2015 Volkswagen Passat

What's new for 2015? For 2015, the Volkswagen Passat TDI receives an updated engine that boasts 10 more horsepower and slightly better fuel efficiency than the previous one. Other changes are minor, consisting chiefly of minor equipment shuffling.

If you'd like to drive a roomy midsize sedan with European breeding and style for the price of a mainstream midsizer, you have exactly one option: the 2015 Volkswagen Passat. Fortunately, this lack of choice doesn't equate to a lack of desirability. With its neatly tailored styling, accommodating cabin, composed handling and refined ride, the Passat will very likely impress you on a test-drive. But its appeal runs deeper than that, as it is the only car in its segment available with a fuel-sipping diesel (TDI) engine. It's rated at an impressive 34 mpg combined, and yet we've seen considerably higher than that in our long-term test of a Passat TDI.

The Passat's spacious interior caters to American tastes by allowing stretch-out room for adults both front and rear, as well as generous cargo capacity within its voluminous trunk. Given that Volkswagen builds the Passat in Tennessee expressly for the American market, this made-for-the-U.S. theme should come as no surprise. Furthermore, shoppers have a variety of engines from which to choose. In addition to the thrifty diesel, the Passat can be had with a peppy yet fuel-efficient turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder or, if maximum thrust is what you seek, a potent 3.6-liter V6.

Exterior Highlights
Sedan available in S, Wolfsburg, SE, Sport and SEL Premium trim levels

The 2015 Volkswagen Passat sedan is offered in five main trim levels: S, Wolfsburg, SE, Sport and SEL Premium. The diesel-powered TDI variant is essentially available in SE and SEL Premium trims.

The base S comes standard with 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry, full power accessories, air-conditioning, a height-adjustable driver seat (with two-way manual lumbar adjustment), a 60/40-split-folding rear seat, cloth upholstery, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, cruise control, a trip computer, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.

The Wolfsburg edition adds 16-inch alloy wheels, leatherette (premium vinyl) upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a six-way power driver seat (with two-way power lumbar), heated front seats, satellite radio, an iPod interface and VW's Car-Net telematics system.

Move up to the SE trim level and you get 17-inch alloy wheels, heated mirrors, a rearview camera, rear seat air vents, a sliding front armrest, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, upgraded gauges and displays and an eight-speaker sound system with a touchscreen interface.

The Passat Sport is similar to the SE, but has 19-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles (with the automatic transmission), front sport seats and faux carbon-fiber interior accents.

The top-of-the-line SEL Premium includes all of the SE features as well as 18-inch wheels, a sunroof, keyless ignition and entry, remote ignition, a six-way power passenger seat (with two-way power lumbar), driver memory functions, leather upholstery (with simulated suede seat inserts), wood grain interior trim, dual-zone automatic climate control, a navigation system, upgraded audio (with music storage and HD radio) and a separate ski pass-through for the 60/40 rear seat.

Many of the upper trims' features can be had on lower trims as options, either individually or via packages.

Spacious cabin, plenty of legroom, upright seatback cushion, ample trunk, rear seatbacks can fold down, quality interior materials, upscale look and feel

"Spaciousness" is the operative word when describing the Passat's cabin. Space up front is good. In back, the Passat verges on full-size sedan dimensions, as even 6-footers will have room to stretch out their legs. The seatback cushion is fairly upright, however, which can result in taller occupants' heads grazing the roof. The ample trunk can swallow 15.9 cubic feet of cargo -- a number that bests many competitors' -- and you can haul bulkier items when the 60/40 rear seatbacks are folded down.

The quality of the VW Passat's interior materials is among the best in the class. The overall cabin design is decidedly upscale, while the layout of gauges and controls is refreshingly simple. The premium Fender audio system will please even hard-core audiophiles. Our only significant complaint involves the optional navigation systems. The SE models have a lower-cost navigation unit with a small touchscreen display.

Standard safety features for the 2015 Volkswagen Passat include antilock disc brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags and front and rear side curtain airbags. A rearview camera is standard on SE, Sport and SEL trims. VW's Car-Net telematics system, standard from the Wolfsburg model on up, includes automatic crash notification, roadside assistance, remote vehicle access, stolen vehicle location and geo-fencing (which allows parents to set boundaries for teenage drivers). A Car-Net smartphone app lets owners control many of these functions on the go. However, features increasingly available on family sedans, such as blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and frontal collision warning aren't available.

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