by Jared Rosenholtz
The Passat has been, for as long as we can remember, associated with accountants, middle-management, and mundanity in general. But overlook this humble sedan at your peril: the understated exterior hides a comfortable cruiser with a good features list and a class-leading warranty. Power is provided by a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that produces a somewhat mediocre 174 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque, which is enough for the Passat to do what it does best: cruise. The 2019 model comes with added safety features, including standard forward collision avoidance and blind-spot monitoring. The Passat might not be the best at any one thing, but it's good in most categories, and with a standard six-year/72,000-mile warranty, Volkswagen clearly intended the 2019 Passat to be the last car you'll ever own. Think about that for a second.
The current generation Passat has been around since 2012 and is starting to show its age, but VW has given it one last shot of botox before it gets replaced in the near future. The most significant change for 2019 would be the slimming-down of the trim range: Volkswagen now offers the Passat in only two trim levels, namely the Wolfsburg and SE R-Line. The V6 engine and GT trim fall away. Both new trims are powered by a turbocharged four-pot producing 174 hp. Inside, the 2019 Passat gets an upgraded infotainment system and new standard safety tech. Terra Brown joins the exterior color list, and the warranty now covers owners for six years or 72,000 miles.
The 2019 VW Passat prides itself on its ability to provide a comfortable and safe driving experience while cruising so far under the radar that you'd probably get hit by one even if you were staring straight at it. To its credit, Volkswagen has attempted to give the Passat a bit of added street cred by offering the SE R-line with some flashy wheels and sporty exterior bits. Wolfsburg cars get standard automatic headlights, heated and powered side mirrors and a set of 17-inch ten-spoke alloy wheels. Step up to the SE R-Line, and you'll get LED headlights with daytime running lights and taillights, rain-sensing window wipers and a power tilt/slide sunroof. The SE R-Line also gets a hands-free trunk liftgate and a rear sports valance, which gives the sporty Passat a bit more bite in the bum area. The SE R-Line rolls on a set of 19-inch twin five-spoke wheels.
The Passat is classified as a mid-size family sedan, and comparing it to the likes of the VW Jetta or Audi A4 makes it clear that it's a sizable car. Total length is measured at 191.9 inches which is 5.8 inches longer than the A4, and 6.8 inches lengthier than its smaller sibling the Jetta. The Audi A4 is 0.3 inches wider at 72.5 inches, and the Passat is 58.5 inches tall. Despite being the longest car in this comparison, the Passat rolls on a 110.4-inch wheelbase, 0.6 shorter than that of the Audi. Another measurement that clearly displays the Passat's significant size difference over the Jetta is its starting curb weight of 3,285 lbs, which is near on 400 pounds heavier.
As if the Passat wasn't invisible enough, Volkswagen USA thought it good to offer the 2019 model in some rather bland hues. The bases are covered by Pure White, Reflex Silver Metallic, and Deep Black Pearl, but things get a bit more adventurous with Fortana Red, Tourmaline Blue or Platinum Gray. The seventh color and the newest addition to the family is Terra Brown Metallic, it looks great and gives the Passat a more upmarket look too.
It's a pity that Volkswagen decided to drop the meaty V6 from last year. In its place, we get an industry-standard four-cylinder turbocharged engine that produces 174 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. Maybe we're being too harsh on the poor Passat, but in all honesty, the performance levels are as humdrum as the exterior design. The 2019 Passat slows things down due to the loss of the V6 model and manages to scoot from zero to sixty in around 8.5 seconds according to independent testers, woefully lagging behind the competition. With that being said, the Passat doesn't feel slow by any means, and will happily pull along with traffic, and offers enough punch for highway overtaking, but that is all it provides, nothing more. The Passat redeems itself when it comes to steering feel and chassis balance, not that that will matter to the vast majority of drivers who get behind the wheel of a Passat.
