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2018 Volkswagen Passat Highline

We’ve had the change to feature a number of mid-size family sedans over the past couple months, despite the segment’s sales numbers dwindling significantly over the past decade. Buyers are moving over to crossover SUVs that provide AWD and larger cargo capacities, which is idea for the average family. People like me on the other hand still prefer a car over a crossover, which is why we like featuring them whenever we can.

The Volkswagen Passast was the German automaker’s largest car offered in North America after the Phateon was retired, and before the new Arteon was announced. In fact we would have assumed VW might axe the Passat entirely for our market if the Arteon wasn’t announced, but perhaps it will end up replacing the smaller mid-size car much like the Tiguan has now done with the Tuareg.

Either way, the Passat is due for an update. Launched in 2011 as an entirely separate platform from the B8 global Passat/Audi A6, this NMS Passat platform is targeted specifically at North America and China. Our test model was the Highline trim with Driver’s Assistance and R-Line appearance packagers. All-in the MSRP as rested is $39,690.00 for this German sedan, coming in close to the top end of consumer segment vehicles we’ve featured.

Volkswagen enthusiasts will find a very familiar design inside and out with this 2018 model. The exterior looks quite nice with the optimal R-Line package, which adds a lot of the styling elements from the VR6 GT model, deleting the LED fog lights and adding some R-Line décoré throughout the exterior. The LED headlights up front are fixed and provide good visibility at night. The front VW badge doubles as the radar sensor for active cruise control, and pre-collision. The Passat also has blind spot monitoring and automatic wipers.

Parking sensors are also found on the front and back of this car, with the outboard sensors sitting on the sides of the bumpers allowing for the Park Assist feature to detect available parking spots, whether you’re looking to do a parallel or lot park. The system isn’t automatic, so you need to enable it and still maneuver the car into the spot on your own.

The rear trunk is power opening and can also be opened by swiping your foot under the trunk. Our one exterior issue was related to the remote starter found on this trim. It’s designed to shut off the engine if the doors are unlocked, we assume it’s as some sort of safety precaution but it’s the only vehicle we’ve featured that does this, effectively rendering the remote start useless.

The interior of the 2018 Passat is very conservative, but fitting with Volkswagen’s current design language. For the most part the interior is shared from older models across VW’s lineup, specifically feeling familiar to the 2010 Jetta Highline a friend of the show had for several years. The seats are firm but supportive, and offer 3 memory options for the driver. Front and rear outboard passengers have heated seats, but no ventilated front seats or heated steering wheel are offered on this car. HomeLink was also available on the 2017 model year but was removed for 2018.

We found the built-in nagivation syatem to feel dated but functional. It routed us to the correct destinations and the ability to use Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are a huge plus to bypass some of that dated UI. Fender audio is also the go-to premium system in the Passat, but offers fewer speakers than other premium systems in this segment.

The biggest plus of this car is the rear seating area. Despite the car being smaller overall than most of the mid-size sedans we’ve featured, the interior space has been maximized for all occupants. We found the rear legroom to be the best compared with other vehicles like the Honda Accord or Kia Optima, and small details like independent map lights could be a plus for customers. If you have a family who needs extra leg room, the Passat certainly has that for you.

In terms of engine performance, we weren’t blown away by the power out of the 174 horsepower 2.0L turbocharged TSI engine. We found it to feel a bit sluggish getting on to the highways, and more so when passing other vehicles at highway speeds. The TSI engine was very efficient though, averaging 8.1L/100km during our week with it. The 6 speed transmission might not be as advanced as the 8 speeds found on some of the competition, but shifted well in auto mode or manual shift through the paddle shifters.

Overall the Passat is a good looking sedan on the outside with excellent rear passenger space. We expect to see a full generation update for the 2019/2020 model year released within the next 12 months, as the current NMS platform is pushing on 8 years now. Loyal Volkswagen buyers will still be looking at this 2018 model for its design and styling.

You can watch our full episode of TestDrive Spotlight on the 2018 Volkswagen Passat Highline below:

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