2020 Volkswagen Passat refresh focuses on style

It looks different, but it’s nearly the same underneath.

Emme Hall Former editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
Emme Hall
2 min read
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We last saw a new Volkswagen Passat eight years ago, a relative eternity in the automotive world. On Monday at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, VW introduces a heavy refresh of its midsize sedan. I refrain from saying "all-new," simply because, aside from its updated design, the Passat's powertrain and technology remain largely unchanged.

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A new grille dominates the 2020 Volkswagen Passat's front fascia.


The 2020 Passat has a more rakish roofline and the grille is wider, with slimmer LED headlamps. The LED taillights are reshaped as well, and Volkswagen has added quad exhaust tips. While 17-inch wheels are standard, drivers can move up to 18- or 19-inch wheels, depending on model.

The Passat has always had plenty of interior room, and thankfully, that hasn't changed. V-Tex leatherette or Nappa leather are both available and the interior comes in your choice of four colors. Heated front and rear seats are available, as well.

2020 Volkswagen Passat: Almost all-new

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As with the 2019 model, the Passat comes standard with forward collision warning and emergency braking, now with a new pedestrian monitoring system. Also standard is blind-spot monitoring and rear traffic alert, but adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist are both optional. A new Parking Steering Assist can automatically guide the Passat into a tricky parallel or perpendicular parking spot.

Volkswagen's aging MIB II infotainment system comes on a new glass-covered touchscreen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both standard and a premium Fender stereo system is available. Unfortunately, because the Passat doesn't move to Volkswagen's scalable MQB platform, you can't have it with the company's excellent Digital Cockpit gauge display.

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The Passat's interior remains as roomy as it ever was.


The Passat will still be powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine, good for 174 horsepower. The good news is that a new torque converter and tuning ups the torque from 184 to 207 pound-feet of twist for 2020. The Passat puts power to the front wheels only, with a six-speed automatic transmission. When much of the competition sports an eight-speed transmission -- heck, even the company's own compact sedan has eight gears -- the choice to not upgrade the gearbox is curious.

Pricing has not yet been announced, but the 2020 Volkswagen Passat will be available in the summer of 2019. 

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