Why can't we have nice things?
Volkswagen revealed the new 2020 Passat at this year's Detroit Auto Show and we weren't exactly blown away by it. While the sedan received a minor refresh, it still features the same 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine from the previous car producing 174 horsepower going out through a six-speed automatic. It's even based on the same platform as before.
While the US now gets its own version of the Passat, Volkswagen has just released a refreshed version of the eighth generation Passat in Europe, known as the Mk 8.5. We would typically ignore a Europe-only reveal such as this but we wanted to point out just how much cooler Europe's Passat is than the one we get in the US.
Let's start with the most obvious difference, the styling. The European Passat looks sleeker and more streamlined than the US car and it even has a nicer interior. Just take a look at the newer infotainment system, the new steering wheel, those gorgeous blue accent lights, and the addition of virtual cockpit in the gauge cluster.
Even what's under the hood is better than what we get in the US. Europe receives a variety of different gas and diesel engines but we wanted to focus on two in particular. The first is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder which produces 268 hp (122 more than we get in the US car). The other is the plug-in hybrid GTE model, which uses a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder mated to an electric motor to produce 215 hp. Not only is the GTE more powerful than the US Passat, but it also has an electric range of 35 on WLTP testing standards.
Power isn't the only benefit the European Passat has over the US car. VW has also introduced a new system called Travel Assist, which offers partially autonomous driving at cruising speeds. Hey VW, did you think US consumers wouldn't have liked this feature in their car? Of course, we'd be willing to overlook all of these other items if the Passat wagon didn't look so cool. Yes, we know wagons don't really sell in the US but in Europe, the Passat estate outsells its sedan counterpart two-to-one.
It's called the Passat Variant and you can even get it in sporty R Line and GTE trims with the 268 hp and plug-in hybrid drivetrains. There's even a more rugged Alltrack model (pictured below) for those who want to be able to tackle a dirt road. The US-spec Passat was slightly disappointing but after seeing the refreshed European model, we can't help but feel robbed.