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2020 Volkswagen Passat's reshuffled trims return a cheaper sedan

On paper, the 2020 Passat is cheaper, but the base model gets less gear than the 2019.

Refreshed, but facing stiff competition.

The Volkswagen Passat is getting a total rethink for 2020 when it comes to trims and each variant's baked-in gear. That, on paper, creates a far cheaper sedan compared to the 2019 model, but there's more to the story than basic arithmetic.

The previous model year saw the Passat offered in just two trims: Wolfsburg and SE R-Line, which started at $26,190 and $30,890, respectively. The new model year brings back a wider range of trims with modestly refreshed looks starting at $23,915, which technically makes the sedan $2,275 cheaper than the model it replaces in base form. The 2020 prices include a destination charge of $920, which rises from an $895 charge in 2019.

Of course, VW didn't just cut prices and keep things the same. The 2019 Passat Wolfsburg packed goodies such as heated seats, keyless entry, pushbutton start and pseudo-leather upholstery. The 2020 Passat S, the base model this time around, has none of that.

Instead, buyers will need to look at a Passat SE trim, which adds those goods back in with a starting price of $26,765. It's hard to compare these trims apples to apples, but the new SE trim is mostly the outgoing Wolfsburg trim, since it adds the heated seats, keyless access and leatherette upholstery. Looking at both reveals a $575 price increase when comparing their standard equipment for the best matchup.

Two additional trims are on the menu for the 2020 Passat called the R-Line and SEL. The R-Line dons the sportiest look with 19-inch wheels, an R-Line fascia, black window surrounds, a spoiler and chrome exhaust tips. Inside, the Passat R-Line gets sport pedals, paddle shifters and stainless steel door sills. The price sits at $29,565, which is $1,325 cheaper than last year's SE R-Line trim, though that car packed additional comforts.

The SEL trim, meanwhile, caps things off at $32,015, or $1,125 more than last year's range-topping model. Leather seats, built-in navigation, a Fender premium audio system and more are all included with the top-of-the-line model.

All Passats feature a pretty decent grouping of standard features, though the infotainment tech is perhaps lagging behind competitors. A 6.3-inch screen embedded in the center stack is present in every Passat, as is a suite of active safety features that includes automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors. Adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist come standard on the SE trim. On base models, new 17-inch wheels are present with 18-inch wheels available, or standard on the SEL trim. The R-Line gets the aforementioned 19-inch wheels.

Likewise, the powertrain is identical across the board. A 2.0-liter turbo-four engine provides 174 horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque, which funnels through a six-speed automatic to the front wheels only. No all-wheel drive here, folks.

The reshuffled Passat will be at dealers by the end of 2019, but it'll face stiff competition from newly redesigned models such as the Hyundai Sonata and the Subaru Legacy.

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