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2018 Volkswagen Passat V6 SEL Premium review: Showing its age

This generation of Volkswagen Passat has been around for a long time, and it shows.

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
3 min read

I won't blame you if you've forgotten about the . After all, the current-generation Passat has been mostly stagnant since its introduction in 2012, with dwindling sales numbers to boot. While the competition has zoomed ahead in terms of technology, design and driving dynamics, the Passat, well, has mostly stood still.

2018 Volkswagen Passat

2018 Volkswagen Passat V6 SEL Premium

The Good

If you're looking for a comfy ride with a large backseat, the 2019 VW Passat is it.

The Bad

Adaptive cruise control doesn't work below 15 miles per hour and fuel efficiency is at the bottom of the class.

The Bottom Line

If you're looking for soft and comfortable, the Passat might be a good choice, but there are much better offerings in the segment.

The Passat is available in a number of trims, from the base, four-cylinder S to the range-topping V6 SEL Premium version tested here. A GT variant joined the lineup earlier this year, and fellow reviews editor Jon Wong got a crack at that one a couple of months ago.

2018 Volkswagen Passat: An oldie, not quite a goodie

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Strong engine, but tuned for comfort

Four-cylinder versions of the Passat use a 2.0-liter turbo engine, with 174 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The V6, meanwhile, makes a robust 280 hp and 258 lb-ft. Of course, if you want a V6, you'd better act fast -- Volkswagen will no longer offer this engine in the Passat starting next year.

The Passat is definitely tuned more for comfort than performance. The V6 offers stout power, but it doesn't mean much without a willing chassis. While other cars in this class are happy to be pushed through corners (the Honda and come to mind), the Passat displays a significant amount of body roll. Furthermore, the steering is light and vague, and the brakes exhibit a tendency to bite a bit harder midway through the pedal travel.

There's a Sport mode, but it only works with the six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, holding gears for longer periods of time. It does nothing to make the actual experience of driving more engaging. You're better off leaving it alone.

2018 Volkswagen Passat
Enlarge Image
2018 Volkswagen Passat

The V6 offers lots of power, but with dismal fuel economy, you're better off sticking with the turbocharged 2.0-liter instead.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

But hey, not every car needs to be a corner carver, and credit where it's due, the Passat is excellent at soaking up bumps on broken pavement. Yet it's still tough to recommend the Passat as a commuter car. The adaptive cruise control doesn't work below 15 miles per hour, so while I love this tech for its ability to follow a lead car in stop-and-go traffic, it's a no-go in the Passat.

In addition, the gas mileage is pretty bad. The V6 Passat has EPA fuel economy ratings of 19 miles per gallon city, 28 mpg highway and only 22 mpg combined. Obviously, the four-cylinder models do much better here, with 25 mpg city, 36 mpg highway and 29 mpg combined.

That said, there are a lot of other tech features available. The SEL Premium comes fully loaded with blind-spot monitoring, forward collision warning and emergency braking, as well as lane-keeping assist. The lane-keep tech only works above 40 mph, oddly, but will gently nudge the Passat back into its line should you start to veer off.

Spacious interior, so-so infotainment

Inside, the Passat offers comfortable accommodations for five passengers, and folks in back enjoy a healthy 39 inches of legroom. There's even a 15.9-cubic-foot trunk, which bests the boots in the Honda Accord and .

Volkswagen's Car-Net infotainment system is housed on a 6.3-inch touchscreen, with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto standard. That's a pretty small screen compared with newer systems offered by the competition, but the system is easy to use, free of the deep layers of menus and submenus that often plague competitors' systems.

2018 Volkswagen Passat
Enlarge Image
2018 Volkswagen Passat

The Passat isn't a bad car, it just needs a solid refresh to make it competitive again.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

Hard to recommend

If I were buying a Passat these days, I'd grab one of the V6 GTs before they're gone. At $29,145 a V6 GT is the least expensive way to get the V6, and comes with a sport suspension that improves handling chops. You can't get adaptive cruise control or navigation on the GT, but considering neither bit of tech works well in this SEL Premium spec, I'm fine leaving them on the table.

The 2018 Passat starts at $22,995, and this top-of-the-line V6 SEL Premium comes in at $35,500, including $850 for destination.

The Passat has a few things going for it, namely its huge interior and generous cargo space. But if it's a solid midsize sedan you're after, better options are available from a number of automakers. And if you're dead set on a Volkswagen, the new-for-2019 , with better tech, a spacious cabin and genuinely good-to-drive dynamics, might be right up your alley.

Emme's Comparable Picks

2018 Volkswagen Passat

2018 Volkswagen Passat V6 SEL Premium

Score Breakdown

Performance 6.5Features 7Design 7Media 6.5