Volkswagen’s customary approach to styling is to create unobtrusive cars and keep them looking basically the same for quite a while.
For consumers, the advantage of that philosophy is knowing their new VW won’t end up looking odd or old if they keep it long-term. The disadvantage (though some would call it another advantage) is the shiny new car they’re so proud of won’t attract much attention.
The Volkswagen Passat midsize sedan is, you guessed it, basically unchanged for 2018. But something new can be found under the hood. The previous 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine has been replaced by a 2.0-liter turbo, providing 4 more horsepower and better fuel economy. New numbers are 174 horsepower, 184 pound-feet of torque, 25 mpg city, 36 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined.
Another nice switch is a new six-year or 72,000-mile bumper-to-bumper limited warranty that is transferable to subsequent owners.
The 2018 Volkswagen Passat is available in six trim levels: S, R-Line, SE, SE with Technology, GT, and SEL Premium. All versions are front-wheel drive and come with a six-speed automatic transmission.
A 280-horsepower V6 is optional on the SEL trim and standard on the GT. Its torque rating is 258 pound-feet.
Both engines have a fuel requirement of regular unleaded.
Pricing for the 2018 Volkswagen Passat, including an $850 destination charge, starts at $23,845 for an S model. The V6 versions start at $35,500.
My tester was the Passat GT, which is a new trim for 2018. In addition to coming standard with the V6, the GT is gussied up with trim-exclusive touches including a GTI-style front red accent line and red brake calipers, carbon-fiber interior accents and a blacked-out roof, spoiler, mirrors and window trim.
The GT model is further distinguished by 19-inch “Tornado” aluminum-alloy wheels, sport suspension, a custom-tuned dual exhaust, and a 15-mm reduction in ride height.
Visual upgrades on the GT do give Passat some pizzazz, but it’s still under the radar in terms of attracting appreciative eyeballing.
Passat’s pleasures are best recognized by its driver and other occupants. Power and performance are enjoyable and refined. The cabin is roomy with rear-seat space beyond belief. There are areas of hard plastic but they didn’t bother me. Hard plastic has become a negative fixation among car reviewers who want soft touch everywhere, but I don’t want to ride around in a padded room.
Passat GT’s ride is smooth and quiet except for one thing that isn’t a problem, the sweet sounds emanating from the V6. And while we’re talking about the back of the car, I’ll mention that the Passat trunk is enormous.
The downside of the V6 is a fuel economy rating of only 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined.
In classic Volkswagen tradition, Passat’s interior design is neat and clean. The GT comes standard with seats made of Volkswagen’s V-Tex synthetic leather. V-Tex looks and feels just like leather, but is superior to leather because it won’t wear out as quickly. It also appeals to a broader range of customers that includes people who avoid leather products.
The Passat GT model is equipped with the same generous number of premium features as the SEL model, yet still has a sticker price below $30,000.
2018 VOLKSWAGEN PASSAT GT
Base price, including destination charge: $29,995
Price as driven: $29,995
Mary Lowry is an independent automotive writer who lives in Snohomish County. She is a member of the Motor Press Guild, and a member and past president of the Northwest Automotive Press Association. Vehicles are provided by the manufacturers as a one-week loan for review purposes only. In no way do the manufacturers control the content of the reviews.