The Passat gets a significant update for 2011, with styling reflecting Volkswagen's current design language and a new set of power-train options. As its midsize sedan, Volkswagen wants the Passat to offer a near luxury interior for a reasonable price.
Like last year's updated Jetta, the headlights and grille of the Passat form a single piece. But on the Passat, horizontal bars make the grille look more prominent. The car has a more upright, stately appearance, rather than the raked forward look of past years.
Volkswagen is offering the car with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder base engine, a 2-liter diesel, or a 3.6-liter V-6. With the diesel, the Passat will get 43 mpg and a range of 800 miles. The V-6 version comes standard with Volkswagen's DSG dual clutch transmission.
Volkswagen did a nice job on the Passat's interior, using soft plastics and wood grain trim. One tech highlight of the car is a new audio system option designed by guitar maker Fender. Composed of nine speakers, including a subwoofer, and a 400-watt amp, this system is designed to deliver a unique Fender sound.
The steering wheel shows the same controls as in the 2011 Jetta. Buttons on the spokes feature a compact design and allow control over the audio and Bluetooth phone systems.
Volkswagen will offer two navigation options in the Passat. One, the flash-drive-based RNS 315, is also offered in the Jetta. It works well, but does not show traffic. The hard-drive-based RNS 510 version should be more feature-rich.
The transmission options for the new Passat depend on the engine. With the 2.5-liter four-cylinder, Volkswagen offers either a five-speed manual or a six-speed automatic. With the diesel, the five-speed manual or six-speed DSG are available. The V-6 is limited to the DSG.