2018 VW Passat: Small Changes to an Average Sedan

There’s nothing bad about the VW Passat. It’s a handsome-looking midsize sedan with decent interior space, lots of tech and decent performance. But it’s never really been the ‘wow’ car in its class. Some changes for 2018 could mean more excitement, depending on what option package you choose. Overall, however, the changes are so subtle that they still don’t lift the Passat out of its place as the ‘under the radar’ sedan. Some of the changes for 2018 include a 2.0-Liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, which replaces the outgoing 1.8. Unfortunately the extra displacement doesn’t do much, with last year’s model actually feeling a bit quicker and recording slightly better mileage.

We expected to at least feel a bump in torque, which is what you feel right when you press the throttle – and at first it felt that way, but the more we drove it the less excited we were about the new engine. One really positive change is that the new Passat carries VW’s new warranty, devised as a sort of ‘we’re sorry’ concession after the Diesel emissions scandal. As a way to regain the trust of consumers, VW augmented their warranty to 6-years and 72k miles both bumper to bumper and powertrain. It’s a robust warranty, and could easily be the new Passat’s best feature. Not having to worry about anything but routine maintenance for that long is certainly worth something.

Cosmetically, not much has changed. The interior is handsome but also lacks excitement. The materials are nice, but nothing really stands out. The steering wheel is probably the highlight, nicely leather-wrapped and fits the hands quite well. The seats are comfortable and supportive. Really anything you might want out of your sedan, the Passat delivers. It’s actually hard to find fault, which is why it’s also hard to get too mad at its boring personality.

Also new for 2018 is the ‘GT’ trim package, which uses styling cues and materials from the GTI hatchback. We like the idea of a sporty looking Passat, and the GT comes with a 3.6-liter V6 which makes 280hp. The 174hp that the 2.0-Liter delivers is only four more than the outgoing engine, and we’d prefer if the GT model actually came with the GTI engine also. Price, however, remains manageable, with the S model starting at just $22.9k. The GT comes in at a starting price of $29,1k and the range topping SEL version is either $31k or $35k depending on which engine you choose.

That’s a big range in price, but there’s also a big range in features. Starting with a bare-bones, no-nonsense version, the S-model doesn’t have much for features, comfort and tech. But it’s a fine sedan, and priced similarly to many smaller cars on the market. The higher line versions start to add better materials, more tech and better infotainment. The biggest problem with the Passat is that its competitors are exceptional. There are some great cars in the class, including the all-new Camry and Accord. The Passat is starting to feel a bit dated, and definitely due for a refresh.

If you’re interested more in value and warranty than flashy looks and features, however, the Passat is for you. With a great starting price, good efficiency and an amazing warranty, you can overlook at bit of the boringness. Some people prefer to fly under the radar, so it may be just the thing for you. We definitely like the Passat, but it’s just swimming in a really deep pool right now.

Special thanks to Volkswagen Group of America for providing the 2018 VW Passat for review.