Sensible sedan, until it meets our roads of ruin
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.