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2017 Volkswagen Passat Review By Larry Nutson


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2017 Volkswagen Passat
A family-sized sedan

By Larry Nutson
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

When I am new car shopping the power train is right at the top of my list of particulars that come in to consideration. The reality of today is that, more often than not, choices within a model include 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder engines, or perhaps a turbo-four vs. a naturally aspirated four.

In the case of the 2017 VW Passat there are two engine options: a 170HP 1.8-liter TSI turbocharged four-cylinder or a 280 HP 3.6-liter VR6.


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I had a 2017 Passat SEL Premium equipped with the VR6 engine at my disposal for a week’s worth of driving and evaluation. Delivering the power to the front wheels is via a standard 6-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. Steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters also were equipped on the SEL Premium I drove.

The VR6 develops plenty of torque and the combination with the quick-shifting DSG proved quite satisfying. The engine is quiet and smooth. There’s not much noise or vibration from under the hood. The 280-horses make for quick acceleration, easy highway merging and spirited passing. From stop to 60 mph takes about 6.5 seconds.


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I haven’t driven the 170HP 4-cylinder, but I can tell that if I were buying I would go for the VR6. Load up the trunk and add some rear seat passengers and I would want to still have good overall performance.

Coincidentally, a colleague of mine at another automotive publication just published his report on driving the 2017 Passat with the 1.8-liter turbo in the same SEL trim level. I value his opinion and he thought that power train to be plenty responsive and provide lots of fun and good performance.

So, this is good. VW appears to have two really good engine choices to meet customer’s different needs.

Of course there’s a fuel economy trade-off with the VR6. It’s EPA test-cycle rated at 20 city mpg and 28 highway mpg. The 4-cylinder is EPA test-cycle rated at 23 city mpg and 34 highway mpg. If you were test driving with these two engines, think about how heavily the car will be loaded in your typical driving and in what type of terrain—flat or hilly, you will be driving. Note here too, that the VR6’s 280HP is achieved on premium fuel but the engine can be operated on regular gasoline.

I did a one-day 95 percent-highway 300-mile road trip and got 33 mpg, easily exceeding the EPA rating in spite of my spirited driving. The 18.5 gallon fuel tank made for non-stop driving.

The 1.8T powered 2017 Passat model line-up starts out with the S priced at $22,440. The R-Line is $23,975, the SE at $25,495, theSE w/ Technology is $27,995 and the SEL Premium Is $30,995 MSRP. All use a traditional six-speed automatic.

For more performance, the V6 SE w/ Technology is $29,295 and V6 SEL Premium is $33,995. I like that the SE and SEL trims are offered with either engine. Often car makers force the top trim level with all the comfort and convenience features to require the “big engine.”

Note that the 5-passenger Passat is only available in front-wheel drive. VW has left their 4Motion all-wheel-drive system to the SUV crowd. But, I wouldn’t let that deter you. A good set of four winter tires will meet most all snowy-road needs.

VW redesigned the Passat for 2016 with fresh sheetmetal, a revised interior and new connectivity and available driver assistance systems. For 2017 the Passat sees relatively minor changes. However, driver assistance, connectivity, and convenience features are now offered in lower trims. As the auto industry moves forward we will see more driver-assistance safety features spread across all trim levels.


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The SEL Premium trim I drove had 18-inch wheels with 235/45 tires, LED head and tail lights plus fog lights, power-folding outside mirrors (a must when parking in a crowded city), a power sunroof, power front seats and heated front and rear seats along with leather seating surfaces. Also in the driver-assistance realm, there is adaptive cruise control, front emergency braking, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitor and a rear view camera. And lastly, parking steering assist feature automatically steers the car into parallel and perpendicular parking spaces in reverse.

Navigation and Fender audio system makes cruising easy and entertaining. A hands-free trunk is operated by the under-bumper foot-wave we are seeing on many makes.


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The one item I was missing was a heated steering wheel, which I see as a comfort feature and not necessarily a luxury feature.

Overall the Passat is a nice, well-equipped, affordable German mid-size sedan. It’s roomy and loaded with features. With the VR6, it borders on being a sports sedan. The suspension is tuned in the comfort direction, and there’s something to be said for not feeling every road surface imperfection. I’m a fan of the DSG transmission, and the one in my Passat test car performed well. On my long road trip I was comfortable in the supportive seats and appreciated the low cabin noise making for good audio listening.

The Passat is well equipped and well designed. A bit of evidence supporting this is that sales are up nearly 30% through March of this year. The Passat is assembled in VW’s Chattanooga, Tennessee assembly plant that is now also building the all-new 7-passenger Atlas SUV.

More info and specs on the 2017 Passat can be found at www.vw.com. Comparisons to other mid-size sedans can be made right here at The Auto Channel.

Take note that the 2017 Passat has earned a 5-star overall safety rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and has been named a Top Safety Pick by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Auf wiedersehen.

© 2017 Larry Nutson, the Chicago Car Guy

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