Powering the 2019 Volkswagen Passat is a 2.0-liter turbocharged and intercooled TSI engine with direct injection producing 174 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. In typical VW fashion, this engine offers up all its torque in the low to mid-range and runs out of steam higher up in the rev range. In-gear acceleration is peppy, which makes city driving and overtaking in general a stress-free activity, but we've noticed uneven acceleration when giving the Passat some beans. The uneven acceleration, combined with clunky shifts from the six-speed automatic, makes accelerating from a standstill less than pleasurable. In sport mode, the six-speed auto livens up, but it's no GTI dual-clutch system.
Volkswagen has the ability to make anything they build handle relatively well. One of the 2019 Passat's strong points is its robust and predictable handling characteristics: the steering feel is well-weighted and direct, especially for a midsize sedan, and the electric power steering assistance doesn't completely wipe away feedback as is the norm in so many modern cars. Taking the Passat through a series of corners is an uneventful experience at best; the intrusive stability control system prevents the driver from experiencing even the slightest of body and tire feedback, but on the open road, and in long sweeping corners, the Passat feels planted and inspires confidence. The Audi A4 is a more accomplished driver's car but doesn't do normal cruising any better or worse than the Passat. Relaxed driving brings out the best in this VW sedan, but it isn't a complete disaster when you're in a hurry.
Gas mileage numbers are becoming a massive part of the car purchasing decision, not only in small city cars but everything in between, right up to the big trucks. The good news here is that you'll be laughing all the way past the gas station in the 2019 Passat: thanks to an efficient small capacity turbocharged engine and economy biased transmission, the Passat will manage 36/25/29 mpg highway/city/combined. A large 18.5-gallon fuel tank gives the 2019 Passat an estimated range of 536 miles.
There's a stereotype about German cars which says that they have the best interiors in the business, well sometimes being stereotypical has its upsides. The interior of the 2019 Passat is a comfortable and well put together space that punches above its weight class. While cruising, the interior of the Passat is as zen as a Japanese sand garden, with very little to no road noise entering the cabin, a clear sign of a solidly built car. The Wolfsburg and SE R-Line share a number of interior features such as an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, illuminated vanity mirrors as well as a multi-color info display. Wolfsburg cars are fitted with a manual air conditioning system, while SE R-Line cars get dual-zone automatic climate control. The sportier SE R-Line also receives a set of R-line door sill protectors.
The 2019 VW Passat will seat five regular-sized adults in comfort, and unlike other more sporty German sedans, the Passat doesn't sacrifice rear seating space in favor of a sleek sloping roofline. The seats in the Passat are excellent: firm enough to give support through the bends, but comfortable enough to keep you sitting pretty on long road trips. Seats in the back will see passengers sit in an uncomfortable upright position, which is a letdown seeing as the front seats are so well designed. Getting in and out of the Passat is a hassle-free exercise thanks to good-sized doors and a level roofline front to back. The front legroom is measured at 42.4 inches, and front headroom is a six-foot friendly 38.3 inches. Back seat space is where the Passat really impresses: passengers get 39.1 inches of legroom and 37.8 inches of headroom. The Passat offers very slightly more front-seat legroom and back seat headroom than the Honda Accord, but can't match its front-seat headroom and rear legroom space, small differences aside, both vehicles are more than spacious enough for five occupants.
Volkswagen is good at making an interior feel special, and this is evident in the choice of materials used in the 2019 Passat. The seats are upholstered in V-Tex leatherette, which feels as good as the real thing, but real leather is still used on the multi-function steering wheel and gear shift knob. The leatherette seats can be had in Titan Black, Moonrock, or Cornsilk Beige, however, they need to be paired with specific exterior colors. The interior materials have a typically VW feel of quality to them, and when looked after, should last a good while.
Some midsize sedans focus on offering the maximum amount of rear legroom, which means they have to sacrifice trunk space. Thankfully this is not the case in the 2019 Passat: VW has struck a good balance between the two, and while the Passat doesn't offer class-leading trunk space, it does provide enough. Total trunk capacity measures in at 15.9 cubic feet, which is 1.8 cubic feet more than what's offered in the VW Jetta, although 0.8 cubic feet less than what you get in the Honda Accord. The numbers only tell half of the story: The Passat has a wide opening liftgate and low overhangs, which makes the trunk look larger than it actually is, and makes loading larger items a breeze. Small items can be stored in the center stack, which is big enough for phones and the like, but the cup holders and glovebox are small.
