2020 VW Passat sneak peek | Redesigned for whoever's still buying sedans

Big midsize sedan gets a fresh look on its old platform

2020 VW Passat teasers
  • 2020 VW Passat teasers
  • VW teases the new Passat in sketches.
  • Image Credit: VW
  • 2020 VW Passat teasers
  • 2020 VW Passat teasers
  • 2020 VW Passat teasers
Consider Volkswagen somewhat interested in the future of sedans in America. Instead of nixing the Americanized Passat, VW has given it a substantial yet restrained redesign for the 2020 model year. It's not exactly what you might expect for a car that hasn't had a major reworking since the 2011 model year.

Regardless, VW invited us out for a sneak peek at the car before its full reveal in January at the Detroit Auto Show. We weren't allowed to take photos, but VW did provide some rough sketches of what the production car will look like. Picture a bigger, taller Jetta. The sketch of the front is really accurate as to how it comes off in the flesh. You're looking at the large, upright grille along with some plastic venting and moulding along the bottom of the bumper seen here. Volkswagen says every body panel besides the roof is new or modified. Entirely new LED headlights are standard equipment, and despite it looking like fog lights should be down there, none are available.

We saw the R-Line model, one of five trim levels VW plans to offer for 2020. The R-Line gets some loud-looking 19-inch wheels and fake quad exhaust. Where you might expect there to be exhaust tips, there are just plastic inserts instead. The actual muffler is on the driver side of the car and points directly downward in a hard-to-see spot.

2020 VW Passat 2020 VW Passat

There isn't a whole lot changed on the interior, but it does feel new and different from the outgoing car. A redone center stack features updated VW infotainment along with touch-capacitive buttons. The dash design isn't revolutionary, but simple, straight lines show VW is playing it safe. What you won't get is VW's Digital Cockpit. This is because VW decided to keep the Passat on the same platform as before, instead of transitioning to MQB. The Passat has the potential to be a better car than it currently is if VW were to move it to the newer architecture — the entire electrical architecture of the car would be brought up to date — but it just isn't worth the extra dough in the slumping sedan market.

Driver assistance features are coming aplenty too. Automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist will be available on the Passat now.

We haven't mentioned the powertrain yet, mostly because there's nearly nothing newsworthy about it. Horsepower stays the same at 174 from the turbocharged 2.0-liter. Torque does increase from 184 pound-feet up to 207. Still, yawn. We asked if more power was coming and was told that a Passat GT similar to the one we drove earlier this year is a possibility down the road. The V6 is nice in that car, but imagine how much better it could be with Golf R power? It's still a six-speed automatic swapping the cogs, and power is being routed to the front wheels.

As a package, the VW Passat appears to be retaining the same purpose it took on after the total redesign at the beginning of this decade — that is, appealing to Americans who like lots of space everywhere. We don't really blame VW for not putting more into this car. The people have spoken, and they want SUVs. Sales of the Passat are half of what they were in 2012. After looking at and driving the Arteon, the new Passat just pales in comparison. We might even see the Arteon hit dealers before the refreshed Passat too, because the 2020 Passat is scheduled for a mid-to-late summer release.

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Volkswagen Passat Information

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