If It Ain't Broke, Don't Nix It
2020 Volkswagen Passat: Mostly the Same, Still a Great Deal
Bottom Line: The 2020 Passat is not significantly different from the previous generation.
• More dramatic body panels
• New grille
• Standard LED lighting
• 17-inch wheels
• Freshened interior styling
• Increased torque
Volkswagen unveiled the new 2020 Passat sedan at NAIAS 2019, sort of. VW squeezed a quick reveal in amidst glad-handing Tennessee politicians and the announcement of a new presenting sponsorship deal with U.S. Soccer. We can’t say it’s “all-new” because the ‘new’ Passat is essentially the same car.
VW altered the exterior with a “dynamic coupe-like roofline” and a “dramatic tornado line” across the body. There’s a new grille, standard LED lights and 17-inch wheels. VW also freshened up the interior styling a bit. A new torque converter adds about 23lb-ft of torque, up from 207 lb-ft in the previous model. That’s about it for changes.
The Passat won’t get VW’s new MQB platform, leaving it in an outmoded club with the old Tiguan Classic and the soon to be phased out Beetle. VW didn’t even give the Passat a bump up to the 8-speed automatic found in the Jetta. The Passat even keeps (gasp!) an analog cockpit display in 2020.
What may redeem the Passat is value. VW didn’t reveal Passat pricing. It will slot above the Jetta ($18,745 MSRP) and below the sportier, more upscale Arteon. The Arteon will offer Audi-level performance, but it will also come at an Audi-level pricetag. The Passat is much less powerful than the Audi A6, but it looks vaguely similar and costs half as much. It has more cache than a Jetta. Continuing pretty much the same Passat means the handling will be decent. Volkswagen interiors feel more premium than the price point.
VW kept emphasizing that 4.25 million sedans sold in the U.S. last year. Those buyers will need to buy something. Volkswagen plans to stay with sedans, while other manufacturers flee the segment like rats from a sinking four-door car. Many of those buyers would be happy with a cooler looking, roomy, decently appointed Passat sedan, even if they should totally buy a GTI or a Golf Sportwagen.
The Passat didn’t upgrade much over the last generation, which was around forever. But, the Passat still offers boring, German-engineered value for non-car-enthusiast Americans, which is its rai·son d’ê·tre.