Behind the sedate design of the 2019 VW Passat lies an impressive standard features list, especially on the range-topping SE R-Line. Starting with the exterior, Wolfsburg models get auto headlights and heated power side mirrors. The interior features heated front seats with eight-way power adjustability on the driver's side, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with mounted audio controls as well as a leather gear shift knob. A color multifunction info display and manual air conditioning, as well as keyless access with push-button start, wrap up the features list for the base model. The SE R-Line benefits from premium features such as LED headlights, rain-sensing window wipers, and a power tilting sunroof. The cabin plays host to an auto-dimming rearview mirror, ambient lighting, and dual-zone automatic climate control.
Volkswagen has come a long way with their infotainment systems, and the one found in the 2019 Passat is intuitive, easy to use, and responsive. Wolfsburg models get a 6.3-inch Composition Media infotainment display with MP3/CD and AM/FM radio integration and SD card reader. The SE R-Line gets a similarly sized display screen that features navigation. Both models benefit from the VW Car-Net suite of apps, Android Auto, a three-month subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio as well as a single USB port in the front and two in the rear. The SE R-Line also gets a three-month subscription to SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link. The 6.3-inch display is small for the class and sits low in the dashboard but get the job done without any major issues. Ther stock six-speaker sound system is adequate, but there's a premium Fender system on offer as well.
The folks over at J.D. Power gave the VW Passat a solid score of 79 out of 100. That score might have been affected by the three recent issued in the last two years, although they were for minor faults. In 2018 specific models were recalled for brake issues, and 2019 saw one recall due to the headlights coming loose. Where Volkswagen scores big points with the Passat is its class-leading warranty. The Passat comes standard with a six-year/72,000-mile basic warranty, which includes a seven-year/100,000-mile corrosion warranty, a six-year/72,000-mile drivetrain warranty as well as a three-year/36,000-mile roadside assistance plan. Only Hyundai/Kia comes close to matching that.
The VW Passat has been tested by both the NHTSA and IIHS and was found to be relatively safe but doesn't come close to the safety levels offered by the likes of the Honda Accord, which managed to scoop a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS. The Passat faired well in most of the IIHS tests but failed to impress in the small front overlap and headlight categories. The NHTSA gave the VW sedan a full five out of five stars. The 2019 model now includes more standard safety features, which have greatly added to its value proposition.
The Wolfsburg and SE R-Line share a basic list of standard safety features, which includes a rearview camera system, ten airbags, and an intelligent crash response system that unlocks the doors, switches off the engine, and cuts the fuel supply in case of a serious accident. Active driver assistance tech such as forward collision avoidance and automatic forward braking come standard on both trim levels, as does blind-spot monitoring and rear traffic alert. The SE R-Line takes things a step further with the inclusion of remote start, adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and park distance control.
The 2019 VW Passat is an honest midsize sedan that doesn't pretend to be a Nurburgring slayer or GT cruiser. It's humble (hum-drum) exterior hides a capable car that does everything relatively well. Standard alloy wheels and auto headlights on the base model are appreciated, but the SE R-Line is where you'll find most of the premium goodies. The engine isn't a performance bombshell and feels strained when hunting for power in the upper reaches of the rev range, but is great at cruising and will return impressive gas mileage figures if driven gently. The interior is well put together, and the front seats offer class-leading comfort. The Passat isn't a sports sedan by any stretch of the imagination, but it feels planted and smooth on the highway and shows good composure in long winding corners. It isn't the safest car in its class, but the addition of more active safety features for 2019 should be enough for most. With an affordable base price and impressive warranty cover, the understated Passat is an undervalued stealth cruiser that's perfect for those who aren't in a big hurry.
