The North American reveal of the refreshed 2016 Volkswagen Passat sedan was one of the more unusual moments in automotive history. Virtually hours before, news had broke that Volkswagen had doctored its supposed “Clean Diesel” cars with a device meant to defeat emissions testing equipment, and the company owned up almost immediately. Within the room where the reveal was taking place, the last thing on anyone’s mind was the new car.
For his part, VW’s North American CEO Michael Horn took the moment in stride: He flat-out apologized, and without divulging any further details, was able to recognize to those gathered that the company was mired in some epically-deep shit. More importantly, he didn’t try to force the new Passat, its 15 minutes of fame gone before it arrived, down the throats of the assembled journalists.
That was several weeks ago now, and a lot has happened since. Horn sat before a congressional committee, and VW took its assortment of TDI vehicles (those sporting the 2.0 liter diesel, at least) off the menu for North America for 2015 and 2016. But in gasoline form, the Passat lives in. And now, it’s starting to get its dues.
The big news here isn’t the refresh itself. Overall, the car looks immediately recognizable, and non-car folks would probably glaze over the differences. It’s been slightly tweaked and tightened, but keep in mind this is only a small refresh before the new model arrives in the next couple of years. The bigger news is that VW has released its pricing specs for the new car, which plays in the same competitive segment as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Nissan Altima, and Chevrolet’s new and completely overhauled Malibu.
Starting at $22,440, the Passat S forms the foundation of the sedan line. It includes such necessaries as aluminum-alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, VW’s MIB II Composition Color touchscreen infotainment system with a 5-inch color display, CD player, aux-in, Bluetooth and USB connectivity, a rearview camera, and the Automatic Post-Collision Braking System. It undercuts the segment king, the Camry, but about $600, though that notably doesn’t include destination fees. For $1,245 more, buyers can have their spartan headlamps and taillights swapped out for LEDs.
More excitingly, Volkswagen is offering a new R-Line trim for the Passat here in the States. This package starts at $23,975 and adds unique rocker panels, a stylized front bumper with contrasting black accents, a modified rear diffuser, and 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. There’s also the R-Line comfort package, which builds on the exterior additions and adds V-Tex leatherette seating surfaces, a power driver seat, heatable front seats, heated exterior mirrors, and heated washer nozzles. That’ll cost you $775 more.
The more luxurious SE trim starts at $26,280 — no change from the 2015 model year. The SE with Technology package starts at $28,410, the SEL (with the 1.8 liter turbo-four) at $30,495, and the SEL Premium at $34,270, marking the pinnacle for the 1.8 liter options. The Passat tops out at $36,835 for the V6 SEL Premium — a fully loaded model with Volkswagen’s excellent 3.6 liter VR6 engine that produces 280 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. These prices all exclude delivery.
The VR6 is mated to VW’s six-speed DSG automatic transmission, and features paddle shifters, dual trapezoidal chrome exhaust tips, and Hill Hold Control in addition to the lengthy list of extras featured on the 1.8 liter SEL.
Volkswagen has a long, long road ahead of it as far as recovering the public’s trust. Sketchy (read: illegal) emissions gymnastics reflect poorly on the company, but here’s the thing: Volkswagens aren’t bad cars. They’re actually quite good. And the best way for VW to move past the towering scandal is to continue to build those great cars and hope that consumers will see past their misgivings.