Badge Engineering is an auto industry term. It implies that automakers sell us different versions of the same car from each of their brands. With a tidy freshening in 2015, the VW Passat is now much closer to the Audi A4. We already covered the A4 a few weeks ago so this review will be brief. In the past, Audi and VW used the best tricks available to make the brands unique. But considering VW group’s current situation there just isn’t much money available for playing dress up. Before the latest generation was finalized we encountered several camouflaged prototypes running around Tampa Bay. VW’s hot weather testing lab is behind the Burger King next to our HQ, but the Germans don’t take kindly to being made on public streets. They are the ones responsible for ensuring the MQB chassis is up to the rigors of city life.
The B8 platform is the basis for a dozen models from Seat, Skoda, VW and Audi. Somehow they spent $60 billion dollars in development so it will probably be around for awhile. The Passat is a conservative midsize sedan with more interior space than the previous generation. At time of press, only two engine choices were offered. The 1.8 turbo four and a 3.6 liter V6 are both bolted to automatic transmissions. We spent a week with the four-cylinder version and it proved to be a great commuter car. Going from the Audi A4 to the Passat was like moving from first class to coach, but it made us consider the target audience. VW builds cars for common folk. People who don’t know anything about cars and don’t want to are comforted by the simplicity. It lacks the whisper quiet insulation of the Audi, but the infotainment and most interior bits are shared.
In a lap of our urban test loop, it proved to be a solid sedan, without the compromises and quirks of lesser brands. It is not underpowered, but wide open throttle is needed in a variety of common circumstances. As we expected, the console and dash were peppered with blank buttons for options our car didn’t have, even though we had an SE with Technology package. Other markets might not care, but we found it slightly tacky. Steering and suspension are numb and unpredictable, and the seats are not as soft as they appear. But the safety and connectivity are top notch so Passat makes a great choice for those you care about. Pricing starts at only $22,400 which undercuts almost every domestic sedan. If you need more style, the CC or an Audi version might be to your liking. Stay with us for more VW news and reviews