The Not So New 2019 Volkswagen Passat
The 2019 VW Passat for U.S. buyers is apparently just a 2018 Passat fresh from the paint booth and with more options standard in the consolidated trim levels. That’s not a terrible thing since it is a solid, enjoyable car and worth buying on its own merits. The industry, however, has seen something entirely different at European Auto Shows and wants to know why we’re not getting it. Most car manufacturers aren’t spending much time or money on their car lines in the USA, instead focusing on SUVs and crossovers, so it’s not surprising from that point of view. What’s even more likely, though, is that we’re simply seeing the process of rolling out VW’s MQB platform and the Passat will make the jump to it soon enough, as the U.S. Jetta has.
The 2019 Passat will continue to be roomy, including in the back seat, with space for five adults on comfortable leatherette which is now standard for all trim levels. The driver’s seat has an 8-way adjustment, and both front seats are heated. The SE R-Line trim level now adds ambient interior lighting.
Words to describe the Passat’s ride and handling include “stable” and “accurate,” meaning that commuters and those on mountain roads will have the same general experience. The Passat gives a quality ride even at high speeds but doesn’t add character to its performance. The target audience of families, executives and perhaps others such as seniors will appreciate the consistency of driving an American (non-MQB) Passat.
What about the powertrain, are there any changes there? Is it good for daily traffic, highway cruising, back roads and mountain curves?
The 2019 Passat is being limited to two trim levels from seven in 2018, keeping things simple. That means no GT/VR6 — the 280-hp V-6 engine is unavailable. The existing 174-hp turbo four engine continues. It’s enough for satisfying driving, but perhaps not the exuberant performance that many drivers hope for on weekend trips.
This is where the American Passat shines, and one of the reasons VW North America has given for keeping this model active. There’s room, plenty of room in both the back seat and the trunk. That means everyone is comfortable and gets to bring their gear without squabbles. The stable, isolated ride also lets people relax and not count the bumps until arrival.
The good news is that the electronics and other tech does get some bumps from the previous year. The bad news, once again, is that without the MQB platform of the Euro version, the latest VW technology is unavailable for now. There is an 8-inch display with Apple Play and Android Auto, and a Fender premium sound system is available to those who choose the SE-R Line trim level over the Wolfsburg level. Wolfsburg gets a 6.3-inch display. Adaptive cruise control, navigation and lane-keeping assist also come with the higher trim level.
The SE R-Line trim level, one of two available for 2019, includes adaptive cruise control, navigation, and lane keeping assist. Everybody wins due to the consolidation of trim levels, and both SE R-Line and Wolfsburg buyers get automated emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and rear cross-traffic alert. This should also eliminate these features as a decision driver when buyers are comparing with other manufacturers’ vehicles.
As the American Passat line, forked off in 2012, merges with the rest of the company’s MQB-based models, there will be much more opportunity to transfer features and design elements from those models. The electronics, especially the infotainment system, are a good bet for the first MQB Passat in the U.S., and more sporty models are likely. Observers are looking to the Jetta, suspecting that the new generation of Passat will be the Jetta’s big brother style- and feature-wise. The 2019 Jetta shown in Detroit is stretched and restyled, the interior has 10-color ambient lighting, and new soft-touch materials and drivers will now enjoy a fully digital cockpit experience, for starters.
Do you think that the U.S. model will transition to Euro style and equipment in the next few years?
Absolutely. It almost looks like VW “switched horses in mid-stream” as the recently introduced GT model for U.S. buyers is headed out just as quickly. In addition to the transition from a unique U.S. Passat platform to the company-standard MQB, signs are everywhere that VW is getting ambitious about new models and vehicles in markets around the globe. There is even talk of a VW pickup truck possibly becoming available in the U.S., based on clues such as government paperwork. One interesting consideration: the roomier U.S. model is also sold in the Middle East and South Korea, so those markets will presumably see a change as well.
So, is this a typical case of most buyers waiting for the 2020 model, hoping for all the new stuff?
Maybe not. The 2019 Passat will be another year of a solid, successful vehicle which buyers have enjoyed driving, and will have more features available in the two trim levels. Plenty of buyers will surely want to buy this known quantity and drive it while VW fires up the new line of Passats in the coming years. Of course, that’s if they are brand-loyal. While domestic car companies generally have moved away from producing cars to compete on the SUV/crossover field, Japanese and Korean car companies have chosen to increase the competition in this area.
What about Continental using the Passat as their autonomous driving technology car in Europe? What’s going on there?
The Passat was one of Google’s autonomous driving development cars in the past, and Continental, a German vehicle equipment company best known for their tires, put a 2012 Passat on the road in Nevada as a semi-autonomous vehicle. The company is using “highly automated” driving technology in the testing process for their tire products and developing sensors and systems for commercialization of autonomous driving. They’ve been active on the Autobahn now and looking forward to making cars like the Passat available with highly automated technology as soon as 2020 or 2025.
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