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VW Passat Makes an Awkwardly Timed Debut

New model, critical to US, debuts as maker faces fraud charges.

by on Sep.22, 2015

A new look for the 2016 VW Passat.

If timing is everything, the debut of the new 2016 Volkswagen Passat probably couldn’t have come along at a worse moment.

When the German maker scheduled the New York unveiling, it was clearly hoping to set in motion a much-needed turnaround for its struggling U.S. operations. Instead, the new Passat could get lost in the brouhaha surrounding news that VW apparently used a so-called defeat device to improperly pass emissions tests with a number of its diesel-powered models.

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The scandal could lead potential buyers to ignore the 2016 VW Passat. But the maker can only hope it will be able to overcome the negative headlines, the new midsize sedan getting a much-needed styling update, plenty of new safety and infotainment technologies, and a new, sporty R-Line model. Ironically, the new Passat will be the first to get a diesel engine.

“We applied a progressive design strategy with the new Passat, giving the car a dynamic presence and a more sophisticated look,” said Klaus Bischoff, Volkswagen’s design chief, prior to the sedan’s Big Apple debut.

(US Justice Dept. opening investigation into VW diesel cheating scandal. Click Here for the latest.)

The 2016 VW Passat remains one of the roomiest sedans in the U.S. midsize market.

Among the most immediately apparent changes, the American-made Passat gets a new, domed hood and LED lighting, front and back. The headlamps are smaller, while the front and rear fenders, as well as the grille have also been revised — though the roof and doors are unchanged, as are the 2016 Passat’s overall dimensions. That, in itself, isn’t bad. The previous generation featured one of the roomiest cabins in the midsize class.

Inside, the revised VW Passat gets a new instrument panel and center stack, with a larger touchscreen display and, on the whole, a more premium feel than the outgoing sedan.

For the first time, VW will offer an R-Line version of the Passat. Among the sporty touches, it gets unique rocker panels, a “stylized” front bumper with contrasting black accents, a revised rear diffuser and 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels.

VW will offer three engine choices for 2016, including a turbocharged 1.8-liter inline-four delivering 38 mpg on the highway, a 3.6-liter V-6 making 280 horsepower, and a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel.

An upgraded interior and a new infotainment system featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Unfortunately, that’s the same diesel that’s landed VW in trouble, the EPA declaring the maker used special software to pass emissions tests and then allow the engine to produce additional pollutants. The automaker’s CEO Martin Winterkorn has decreed VW won’t sell that engine again until it has a fix for the problem.

Among the various new technologies on the 2016 VW Passat, the sedan will get an Automatic Post Collision Braking System. It’s designed to instantly apply the brakes after a collision to reduce the likelihood the sedan would be involved in a secondary crash.

The sedan offers a new easy-access trunk system that allows a motorist to pop it open simply by wiggling a foot under the rear bumper. There’s also a second-generation modular infotainment platform, or MIB II, which is said to be faster and easier to use, adding such smartphone-style features as swiping and pinch-zooming. The system also builds in the new Apple CarPlay and Android Auto app systems.

VW says the new 2016 Passat equipped with the 1.8T engine will start at $22,440 plus destination charges when it goes on sales later this year.

Passat's new LED headlights.

Like the current model, the new Passat will be produced at the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. That factory currently is undergoing a $900 million expansion, the sedan soon to share space with an SUV based off the popular VW CrossBlue Concept.

(VW Tiguan gets complete makeover at Frankfurt Motor Show. Click Here to check it out.)

VW clearly needs both of those American-made models to succeed. It has been losing sales momentum in the U.S. market since the beginning of the decade. But industry analysts warn the scandal over the diesel emissions tests could short-circuit VW’s plans.

The maker faces potentially billions of dollars in fines and lawsuits. Several class actions have already been filed and the U.S. Justice Department has reportedly opened an investigation into the case.

(VW, Audi expect to “electrify” their entire line-ups. Click Here for more.)

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4 Responses to “VW Passat Makes an Awkwardly Timed Debut”

  1. veh says:

    What’s up with all the reveals away from auto shows? Seems like one every week. I’m sure the automakers think it’s a good idea to get away from the crowd, but they just get lost in the general news cycle. At least during auto shows there’s more of a focus on the industry as a whole.

    And of course, VW is in der grosse Scheisse

  2. Jorge M. says:

    VW keeps adding new U.S. models but sales are stagnant for good reason – unacceptable ownership experience for U.S. customers.

  3. Fred says:

    The 2016 Passat won’t be the first to get a diesel engine. The 2014 and 2015 Passat’s are among the diesel models on the recall list.
    I expect the 2-liter diesels (mostly Jetta) from 2011 – 2013, which did not use the Blue Tec fluid, will be the most affected by the need to re-do the emission settings. I wonder if their particle accumulators, which burn off the carbon during times the car is doing high-speed cruising and can get clogged and need a VERY expensive replacement if the car isn’t on the highway enough, can really do the job alone.

  4. Fred says:

    And I just noticed the new front end – anyone recall the Cadillac Catera (re-badged Opel Omega)?This is a slight update of the 2001-2003 model!!