2020 Volkswagen Passat: Fresh Look, Same Car
Volkswagen introduced the new 2020 Passat at the Detroit auto show on Monday, but calling it “new” might not be entirely fair. While the midsize sedan has undergone a complete visual overhaul and received some new technology in the process, its mechanical bits have gone mostly unchanged versus last year’s model.
For 2020, Volkswagen modernized the Passat’s image by stretching the grille and adopting smaller headlamps. The prominent crease seen on the Jetta runs from stem to stern. That means some will continue confusing the two models well into the next decade but, for those who appreciate reserved styling and have a keen eye, the Passat is the more dapper of the pair. Still, like we said, this is pretty much the same car VW has been slinging for the last eight years — just newer looking.
That’s most true beneath the hood, where you’ll find the same 2.0-liter turbocharged engine pushing 174 horsepower. However, Volkswagen did slap on a new torque converter to improve torque from 184 to 207 lb-ft. The Passat still puts all of its power to the front wheels and relies on a staid six-speed automatic transmission to do it. The suspension also goes unchanged. But that’s not a real problem, as the model already has rather good road manners (and brakes).
As the model hasn’t yet gravitated to VW’s new MQB platform, the 2020 Passat misses out on the company’s Digital Cockpit. However, the still-spacious interior receives significant upgrades that appear new yet very familiar to the old Passat’s cabin. An ultra-wide vent stretches from the center of the dashboard and extends all the way to the passenger door, the 8.0-inch MIB II infotainment system (standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto) now comes on a new glass-covered touchscreen, and there are some new materials. Nobody is going to suddenly think they’re sitting in a premium sedan, but they will have the satisfaction of knowing their affordable commuter hasn’t abandoned any attempt at luxury.
As with the 2019 model, the Passat comes standard with forward collision warning and emergency braking. For 2020, it adds a new pedestrian monitoring system and Parking Steering Assist, which can automatically guide the vehicle into tricky spaces. Also standard is blind-spot monitoring and rear traffic alert, but adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assist cost extra. Other upgrades include scaling up the standard 17-inch wheels to 18 or 19 inches (depending on trim), a Fender audio system, Nappa leather seating surfaces, and keyless entry with push-button start.
Considering how quickly the market turned on sedans, we imagine Volkswagen didn’t want to take any risks with the 2020 Passat and is hesitant to put it on the MQB platform that’s now commonplace in its fleet and implemented by its Euro-spec twin. By and large, this isn’t a problem for people who already appreciate the model. In fact, most customers will probably see the new bodywork and automatically assume it’s an entirely updated car.
It also dampens our hopes for the vehicle’s future in North America.
The Passat is getting very old and is starting to face fiercer competition with stronger engines, newer tech, and bolder styling. Maybe that will help the car play to its base while sneaking out the door with a lower MSRP, but we’re worried it won’t measure up in head-to-head comparisons. Shoppers tend to test drive more than one car before making a final decision, and if they spend some time in the likes of the Honda Accord, Mazda 6, or even some of the less impressive midsize sedans still on the market, Volkswagen might just lose the sale.
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The Passat is getting very old and is starting to face fiercer competition with stronger engines, newer tech, and bolder styling. It's true. But the new Volkswagen passat 2020 has made a good performance.