Volkswagen Introduces the Redesigned '16 Passat
A Fresh Redesign, Updated Features and an Available R-Model Highlight the VW's All-New Midsize Sedan
Despite the dark cloud of controversy surrounding clean-diesel TDI engines, Volkswagen treated media, VW employees, dealers, select customers, and friends of the brand to a gala unveiling of its redesigned '16 Passat.
The event, held on September 21, 2015, inside Brooklyn, New York's cavernous Duggal Greenhouse, opened with Michael Horn, President and CEO, Volkswagen of America, immediately addressing the evening's other hot topic. Yes, Volkswagen indeed manipulated the ECU software of its 2.0L I-4 TDI diesel cars (violating federal emissions standards). "Let's be clear on this. Our company was dishonest. With the EPA and the California Air Resources Board, and with all of you," Horn said. "We've totally screwed up." He also offered the company's and his personal apology for "VW breaking the trust of its customers and the public here in America."
With that business handled, Horn introduced the star of the evening, the all-new '16 Volkswagen Passat, which entered the space in grand fashion (driving onto an elevated, revolving stage in the center of the building) amid the camera shots of everyone in attendance.
As you approach the Passat and notice its wider profile and a perceived lower stance, the changes that give it this look are immediately recognized. An aggressive, restyled domed hood, slim LED headlights, wide front fenders, a four-bar grille, and front bumper highlight what is definitely a much sharper fascia than that of the '11-to-'15 sedans. And in the rear, a new bumper, chrome-accented decklid, flush-with-the-body license-plate mount, and LED taillights anchor the major exterior updates for 2016 (doors, roof, and bodyside stamping is the same as before).
On the inside, cabin upgrades are highlighted by an updated center stack that includes MIB II—the second generation of Volkswagen's "modular infotainment" platform (a swipeable, pinch-zoom touchscreen that's now included as standard equipment)—along with a new instrument panel, redesigned steering wheel and column stalk, two-tone decor panels, and chrome and piano black trim. VW's smartphone-compatible Car-Net system is also available in the '16 Passat, as are heated rear seats and Easy-Open keyless trunk access.
New safety and driver-assistance features such as rearview cameras and an Automatic Post-Collision Braking System, which applies the brakes after a primary collision is detected by the airbag sensors, are standard on all new Passat models and, depending on trim level, Passats are equipped with a gaggle of additional advanced driver-assistance systems (Adaptive Cruise Control; Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking [Front Assist]; Blind Spot Monitor with Rear Traffic Alert; Lane Departure Warning [Lane Assist], which actively steers the car back into its lane; and Parking Steering Assistant [Park Assist].
For buyers looking for "sport" in their midsize, an R-Line Passat is being offered for the first time. With such unique features as rocker panels, a stylized front bumper with contrasting black accents, a modified rear diffuser, and 19-inch Anthracite Salvador aluminum-alloy wheels (with 235/40 ZR rated tires), we think this model will be popular with younger members of the four-door set—especially if VW elects to make clean-diesel an optional engine choice.
It's disappointing, but also understandable, that details on Passat's 2.0L TDI engine were in limbo on reveal night (we were not even permitted to photograph the diesel in the display vehicle). Information about performance, pricing (which starts at $22,440 for 1.8L turbocharged S gasoline-powered models with automatic transmissions), and the on-sale date for clean-diesel versions were not revealed, nor was any estimate of when Michael Horn's pledge for VW to "make things right (with the EPA and CARB, dealers, customers, and such)" will be fully completed.
Based on styling, appearance, safety, and high-tech goodies alone, the new-look '16 Volkswagen Passat is definitely a sedan that's worth considering. However, until the fate of its 2.0L turbodiesel is resolved, we'll hold off on putting it in the "must buy" category.
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