The 2019 Volkswagen Passat starts off with an MSRP of $25,295 for the Wolfsburg Edition trim and climbs to $29,995 for the more accomplished SE R-Line. Compared to its rivals, the Passat offers good value for money. The 2019 Honda Accord starts off with an MSRP of $23,720, which is over $1,500 less than the Wolfsburg Passat and offers fewer standard features but a more powerful base engine. A top of the range Accord will set you back $35,950, which is significantly more than the SE R-Line's asking price but does include a 252 hp 2.0-liter engine and other options not found on the Passat. A range-topping VW Jetta goes for $27,195, which is dangerously close to its bigger sibling. These prices exclude a destination fee of $895.
For 2019, Volkswagen has decided to slim down its trim offering, so you only have to pick between two models, Wolfsburg Edition and SE R-Line. Easy enough, right?
The base model is called the Wolfsburg Edition and starts at $25,295. Standard exterior features include auto headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels. On the inside, you get standard heated front seats with eight-way power-adjustability for the driver's seat, a leather-trimmed steering wheel, and shift knob as well as manual air-conditioning. The infotainment system on the Wolfsburg includes HD radio compatibility and SD card reader, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Standard safety features include forward collision avoidance, blind-spot monitoring, and rear traffic alert.
The SE R-Line gets LED headlights and a hands-free trunk liftgate on the outside. Inside there's a dual-zone climate control system, ambient lighting, and R-Line door sill plates. The infotainment system gains navigation as well as SiriusXM satellite radio and traffic assistance. Additional active safety features such as adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and park-distance control come standard.
There aren't many optional extras to choose from when purchasing a new 2019 VW Passat. The Wolfsburg model is available with a $1,000 sunroof and wheels package, which adds a set of 18-inch five-spoke wheels, a power sliding sunroof, illuminated vanity mirrors, and all-season 235/45 R18 tires. The top of the line SE R-Line can be kitted out with a $105 trunk liner, a $287 rear window sunshade or a set of cargo blocks for $41.
The price difference between the entry-level Wolfsburg and SE R-Line is a mere $4,700, and you get quite a lot of extra gear for that money, and for that reason alone, we would recommend getting the SE R-Line. The decision is made even easier by the fact that the SE R-Line comes fully loaded off the showroom floor; you can't even add any significant optional extras. The SE R-Line features exterior details such as LED headlights and LED daytime running lights, rain-sensing window wipers, a power sliding/tilting sunroof, and a set of striking 19-inch alloy wheels. Inside you get dual-zone climate control, navigation, leatherette seating with an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat as well as an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The infotainment system features a 6.3-inch screen and includes navigation and a three-month subscription to SiriusXM Satellite Radio and traffic assistance. Advanced safety tech such as adaptive cruise control and forward collision avoidance come as standard.
The Volkswagen Jetta sits one class below the Passat but offers the same excellent build quality, driving experience, and outstanding warranty. The 2019 Jetta is powered by a turbocharged 1.4-liter inline four-cylinder engine which produces 147 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque. A low curb weight and eco-minded gearing allow the Jetta to achieve 40/30/34 mpg highway/city/combined. The Jetta is a physically smaller car, so interior space is tighter, and cargo space is less than what you'll find in the Passat, but the interior is put together with the same care. On the road, the Jetta is more entertaining to drive, but cannot match the Passat for long-distance comfort. Both cars offer a fair amount of standard tech and safety features. With a base price of only $18,745, the Jetta will appeal to smaller and younger families who will appreciate its excellent fuel economy figures and premium-feeling interior, but if its space you're after, get the Passat.
The ever-popular Honda Accord is more capable than ever and offers a wide range of trim, engine, and transmission options to suit every need. Power comes from a turbocharged 1.5-liter or 2.0-liter four-pot engine producing 192 hp and 252 hp respectively, both offer significantly more power than the Passat, and the 1.5-liter unit will do 30/38/33 mpg. The Accord is a better driver's car all round and will provide as much long-distance comfort as the Passat. The interior of the Accord has a premium feel and feels much more modern in design. There is more interior and cargo space on offer from the Japanese sedan, and it's a safer car as well, scoring a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS. Starting at only $23,720 the Accord is the better deal in every sense.