Fast Take: 2018 Volkswagen Passat Highline


We’ve tested the V6 version…now we explore the turbo four

Words by: Adam Allen


As car shoppers continue to salivate over crossovers, we remain undauntingly swayed by the hype. We’re not saying that crossovers don’t have their place in the automotive landscape, its just that sedans drive better, achieve superior fuel economy and in some cases actually offer more room for passengers and their stuff. With that said, we bring you another look at Volkswagen’s midsize sedan which is still very much relevant, even if midsize sedan sales charts suggest otherwise. We say another look because our astute readers will recall we drove the Passat last spring- that one was powered by VW’s wonderful naturally aspirated V6- so this time around, we decided to delve into how the driving experience is impacted by the new 2.0 turbo four cylinder, an engine that is available in nearly every VW product on sale in various levels of tune. Our tester would be the top rung Highline, and it was equipped with the R-Line package ($2,215) that promised to amp up the Passat’s visual wattage in true understated Volkswagen fashion- it’s a lot more subdued than the wildly two-toned, quad exhaust equipped Toyota Camry we flogged a few weeks ago (yes, we chuckled at that last sentence too.)

That’s awesome!

There are many things to like about the Passat. If your lifestyle dictates accumulating copious kilometers to far flung destinations, the Passat is sure to delight. It’s got a vast amount of room for driver and passengers alike- no one is going to arrive at your journey’s end feeling fatigued. Rear passengers will enjoy some of the most commodious dimensions in the segment and are treated to heated seats as well as their own USB outlets for their devices. Luggage space in the trunk is appreciably immense as well. The Passat is a quiet, confident cruiser in typical German fashion- it is wonderfully stable and will keep chasing the horizon until you run out of fuel or need to answer nature’s call. It’s blessed with a supple ride that is never floaty, seeming to glide across the gnarliest tarmac while isolating occupants admirably. It can be fuel miser too; we saw 8.3L/100km on one highway trip and probably could have done better were it not for the wonky pace of our fellow motorists and the resulting traffic.

Cue the sad trombone.

When we heard that R-Line trim was in play, we looked forward to a Passat that would have a zest for driver involvement and a chassis that would be spiced up accordingly. Those looking for a performance-oriented Passat should wait for the upcoming GT model, because our tester wasn’t exactly a willing dance partner. The 2.0 turbo does offer a power increase over the outgoing 1.8 engine, but those extra ponies are more of the quarter horse variety than thoroughbred; acceleration is on the leisurely side. Similarly, the transmission resides on the relaxed side of the spectrum, sometimes feeling too laissez-faire in low speed scenarios where it would provide clunky shifting and general uncertainly about what gear it should be in. The suspension and steering suffer from the same lethargy if you summon your inner Tanner Faust. Everything is fine at a relaxed clip but takes on a haphazard feel when you step up the pace. This leaves us to conclude that R-Line is a bit misleading other than a nice appearance package that adds stuff like aluminium door sills and upgraded wheels. We just wish that some excitement would have been sent the interior’s way. In typical VW fashion, it’s well built and feels quality, but it just feels bland- there’s just nothing there to ‘wow’ anyone, and it’s a far cry from the lovely two-toned cockpit we enjoyed in the V6 powered version from several months back- and that model was $280 cheaper than the one you see here.

In summing up…

If you want the most limousine-esque experience in the midsize segment, look no further than the Passat. There interior and truck are nothing short of cavernous, meaning if there’s complaints on road trips they won’t be from lack of comfort. Comfort also best encapsulates the driving experience, lending the Passat that easy going, elastic waistband kind of feeling no matter how horribly degraded the roads in your neck of the woods happen to be. For those GTI owners looking to step up the ladder in the Volkswagen product portfolio should wait until the upcoming GT model hits showrooms.

2018 Volkswagen Passat Highline — Specifications

  • Price as tested: $39,375
  • Body Type: 4-door, 5 passenger sedan
  • Powertrain Layout: Front engine/front-wheel drive
  • Transmission: 6-speed automatic
  • Engine:  2.0 litre turbocharged inline-four, DOHC, 16 valves
  • Horsepower:  174 @ 5,000 rpm
  • Torque (lbs-ft.): 184 @ 1,500 rpm
  • Curb weight: 1,485 kg (3,274 lbs)
  • Observed Fuel Consumption: 11.2 L/100km (21 mpg)