Volkswagen used to be a byword for Germanic quality, clean style, and a pleasant driving experience. But somewhere along the way, it lost the plot, consumed by being the biggest automaker in the world. This misguided motive was most notably seen in the 2011 Jetta, which lost many of the aforementioned traits. Simply put, it just didn't feel like the Volkswagen we knew and loved. But no Volkswagen suffered so much for its brand's ambitions as the Passat. The B6, sold here in the US from 2006 to 2010, was a fine thing, offering Teutonic style and a sense of solidity in a relatively fun-to-drive package. Then the schism happened. Eager to grow, VW split the Passat line into US- and European-specific models, with the latter riding on VW's modern MQB platform. Here in the States, though, our Passat shared some of its bones with a car that debuted in 2005. In its attempt to Americanize the Passat, Volkswagen stamped out what allowed it to stand out among the pack. Sales improved, and VW marched toward its lofty sales goals, but enthusiasts just didn't think of the brand the same way anymore. Enter the 2016 Passat, a vehicle that attempts to reinvigorate VW with Germanic quality. It's still not the European-market B8, but the updated exterior, tweaked interior, and new infotainment and tech will at the very least help this spacious sedan make waves against US-market competitors. The most obvious part of this update is the Passat's new sheetmetal. Tweaked from the A-pillar forward, it gets a new hood that falls toward freshened, more aggressive headlights, and a more prominent lower grille and foglight surrounds. In back, the taillights use a more angular design as part of a redesigned trunk lid. These updates, along with the optional LED headlights, running lights, and taillights (a $1,095 option on everything but the range-topping SEL Premium, where they are standard) go a long way toward upping the sense of refinement of the Passat's 2016 design, although it's still too anonymous for our tastes. Changes in the interior are slightly more noticeable. There's a thin-rimmed steering wheel and a reworked, "GTI-inspired" instrument panel. The cabin's overall look is cleaner, with a thin sliver of textured faux aluminum above the fake-wood-accented doors and dash of our tester. Every Passat, meanwhile, is paired with Volkswagen's latest MIB II infotainment system. Available in 5.0- or 6.3-inch touchscreen varieties, VW added functionality for both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Owners can also snag increasingly common tech, convenience, and safety items, like post-collision braking, adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and automatic parking assist. Some of the Passat's cabin materials are still lacking – sections of door panel, center stack, and transmission tunnel are hard, scratchy plastic – but the upper dash is covered in a soft-touch surface, and at the very least, the faux wood looks good. In terms of driver interfaces, the new flat-bottomed steering wheel is a great piece to work, …
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|MPG||25 City / 38 Hwy|
|Transmission||6-spd auto w/OD|
|Power||170 @ 4800 rpm|
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