Volkswagen Passat - Driven
Sometimes, a car needs a full redesign to address a fundamental flaw. Perhaps it’s too small, or too big. Maybe its styling is stale or unappealing. Or perhaps its platform can’t support modern needs.
The 2020 Passat has revised interior and exterior styling, more standard features, and an updated engine. That’s a cheaper set of changes than a full redesign, and Volkswagen is passing those savings on to the customer. Is that enough to excuse the Passat’s old bones? Or are you better off opting for a fresher competitor? Here’s what we learned from our time behind the wheel.
For 2018, Volkswagen is introducing a new Passat GT model. The GT introduces some sporty touches to the Passat line. The Passat has mostly been about sensible family transportation until now, excluding the 2003-2004 Passat W8 perhaps. It would have been very easy for Volkswagen to come up with a sporty version of the Passat but they instead have gone for more luxurious models. It looks like Volkswagen is finally dipping their toes into the sports sedan waters to judge the public’s reaction with the Passat GT.
Best Electric Cars of 2018
Electric vehicles are becoming more and more popular these days, and manufacturers are responding by pouring in the investment and releasing oodles of new models. As such, competition between EV’s is growing, and 2018 was no exception. But the question is, which of these machines is the “best”? To find out, we lined up the usual suspects up and looked at all the critical specs, including range-per-charge, battery capacity, charge times, interior space, interior tech, and more. Read on to see which EV came out on top!
Five Reasons New Arteon May Vivify Volkswagen In The U.S.
I remember when one of the American automotive publications revealed the first pictures of the latest Passat destined for the European market. Some of the first comments under the post were along the lines of “Why don’t we get something like this?; We have garbage, this is the Passat we need! Why is Volkswagen doing this to us?”
Well, Volkswagen listened closely, and while they couldn’t bring the European Passat to the U.S., it did something even better. It brought the new Arteon which is, by all counts, a better looking, coupe-like saloon. Revealed at the Chicago Auto Show in its U.S. guise, the Arteon seems like the ultimate expression of what Volkswagen stands for right now. It is, aside from the new Touareg (awesome SUV, I must add), the flagship of Volkswagen combining technology one may usually find on upper-scale Audi vehicles.
Yet, it will not be cheap. At all. Volkswagen has yet to disclose pricing, but some suggest it will start at $35,000-$40,000, just like the CC. Yet, the one you would really like will probably set you back closer to $50,000.
Regardless of this, I can list at least five reasons why the new Arteon may vivify Volkswagen in the U.S.
The 2018 Volkswagen Jetta Makes A Good Family Car
This week has seen a 2018 Volkswagen Jetta SE in my driveway. While there are plenty of interesting aspects to the car, the overarching theme is practicality wrapped in a reserved package. Where most compact sedans use flowy lines and outlandish styling to attract attention, the Jetta remains straight-laced. This no-nonsense approach to styling carries over into the car, making it about as honest as a family sedan can get. For that, I’ve got to give it props.
The Jetta might be labeled a compact sedan, but it offers 94 cubic feet of passenger volume and 16 cubic feet of trunk space. Rear passengers enjoy 38.1 inches of legroom, 37.1 inches of headroom, and 55.2 inches of shoulder room. Though I’m not a tall guy, I had plenty of space sitting behind the driver’s seat set adjusted for me. Comparatively, the 2017 Honda Civic, one of the most popular cars in the segment, has 97.8 cubic feet of passenger volume, an equal amount of rear-seat headroom, 55 inches of rear seat shoulder room, and 37.4 inches of rear legroom. The Civic sedan is down about one cubic-foot of trunk space, too.
In practice, the Jetta is roomy for four adults. The rear bench can seat three in a pinch, but two is far more comfortable. My five-year-old daughter’s booster seat fits nicely back here, as well, snugly nestled between the side bolster and the seatbelt latch. The seatbelt is easy enough for her to use and buckle by herself. She can even open and close the rear door on her own, making the school pickup line much less stressful. Despite the roomy feel, the Jetta is small enough mom and dad can reach back and touch the kids – either to hand them something or “administer a hand of justice.”
