I’ve long been a fan of Volkswagen products. For many decades, they’ve been big on safety and reliability, and fun to drive. Think Rabbit, Golf, GTI, CC, and R32. But they also offer a good value when it comes to affordable sedan performance. Think Jetta and Passat. For those who like the ability to carry families and gear, Tiguan and Toureg SUVs foot the bill.
On a recent fall day in beautiful Stowe, Vermont, Volkswagen assembled members of the automotive press to test drive the new 2016 Passat 1.8T and 3.6 variants. Noticeably, there is no TDI option in the 2016 lineup, as all diesels have been pulled from the U.S. market pending the outcome of so-called “DieselGate.” During the press conference for the new Passat, VW handled the diesel car situation head on and promised media would be apprised when additional news was available.
Diesel powertrains aside, the new Passat features mostly safety upgrades, with a few new cosmetic touches thrown in for good measure.
I drove two SEL models, one featuring the venerable 1.8 T turbocharged four, and the other the powerful 3.6-liter six.
Aside from a prodigious increase in power that one would expect from the 280-horsepower V6, the two SEL models are the same, featuring premium content and superb build quality.
There are many viable competitors in the roughly $20-40 thousand price range the Passat operates in. Kia, Ford, Hyundai, Lexus, Infiniti, Mercedes, BMW and corporate cousin Audi among others all offer quality vehicles sure to please.
What sets VW and the new Passat apart from other makes is that the car offers safety and technology features that belie its price point. I often get asked by family, friends and people I meet who find out my line of work for recommendations for new and used vehicle purchases. I always tell them to buy their vehicles based on safety.
How well do they hold up in a crash? What are standard and optional features that will keep you safe? How reliable is the model? What are insurance rates for the model?
Keeping these variables in mind, Volkswagens are always on my list of brands to consider, particularly for younger drivers.
For 2016, the new Passats offer an impressive array of aforementioned safety and tech features.
My SEL test models came standard with front, front side and side curtain airbags; antilock brakes; electronic stability control, tire pressure monitors and the Intelligent Crash Response System (ICRS). ICRS Following an airbag deployment or the activation of the safety belt ‘tensioners’ engaged by a vehicle crash sensor, the ICRS system takes several steps to ensure occupants can exit the vehicle more easily, while making the area around the vehicle safer for first responders.
First, ICRS unlocks all of the doors, saving precious seconds should occupants need to exit the vehicle, and making it easier for first responders to access the cabin of the car if required. Unlocking the vehicle doors after an accident is a simple, but highly effective idea. In addition to automatic door unlocking, the system also engages the vehicle’s interior lights, making it easier for occupants to locate door handles, and allowing emergency personnel to assess the situation quickly.
Next, ICRS disables the fuel pump, instantly stopping the engine and preventing the vehicle from further unwanted movement. More importantly, stopping the fuel pump ensures the fuel supply stays in the tank, reducing or eliminating the risk of a fire. Furthering this measure, ICRS also disengages all high-voltage electronics.
Visibility is key to safety in many driving situations, including immediately following an accident. Though a simple step, drivers typically forget to activate the hazard lamps after a collision, so the ICRS system does it for them. Immediately after impact, hazard lamps are enabled to make the vehicle easier to spot for emergency personnel and other motorists. This can aid rescue efforts in low-visibility situations and even prevent subsequent impacts with other vehicles.
Working in conjunction with the ICRS system are advanced airbags, which offer a perimeter of protection to all occupants. Passat’s laser-seam welded body structure forms the safety-shell, and also serves as an impact-absorbing measure in the case of a crash.
Of course, the above systems are ones that Volkswagen hopes owners and their families will never need to use. That’s why a range of pre-emptive safety systems are installed as standard on all models, working to prevent an accident from taking place at all.
On the technology front, my $37,655 V6 SEL Premium featured a rearview camera, Adaptive cruise control, Front Assist with Autonomous Emergency Braking; Park Distance Control; Park Steering Assistant (self parking car!); Lane Departure Warning System; Blind Spot Monitor with rear traffic alert; keyless start, memory seats, Easy-Open trunk lid; 6.3” touchscreen navigation; Fender premier audio, Bluetooth, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and more.
The new Passat is also well connected, with CAR-NET features that include: App-Connect (smartphone integration and interface), Guide & Inform (navigation and infotainment), and Security and Service (emergency services, remote vehicle diagnostics, etc.
And Passat comes with a comprehensive 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty. With VW sales a bit slow until DieselGate is sorted out, now is a great time to visit your local VW dealer and negotiate a great deal on a solid, do-it-all sedan.