Interior view of the 2015 Volkswagen Passat.
I don’t know why I’m initially surprised when I get behind the wheel of a Volkswagen and expect something different every time. Don’t fall into the trap and be fooled by the mild-mannered exterior, folks. There’s always a surprise lurking under a Volkswagen’s hood, writes our automotive editor Sally Miller Wyatt.
And why wouldn’t there be? After all, we have German engineering here. So, the second I pull away from the curb in our test car, the 2015 Volkswagen Passat, I remember that little fact: unassuming exterior, power-packed action under the hood.
For 2015, Volkswagen offers several new features in a mid-sized sedan that starts at around $21,120. The features begin with a new 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injection four-cylinder TDI Clean Diesel engine that offers owners more horsepower and fuel efficiency. This engine claims an EPA estimated 44 mpg highway fuel economy and range of nearly 814 miles, which is very family and commuter budget-friendly. A rearview camera is available on some models, as is a windshield wiper with rain-sensing abilities.
These 2015 models are also built in America, at the Chattanooga, Tennessee plant.
Volkswagen offers the Passat in five trim levels: the S, Wolfsburg Edition, SE, Sport and SEL – with a total of 12 equipment levels. Even at the base level with a five-speed manual transmission, the standard features are good: air conditioning, hill hold control (with manual transmission), multifunction steering wheel with audio and phone controls, power exterior mirrors, automatic headlights, trip computer, CD player and six speakers, and Bluetooth technology. Add about $1,000 and you can have an automatic transmission on this base level car.
Our test car was the mid-level SE with the new diesel engine. Although the engine offered a bit of hesitation when first pulling away from the curb, it quickly catches up and then you’re enjoying a swift ride, tight handling and a butter-smooth suspension.
This model is offered beginning at $26,825 and features all previously mentioned items as well as 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, leatherette seating, eight-way power driver seat, heated front seats, Premium VIII touchscreen radio, rearview camera, and rear passenger vents. A sunroof is also available, as well as such extras as push-button start and front fog lights.
As for safety, all Passats are equipped with Electronic Stability Control that helps compensate for understeering or oversteering, anti-lock brakes, hydraulic brake assist, and Volkswagen’s Intelligent Crash Response System. This system automatically unlocks the doors, shuts off the fuel pump and turns on the hazard warning lights in the event of a collision.
There are six standard air bags on board, including front and side thorax bags for driver and front passenger.
The 2015 Passats have a cleanly designed exterior with smooth lines.
Behind the wheel, you’ll find a no-nonsense dashboard and firmly comfortable seats. Visibility is good and there is adequate leg and head room. The rear seat is accommodating for two adults, but I’m not sure it would be a comfortable fit for three.
The trunk has a wide opening and it can be remotely opened from the key fob.
Speaking of the key fob: the only complaint we had with the Passat was the location of the emergency panic button. It’s located on the side of the fob and it was really easy to set off the car’s alarm just by grabbing the key.
Once out on the road, there’s no denying the driving experience you’re going to get with the Passat. The car handles very nicely and tight turns are effortlessly smoothed out. The brakes are so responsive, it takes a bit to get used to how quickly they respond. You could easily find yourself speeding along above the posted limit; consider this before handing the keys over to the newly licensed.
The 2015 Volkswagen Passat SE was a fun car to drive and its price tag isn’t too stratospheric. When equipped with the new diesel engine, it becomes a thrifty and fuel efficient option for families and commuters, as well.