Mom and dad also have plenty of room up front with plenty of storage spots. Best of all, the 2018 Jetta SE comes at a bargain. My tester had no options, preserving its $21,245 MSRP. Volkswagen does tack on $850 for destination and delivery, but that’s a typical price for any new vehicle. The Jetta’s 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder is also inexpensive to fuel. The EPA estimates the Jetta with the five-speed manual to get 28 mpg city, an impressive 40 mpg highway, and 33 mpg combined. I averaged right at 33 mpg during the week.
Stay tuned for the full, driven review of the 2018 VW Jetta and be sure to check out my other coverage of the car down below.
How The 2018 Volkswagen Jetta Proves Simple Is Better
This week I’m driving the 2018 Volkswagen Jetta SE – one trim up from the base model. It’s a no-frills sedan that doesn’t skimp on most modern “necessities” like power windows, keyless entry, and push-button start. There’s even a 6.3-inch touch screen with satellite radio, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto. But one thing it’s missing is fancy controls for its HVAC system. Rather, this single-zone system has the three old-school knobs, three buttons, and nothing more. But you know what? It just works.
To understand my amazement of these simplistic controls, you’ve got to look at the Cadillac CTS-V I was driving last week. While I love that 640-horsepower, 6.2-liter supercharged LT4 V-8, Cadillac’s CUE system spoiled my warm fuzzy feelings. Ask anyone and they’ll same the same – the CUE system is hard to use and requires taking eyes off the road and concentration in order to operate. Even the adjusting the HVAC’s temperature or fan speed settings is hard. The touch-sensitive, piano black surface of CUE sometimes didn’t respond to inputs and fingerprints were always visible.
Three minutes behind the Jetta’s leather-wrapped steering wheel, and I can operate the HVAC system without even looking. The knobs satisfyingly click as they rotate, making super simple to gauge how far you’ve turned them. What’s more, the direction and defrost knob allows for fine tuning between settings. For example, I can turn the knob one or two clicks towards the “feet” setting and still have the majority of air blowing at my face while my toes receive a slight breeze. It’s amazing.
So, here’s the thing. Automakers have a tendency to overcomplicate the little things. While this sometimes works in adding convenience, other times it only adds complexity and user frustration. I’d consider the Jetta’s HVAC controls more “luxurious” than the Cadillac’s CUE controls. Why? Simplicity wins out. Thankfully, Volkswagen’s upgraded HVAC controls with an automatic mode and dual-zone temperatures is just as simple to use, though it does lose out of the awesome adjustability between vent locations.
What do you think? Do you like simplicity over “high-tech,” yet complex controls? Do you consider simplicity a luxury? Let me know in the comments below.
Car Salesmen are Living on Borrowed Time
You can buy just about anything online these days including things like computers, firearms, food, and car parts. And, as sure as the sky is blue, it was inevitable that we would eventually be able to buy cars online too. Well, Volkswagen is looking to take that big first step in online car sales as it plans to cut down its dealer footprint in Europe and increase average dealer returns by as much as a whole percent.
So far little is known about the situation, but since the Dieselgate scandal, Volkswagen Automotive Group has been doing its best to cut down costs across all 12 of its brands. Ideally, the group’s new “future sales model” will increase profitability and efficiency of its dealer network by some 10 percent which, along with trimming costs, will allow higher returns to each distributor. For now, this move is limited to European dealerships and chances are that once the online portal – which is being developed through a collaboration between VAG and its distributor – is complete a number of dealerships will eventually be axed. But, if VW is looking to increase profitability and efficiency by 10 percent, one couldn’t be blamed for assuming that VW would cut down 10 percent of its distributor network. That could mean as many as 300 dealers across Europe will close their doors as online purchasing begins to increase.
Apparently, Volkswagen has gotten its hands on some new IT equipment as well, as the group is claiming that its use could cut the time needed to service cars by as much as 70 percent. With each dealer employing an average of around 35 employees each, a few of job loss could be looming, but VW is confident that it can cut its workforce down by at least four in each dealer, who will then be assigned somewhere else. Rumor has it that the birth of a new dealer contract in 2018 will include a clause that allows dealers to dictate their own workforce, and as such, the trimming of staff will fall on each dealership individually.
Now, the question is, will this online portal actually be used by those looking to buy a car, and if it is successful, can it work around the world? Keep reading to hear more about it.
Losing Love For The Volkswagen Passat
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.