Questionable ergonomics and finicky brakes leave a bad taste.

A 2017 Volkswagen Passat R-Line finds itself in my driveway this week. This mid-size family hauler offers tons of interior room for four people, or five in a pinch. The trunk is massive, too, holding 15.9 cubic feet of cargo. Mix that with the handsomely minimalistic exterior, an as-tested price around $24,000, and 34 mpg on the highway from its 1.8-liter turbo-four, and the VW Passat makes a strong case for itself. I even sang high praises for the upper-trimmed Passat I drove at its launch event in Vermont and the last time a Passat spent time at my house. But somehow, this go-round has me falling out of love. It mostly centers on the Passat’s ergonomics behind the wheel and a brake feel that’s less than ideal.

Hoping in the driver’s seat for the first time in my tester quickly revealed the negatives. First, the tilting and telescoping steering column doesn’t extend far enough out. Adjusting the seat to where my feet and legs are properly positions on the pedals leaves my arms extended to reach the wheel. That means I have to scoot the seat closer to the dash, which decreases my leg room and moves the center armrest further away from my elbow. With a dress shirt on, my arm constantly slides off the armrests tapered front edge. And no, the armrest doesn’t extend forward. This basically leaves me in a less than comfortable seating position without a center armrest and reaching for the steering wheel like I’m too young to drive.

Adding to my frustration, the Passat’s brakes are annoyingly sensitive when coming to a stop. At highway speeds, it’s fine. Smoothly depressing the pedal results in a decent initial feel and stopping force, say when adjusting to traffic speeds. Trying to smoothly decrease braking pressure below 20 mph, however, is met with an inconsistent braking force and within roughly a half-inch of pedal travel. It’s near impossible to accomplish a smooth stop. Being stuck in stop and go traffic only made my frustration grow.

While the 2017 Volkswagen Passat R-Line does have its annoying qualities, it still represents a good value stuffed in a classy wrapper. Of course, I’ll have more to say about the Passat in my full driven review coming soon.


Volkswagen Passat

2016 Volkswagen Passat High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full review on the Volkswagen Passat.

Volkswagen Passat 1.8T

2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T – Driven High Resolution Exterior
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Read our full driven review on the Volkswagen Passat 1.8T.

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