Sen­si­ble sedan, un­til it meets our roads of ruin

The Washington Post Sunday - - CARS - War­ren Brown war­ren.brown@wash­post.com

It is like an old house with mod­ern ap­pli­ances — ones that are up­dated and eas­ily us­able.

Not much has been done to the ex­te­rior. But there are things dis­cernibly sturdy, steady and lik­able about it.

It cer­tainly says “fam­ily.” In say­ing that, it tells you it is less in­ter­ested in an­nounc­ing other things — ex­ces­sive horse­power and speed, flash, and dol­lar-per-mi­cro-ounce lux­ury.

It is no one’s Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz, and it does not pre­tend to be. Its boast is that it is a safe, re­li­able and rea­son­ably af­ford­able Ger­man sedan, and it has done quite well over the past five years win­ning and keep­ing cus­tomers with that sales mantra.

I am tempted to say the Pas­sat V-6 SEL Pre­mium is “old school,” a com­ment that im­plies some­thing is miss­ing from the car. Wrong! It has every­thing most of us want and need from a mod­ern au­to­mo­bile at a rea­son­able price. If you are look­ing for pres­tige, you’ll have to get it else­where, or just work for it.

Volk­swa­gen is do­ing some­thing sen­si­ble here. It is con­sol­i­dat­ing all of the good points of the Pas­sat line into a sin­gle unit. In­stead of buy­ing a box of op­tions to out­fit the less well-equipped Pas­sat S, R-Line, or SE mod­els, you buy the SEL Pre­mium and get prac­ti­cally every­thing you wanted in that car.

A notable dif­fer­ence is that the base en­gine in the R-line, SE and SE (with tech­nol­ogy) mod­els is a gaso­line, tur­bocharged 1.8-liter in-line four­cylin­der model (170 horse­power, 184 pound-feet of torque). The Pas­sat V-6 SEL Pre­mium, as the name im­plies, de­liv­ers power from a gaso­line V-6 (280 horse­power, 258 pound-feet of torque).

I’d rather go with the turbo four­cylin­der SE with tech­nol­ogy. Power de­liv­ery is much smoother and more con­sis­tent. The V-6 SEL is a tad jerky by com­par­i­son, and you can’t go any faster on a well-po­liced In­ter­state 66 in a V-6 model than you can in a turbo-four.

Ah, in­fra­struc­ture! State and fed­eral gov­ern­ments have been promis­ing to do some­thing about it, fix those raggedy streets, high­ways and bridges found all over the na­tion. I am will­ing to switch my po­lit­i­cal sup­port to any­one, per­haps even a Trumpian, who suc­ceeds.

What we have now are ru­ined streets and bridges that mock the finest au­to­mo­tive engi­neer­ing. Sorry, Volk­swa­gen. The Pas­sat’s four-wheel in­de­pen­dent sus­pen­sion seems a God­send on Ger­many’s well-main­tained Au­to­bahn. But it is no match for the mo­tor­ing agony de­liv­ered in abun­dance by too many Amer­i­can roads.

I like the V-6 SEL Pas­sat Pre­mium. But I’d rather drive it in Ger­many or, maybe, in Switzer­land. Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in those places seem to un­der­stand and ap­pre­ci­ate how ve­hi­cle and road engi­neer­ing work to­gether, com­ple­ment one an­other. Not here. Not yet. Un­for­tu­nately.

It has every­thing most of us want and need from a mod­ern au­to­mo­bile at a rea­son­able price.

JAMES HALFACRE/VOLK­SWA­GEN

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