The 2015 Volkswagen Passat remains the premier affordable European midsize sedan despite being made specifically for the American market.
The 2015 Passat is Volkswagen’s entry into the competitive midsize sedan market. Despite its German heritage, the Passat was designed (and is built) in Tennessee specifically for the North American market. On the outside styling is purely Teutonic, yet inside, the Passat is decidedly American.
The 2015 Passat is marked by three distinct engine choices, six trim levels, and a variety of options. Updates for 2015 include a revised diesel engine option.
The 2015 Passat’s exterior is simple and stylish. Its lines and curves accentuate motion and are inspired by contemporary German designs. Still, the Passat fails to stand out in the crowded market of European-inspired midsize sedans. Notable exterior points include the signature Volkswagen grille centered by the VW marque and flanked by peering headlamps. Body lines flow forward to rear, masking the door handles.
The base model Passat S comes with 16-inch steel wheels and plastic wheel covers.
The Wolfsburg edition replaces those with alloy wheels. The Limited Edition upgrades to 17-inch alloy wheels and fog lights, as does the SE trim. The Passat Sport adds 19-inch alloy wheels and a rear spoiler. The SEL Premium trim also builds on the SE’s features with 18-inch alloy wheels and a sunroof.
Few sedans in the midsize segment boast the roominess you’ll find in the 2015 Passat. The rear seat, in particular, rivals some full-size sedans for its roominess and legroom. However, headroom can be an issue if back-seat passengers are tall. The rear seats are 60/40 split-folding and the trunk boasts 15.9 cubic feet of cargo space, which is far more space than most sedans in this segment offer. Materials quality is good throughout, though some hard plastics are present in lower trims.
The base S trim begins interior accoutrements with cloth upholstery, a height-adjustable driver seat and a tilt-telescoping steering wheel.
The Wolfsburg trim adds leatherette upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, heated front seats and a six-way power driver’s seat. The SE trim also builds on the Wolfsburg with rear seat air vents and a sliding armrest between the front seats. The SEL Premium adds leather upholstery (and simulated suede inserts), a six-way power passenger seat, driver seat memory functions, wood grain trim, dual-zone automatic climate control and a ski pass-through.
The 2015 Passat is a comfortable, smooth-driving sedan with plenty of finesse. At highway speeds it’s quiet and responsive. Our chief complaint is that the Passat’s highly cushioned ride means there is little road feel for the driver. For most, this is not likely an issue as it means excellent comfort for the class.
All 2015 Volkswagen Passat models are front-wheel drive. The base engine is a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder rated at 170 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed automatic is available.
The EPA rates the base Passat with the manual transmission at 24/35 mpg city/highway. The automatic model is rated at 24/36 mpg city/highway.
A 3.6-liter V6 gasoline engine is available, and is mated to a six-speed automated manual (DSG) transmission. This engine produces 280 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The V6-powered Passat is rated at 20/28 mpg city/highway.
Passat TDI models come with a turbodiesel 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces 150 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard and a six-speed DSG is optional. The diesel-powered Passat gets 30/42 mpg city/highway with the automated manual, or 30/44 mpg with the six-speed manual. We averaged 36 mpg during our real-world driving time in a DSG-equipped Passat TDI.
The 2015 VW Passat has seen many improvements over the past few years, but sadly, the infotainment and technology interface is not one of them. It remains underpowered and quirky in its use. Small displays further plague the Passat’s tech center.
The base model Passat S includes a basic trip computer, standard Bluetooth connectivity, and an adequate six-speaker sound system with a CD player and auxiliary jack. The Wolfsburg edition introduces the Car-Net telematics system, an iPod interface and satellite radio.
The Limited Edition upgrades to an eight-speaker sound system and brings in a touch-screen interface. The SEL Premium trim adds a navigation system and HD radio and music storage. Any of the Passat’s trims from the Wolfsburg forward can be upgraded with a premium Fender Audio system featuring nine speakers.
The Volkswagen Passat comes standard with several key safety features, but is missing some features that are becoming standards in the midsize segment. A rearview camera is optional, but features like blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning and lane-departure warning are all absent. A boon, however, is the Car-Net system, standard on the Wolfsburg trim and higher, which adds not only emergency notification and vehicle telematics, but also parental and valet controls to limit distances the car may travel. It integrates with both Apple and Android smartphones.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has given the 2015 Passat a 5-star overall rating. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has also given the 2015 Passat high marks, giving it a top score of ‘Good’ in all but the small-overlap frontal-offset crash test, for which it scored the second-best rating of ‘Acceptable.’ The 2015 Passat is an IIHS Top Safety Pick.
The Passat’s base price is on par for the class at about $21,000 and includes a modest array of amenities. The diesel-powered model delivers excellent fuel economy and begins at around $27,000, which is on par with most lower-priced hybrids in this segment. We also like the Passat’s strong safety ratings, roomy interior and various powertrain configurations.
The 2015 Volkswagen Passat is a solid, contemporary choice in the midsize marketplace. The base model is a good performer, but the diesel option really stands out. Compared with the segment leader, the 2015 Toyota Camry, the Passat is superior in some respects but not in others. Specifically the Camry’s well-known reliability and value retention outshine the Passat. Still, the Passat offers better driving dynamics, and its spacious, versatile interior set the Passat apart from most of its rivals.