WASHINGTON — It wasn’t long ago that the midsize sedan was one of the most popular automotive segment and a V-6 option was pretty much a given. But lately, with improved turbo four-cylinder engines that offer the power and better fuel economy, the V-6 is harder to find.
The Volkswagen Passat SEL Premium has an optional V-6 when even Honda is dropping that option for the 2018 model sedans.
I’ve driven several Passat sedans over the years, all with turbo four-cylinder engines that do OK with power. But they don’t beat the power of this Passat SEL Premium with 280 horsepower. The idle is a bit rough at startup, but it’s a quiet runner until you really step on it — then there’s a nice noise at higher revolutions per minute. It pulls nicely through the rev range, and there’s no waiting for a turbo to spool up. The DSG automatic can be a little slow to react when just light throttle is used at very low speeds. It really gets its act together all other times, providing quick and smooth shift most of the time.
Fuel economy does suffer when compared with the four-cylinder version. I managed 24.1 mpg with mixed driving. With the four-cylinder models, I was near 27-28 mpg; so factor that in with your need for power. The ride is mostly smooth even with the larger 18-inch wheels. Most bumps are dealt with without harshness or upsetting passengers. If you think German means sporty handling, the Passat trades sport for comfort similar to the competition.
Where the Volkswagen Passat really shines is inside. This midsize sedan seems much larger than the competition. There’s plenty of space for riders, both in the front and back. There’s even a large trunk. With the $34,815 SEL Premium trim, the inside is nicer than other versions of the Passat. This trim level includes real leather seating surfaces that look and feel nice, seats that are power controlled with quick working seat heat. Back seat passengers also get heated seats, along with ample head and leg room. There is the normal dual zone automatic climate control and even the steering wheel has paddle shifters, though I doubt many will use them.
One thing that stands out is the addition of tech and safety features in more VW products. The Passat SEL Premium has adaptive cruise, lane departure warning, lane assist and even autonomous emergency braking. This Passat will even help you park with the Parking Steering Assistant. The Fender premium audio system sounds better than I can remember in past VW Passat models without this system, but the screen seems a bit small for this price point. The NAV works very well.
The Passat styling is pretty conservative compared to some of the models in the midsize sedan class. The SEL trim level, however, looks a bit flashier compared to other Passat models. The larger wheels add appeal, and the LED headlights and daytime running lights are an interesting shape in the normal headlight housings. From the side view, the body of the car looks large. There are some lower body moldings that break up the size a bit. With the V-6 you get a slightly different rear-end styling, with two large rectangular exhaust pipes at the bottom of the rear bumper. My tester had the Platinum Grey paint and while it’s a nice color, the red, blue or silver would have spiced up the look a little.
If you want V-6 power in your midsize sedan, the VW Passat will sell you one at a very competitive price. With improved safety and tech features, the Passat is in line with the competition but it has more space than the others. The VW Passat is your big, comfortable alternative in the midsize sedan class.
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