The new 1.8 liter direct-injected engine is the big news for 2014 here under the hood. This new standard engine betters the old 2.5 liter five by some three mpg on the highway. The third generation EA888 four-cylinder shares some lineage with the past but has a lot that is all-new.
With 170 horsepower it matches the outgoing five, but has more torque at 184 lb-ft. The engine is available with both a 6-speed manual transmission in base model Passat as well as a 6-speed automatic as in our SEL Premium here.
The new engine indeed has the sound and feel of a four-cylinder and is less smooth than the five used to be. It is however at the top of its class when it comes to four-cylinder refinement. The six-speed automatic transmission works well with its power curve and shifts crisply.
With this transmission our tester is rated at 24 mpg city, 34 mpg highway and 28 mpg combined. This is a significant improvement over the old standard engine. We will get to our observed results later on.
Inside you will find a large and roomy cabin which shares both an American car feel and a German flavor of form following function. Our SEL Premium is fully outfitted with heated leather seats, Fender premium audio, and climate control.
Front seats are both power adjustable on this trim grade which also includes a power sunroof, multi-function leather wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and brake lever. Getting comfortable up-front is easy with the sport seats and the driver side has memory settings.
The seats are quite comfortable with good support from some pretty aggressive side bolsters. They grip you good while still being large enough for most American customers the Passat will serve. In the back seat, there is more than adequate leg room and comfort is aided by rear HVAC vents.
The cockpit is laid out well in typical Volkswagen down to business style. The instrument cluster is easy to read on the go and has a LCD center screen for full trip computer functions operated by the steering wheel buttons.
The Fender audio system has a sound well worth upgrading to the Premium trim grade to get. It’s downright phenomenal. What isn’t so hot is the touch screen menu system which is slow to respond to your commands, creating a distraction from behind the wheel.
Trunk space is very cavernous and the area can be extended into the cabin by the 60/40 fold down rear seats.
Styling has been a high-point for the Passat which has a well presented German sedan style which has won the appreciation of many. It’s a large car and looks the part. Its five spoke 18” alloy wheels fill the wheel arches snug too which always gives a planted look.
Up front is the corporate VW face with a wide horizontal grille treatment. Headlamps have a nice look but are still of the old-school halogen reflector variety. There are no self-leveling or night turning Xenon’s available here.
At the rear, the Passat has a nice stance that belies its front-wheel drive architecture. There is only a single exhaust outlet which makes perfect sense – it’s a four-cylinder. Unlike other manufacturers, Volkswagen hasn’t offered up unnecessary dual outlets for marketing purposes.
On the road, the handling is everything you would expect from a German brand. The shock valving is firm and the bushings tighter in feel from some American brands. The new for 2014 electronically power assisted steering offers a sharp feel both in town and on the highway.
The ride does offer up a significant bit of road feel and sharpness over bumps and road imperfections which some desire, calling it “communication”. Those who prefer a more boulevard ride will still appreciate its relative calm at highway speeds.
In our week with the Passat we realized a total combined mpg of 31.5 on a tank of gas. This is a significant 3.5 mpg more than the window sticker promises, and included some aggressive driving in town as well as on the highway. So not bad all considered.
Overall I think the Passat offers a unique choice in the mid-to-large sedan game by bringing a distinctly German character to the American car theme. It’s stylish and has plenty of room while giving a higher level of precision to the driving experience than most from Japan or America.