VW of America CEO Michael Horn started off the reveal event for the 2016 Volkswagen Passat with these words: “Our company was dishonest. In my German words, we totally screwed up.”
In a surprising move to some, VW pushed full-steam ahead with its New York reveal of the 2016 Volkswagen Passat, despite calamitous allegations the automaker blatantly deceived the EPA and knowingly violated the Clean Air Act with its use of “defeat devices” on four-cylinder turbodiesel engines. Volkswagen has had a hard enough time consistently selling cars in the U.S. over the last decade, and neither its ugly emissions scandal nor this moderately refreshed Passat are going to do much to turn the tide.
While European markets get an all-new Passat that rides on Volkswagen’s MQB platform (shared with the Golf and Audi A3), the U.S.-spec 2016 Volkswagen Passat receives lots of non-mechanical upgrades to the existing model. The changes start with almost all-new sheetmetal, save for the roof and doors. The Passat’s front and rear ends, fenders, headlights and taillights, and hood all get a clean new treatment for 2016. More sculpted touches on areas like the hood make for a sportier look, while chrome trim on the window surrounds, doors, and trunk speak to premium aspirations. LED front and rear lighting is available on all trim levels.
There are no full details on how the trim levels for the 2016 Volkswagen Passat will be structured just yet, but we know the base model will continue to be designated as the Passat S. Its starting price of $23,260 with destination, equipped with a 170-hp 1.8-liter turbo-four and a six-speed automatic transmission, remains unchanged. A five-speed manual should also still be available for the turbo-four. We’d expect SE, SEL, and possible Wolfsburg trims to also enter the mix, but new to the lineup is the first-ever Passat R-Line with sportier-looking rocker panels, contrasting black trim, a more aggressive rear diffuser, and 19-inch wheels on fatter 235/40 ZR rubber. The front end has a much more extroverted attitude, with a two-bar lower front fascia and faux cooling vents to either side, matching the aesthetic we know well from the Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Changes to the interior of the 2016 Volkswagen Passat include a new gauge cluster, center stack, standard MIB II touchscreen infotainment, and VW Car-Net. Car-Net offers compatibility with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and MirrorLink so customers can easily project their phone’s content onto the car’s display. As predicted, the new Passat gets all of the same safety gear that’s joined other VW models, such as adaptive cruise control, par-assist, lane departure warning with LaneAssist active corrections, and blind spot monitoring wit rear cross-traffic alert. Premium content like wood-grain detailing as well as heated rear seats are offered to tempt buyers with something a little finer than you’d find in a Jetta.
In addition to the base 1.8T, the same 280-hp, 3.6-liter VR6 six-cylinder engine will continue to be available on upper trim levels, paired with a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. VW also confirmed that there will be a TDI version of the 2016 Volkswagen Passat, although at this point it isn’t clear if the EPA will certify it considering the pending investigation and fallout of the diesel emissions scandal.
VW has said TDI models make up a large chunk of its overall sales. In August 2015 for example, VW noted that 22.9 percent of its volume were diesel-powered. VW had a chance to distinguish itself and the Passat as the only midsize sedan offering a diesel (the Mazda6 diesel never made it to the U.S.), but now the company’s emissions deception will indeed have long-reaching consequences that put a lot of doubt into Volkswagen’s future plans for the U.S. market. The brand’s EA288 diesel engine may be the spear VW climbed, only to fall on it.