DETROIT – Volkswagen looks to inject some life into flagging Passat sedan sales with a refresh of the car that features more dynamic exterior styling and new advanced-technology features.
Unveiled here at the North American International Auto Show – the last January exhibition before the NAIAS moves to June for 2020, the revamped Passat gets a more dramatic coupe-like profile, aggressive grille, standard LED headlights and taillights and 17-in. aluminum wheels.
“With this new model, we’ve stepped up the style factor and upgraded the technology to make (the Passat) even more attractive,” says Scott Keogh, CEO of the North American Region. “In addition, we’ve made desirable convenience and driver-assistance features more accessible.”
Inside, the Passat continues with a horizontal design theme but features an all-new instrument panel housing a glass-covered infotainment screen, plus air vents that run across the dash, a configuration the automaker says is borrowed from more-premium sedans. Three trim choices are available, along with cloth seating or optional V-Tex leatherette and Nappa surfaces.
Standard equipment includes an MIB II Composition Media infotainment system with three-month trial SiriusXM satellite-radio subscription, as well as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink connectivity. Optional are a navigation system and Fender Premium Audio.
Driver-assistance technology available includes forward-collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian monitoring and blindspot and rear-traffic alert. Also on the optional-equipment list are adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, parking assist and park-distance control.
The Passat continues to be powered by a 174-hp 2.0L TSI (turbocharged and direct-injected) 4-cyl. engine. However, a new torque converter and software package boosts torque to 207 lb.-ft. (280 Nm), from 188 lb.-ft. (254 Nm) in the ’19 model.
U.S. sales of the Passat plunged 31.8% in 2018 to 41,401 units, according to Wards Intelligence data. While demand for midsize sedans is off industrywide, the Passat’s drop was much greater than the 15.5% decline for the Lower Middle car sector overall.
Part of the Passat’s slide can be attributed to the availability of the new Atlas large CUV, which sold 59,677 units last year, a 120.1% jump from the 27,119 delivered in its debut year of 2017.
With U.S. consumers shifting away from cars to CUVs for their practicality and load-hauling capability, many industry executives believe aggressive styling is what will continue to draw some buyers to sedans. Volkswagen’s move to dial up the sheet-metal drama of its conservatively designed Passat plays into that theory.