Hankering for a sporty European performance sedan, but stunned by the high prices?
Never fear – we’ve found a sweet sedan that ticks all the right boxes and even surprised us with its sensible pricing: the 2017 VW Passat.
Now you have to be a smart shopper, or you could get carried away and end up dropping a fair amount of loot on some maxed-out model. You have to know the magic word.
The magic word is R-Line.
VW actually serves up 6 different models, but the R-Line gives you a nice dollop of sporty goodness in its second-to-lowest priced model, and it ends up being the one we’d choose.
The Passat has always been VW’s big family sedan, and it offers real presence on the road. While the new Camry and Accord are going super sporty, the Passat stays tasteful and conservative – but don’t mistake it for dull.
Add in the R-Line’s unique bumpers, grille intakes, chrome tipped exhaust and 19—inch alloy wheels, and it moves the needle up to handsome. Also on our Passat was the R-Line Lighting Package, which includes LED headlights, daytime running lights and taillights – very Audi-like!
We especially liked our tester’s Reef Blue Metallic color – giving some added visual pop – it just looks like the high-priced European spread.
You’ll never miss the cow.
Inside is equally conservative, yet sporty. The front seats are well shaped, heated with lumbar support, and the rear seat is huge, with limo-like legroom. One of the things that keeps the R-Line’s price in check is that the seats are leatherette – but we’ve found that German vinyl is about the best there is, and the quality and durability is excellent.
Besides, you do get some authentic bovine on the steering wheel, brake lever and shift knob, so you feel like you’re in an upscale product. Dual zone climate control is a nice standard feature, too. Add in the metallic-tone R-line interior trim, scuff plates, and sport pedals and you’ve got a nice place to spend time.
And a great place to drive. VW knows how to make interiors that work well, and the Passat is no exception. You’ve got a big handsome speedo and tach, with multifunction trip display in the middle to call up your important info, and a nice 6.3” touchscreen in the center console. There’s no navi here – again a nod to the price-point, but with streaming Bluetooth, we’re happy to use our iPhone anyway.
You do get plenty of other tech, including rearview monitor, satellite radio and standard safety items like Autonomous Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Monitor and Rear Cross Traffic Alert. Our tester was a 2017 model (more on that coming) but if you hold out for the 2018 the R-Line, you’ll also get Adaptive Cruise Control standard.
So, it’s a super-sized GTI?
Er, no. That’s not really the Passat’s mission in life, but it is a full-blooded European sedan, so it’s a great drive. Under the hood of our tester was a 1.8-liter, turbo four cylinder that puts out 170 hp. That may not sound like much for a big car, but with a fat torque curve and quick-shifting 6-speed automatic, it hustles along just fine. And it also does it with impressive smoothness and refinement.
There’s even better news for 2018, as the standard engine in all Passats is a larger 2.0-liter version of this engine, that gets 4 more horses, and a notable 23 lb-ft of torque – up to 184 lb.-ft. We might go for the 2018 on that alone.
Ride and handling, even on this lower trim level, will put Camry’s and Accords to shame – the ride is supple but well controlled, the handling is responsive and reassuring. And it supplies the driver with real feedback that makes it enjoyable in the commute or on a twisty road.
It feels like a big, polished Euro sedan – one that could happily wear an Audi or BMW badge.
Euro sedan, Euro price?
This is where VW gives us a sweet deal. Since you forgo some of the luxuries like leather, navigation, etc.…The 2017 R-Line starts at just $23,975. Add in $1,095 for the LED lighting, $820 for destination, and our tester $25,890. (Expect the 2018 model to be about $1,000 more – it’s not available yet.)
That’s got our bargain-meters buzzing! An Audi A4 starts at $36,000. A BMW 320i at $34,900. Heck, even a new Camry SE starts at $25,200.
We came away mighty impressed with our Passat. It’s handsome, sporty, nicely equipped, got those lovely Euro manners, and it looks like you spent thousands more.
That makes the Passat R-Line pretty magical in our books.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.