media, radio band, phone, navigation, etc.).
Much like a screen on your smartphone, the touchscreen also enables swipe-and-pinch controls.
Volkswagen’s App-Connect is also featured in the Passat. It allows you to connect the infotainment system to your smartphone via Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and MirrorLink.
While I have heard complaints that the screen is undersized in the Passat, I find it to be just about right for the overall interior dimensions.
And the layout of the screens and controls makes the system fairly easy to comprehend and use.
Despite that acceleration lag alluded to earlier, the overall drive and feel of the Passat is positive.
The passenger cabin is on the quiet side, with very little noise intrusion from the outside world.
And the ride is also a smooth one, further enhancing the experience.
The Passat is packed with technology, including things like a standard rear-view camera and adaptive cruise control. There’s also a range of safety features that, depending on trim level, include forward-collision warning with autonomous emergency braking, a blind-spot monitor with rear traffic alert, lane-departure warning, and parking steering assist
On the Highline, I find that the lane-departure warning seems to jump in when it isn’t needed, especially when I have already activated the blinker indicating a lane change, but the steering wheel still fights me a little.
While the Passat doesn’t do anything to stand head and shoulders above its competition, it is a family sedan that is definitely worth a look given the space for rear occupants, some cargo flexibility and the drive.
2017 Volkswagen Passat Highline
Price as tested: $40,890
Configuration: front engine/front-wheel drive
Engine/transmission: 3.6-litre V6 / 6-Speed DSG with Tiptronic
Power/torque: 280 horsepower/ 258 lb-ft
Fuel (capacity): Regular (70 L)
Combined fuel economy ratings (L/100 km): 10.4L/100 km
Observed fuel economy (L/100 km): 11.3L/100 km
Warranties: 4-years/80,000 km (basic)
Competitors: Mazda6, Chevrolet Malibu, Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion
- Comfortable ride and quiet cabin
- Excellent power from the V6
- Spacious rear seat and trunk
- A little lag at initial acceleration
- Infotainment screen is on the small side