Sure hot rods and sports cars get all the attention. They’re fast, loud, brash, and supply voracious fun for enthusiasts everywhere. They’re all about high horsepower, big torque, squealing tires, and indomitable track times. The quickest quarter mile becomes the holy grail and just about everything else comes in a runner up to ultimate performance. But, the problem is that when the clouds open up and the rain, sleet, snow, dogs, cats, or locusts come careening down with Biblical fury, what happens to those high-powered muscle machines? They go racing back to the garages and trailers and car covers, retreating into the netherworld of sheltered living, sequestered away until Al Roker or Sam Champion brings some divinely liberating prognostication that will once again set loose the four-wheeled fun.
But, when things aren’t perfect, what happens? You’re left with the ‘other’ car in your driveway. The one that gets none of the credit but does all the commuting, grocery shopping, and foul weather transportation. Cars like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Volkswagen Passat get no love. They don’t get big time accolades from journalists, but in truth, they are more ingrained in the fabric of daily American life than even the fastest supercars could ever hope to be. Specifically, the 2018 VW Passat comes to us with some new, and old, features that are, if nothing else, worth paying attention to.
From the outside, if you were to strip away all of the badging, aside from the front grill, you would be hard pressed to see a distinct difference between the Passat and the current Audi A4. The upmarket hand-me-downs are almost too apparent when it comes to the Audi-VW relationship, which is a double edged sword. On one hand, Passat owners get a much more expensive looking car, but A4 owners may feel a little cheated. But for our purposes, we can only rate the Passat’s outward appearance as a plus.
There are two main trims to choose from, the TSI and the GT. The TSI come with a bigger, yet more fuel-efficient 2.0-liter turbo DOHC I-4 that produces a mediocre 174-horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque funneled through a 6-speed automatic transmission. The TSI is the economical choice — it jogs to 60 mph in an eternal 8.4 seconds, and through the quarter mile in a paltry 16.4 seconds @ 86.7 mph and only manages 0.85 g around the skidpad. But then, the TSI isn’t a sports car, and doesn’t claim to be. Where it performs is at the pump, netting a stellar 25/36/29 city/highway/combined mpg.
The GT on the other hand, does a nice job of bridging the gap between daily driver, and performance car. With a 3.6-liter DOHC naturally aspirated V6 that produces an impressive 280-horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque channeled through a legit twin-clutch 6-speed auto trans, the GT gets up and gets out with the quickness. 0-60 mph comes up in a flash: 5.8 seconds, while the quarter miles whizzes by in only 14.4 seconds @ 98 mph — those times would be some Mustang GTs of not too long ago. It even hits a solid 0.87 g around the skidpad while managing a very reasonable 19/28/22 city/highway/ combined mpg.
The TSI comes in with a base price of only $25,890 and with it, a myriad of creature comforts: Dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, blind-spot monitoring, automatic e-brake, adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, and a 6.3-inch infotainment screen — all standard! For $30,040, the GT takes things a step farther and kicks in a sportier exhaust system, proximity key, sunroof, 19-inch rims, carbon-fiber trim, red accented brake calipers, and a sport-tuned suspension.
In either car, the ride is comfortable enough to a long family jaunt up the interstate, or just a Sunday morning trip to get bagels. Fit and finish isn’t quite up to Audi standards, but it’s close enough to make you feel good about yourself. The infotainment screen is intuitive enough not to need an instruction manual, or a teenager around to help you navigate through it. The handling, while reassuring in its solidarity, leaves something to be desired, specifically, less body roll would be nice. Outside noise does tend to leak into the cabin, not so much so that it is intolerable, but these two quirks are symptoms of a bigger issue, and that is the fact that the Passat’s platform is aging rapidly, and is in need of an update or perhaps complete overhaul.
But despite some shortcomings, the 2018 Passat deserves a bit of credit for being a car you can live with every day. It has enough value to make it a competitor in it’s market and does so at a lower buy in price than comparable Accords and Camrys. So, when the clouds start to come out, don’t worry, this VW will help you pass the time comfortably, until that next perfect day comes along. But until then, the Passat will do what needs to be done, and won’t beg for too much credit, even if it is deserved.