Review: The 2017 Passat V6

Every week for the past month and a bit, I’ve spent my Monday driving out to Volkswagen’s Canadian headquarters to be handed the keys to a brand new Volkswagen. It’s a pretty great way to spend a Monday. If you have the means I highly recommend it. No job is perfect, though, and as I understood it, my penance for spending weeks in the GTI and the Golf R was spending a week in the Passat. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

It’s not that I didn’t want to drive the Passat, it’s just that I knew I would have to write 1,000 words about it, and frankly that seemed like it would be a challenge. You see, there happens to be a 2014 Passat in my family. It’s a perfectly good vehicle, but it’s an appliance. No one looks forward to driving it, but it’ll certainly get you wherever you need to go in comfort.

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As I approached 2017 Passat, though, I noticed a couple of differences. The mild appearance modifications that came last year (new creases in the hood, a handsome silver bar running between the tail lights) still look sharp, and inside you’ll find more tech as standard. Front assist is now standard across the range, while blind-spot monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert come standard on R-Line and SE trims. It’s when I started the Passat, though, that the most important changes made themselves known.

The Passat I drove came with Volkswagen’s jewel of an engine, the 3.6-liter V6. This is the best option you can pick for your Passat. There’s nothing wrong with the four cylinder Passat. The VR6 just fits the Passat like a glove. It’s a great marriage of power to car and it makes the Passat feel quick. Its acceleration won’t change the shape of your face, but you might surprise yourself with how quickly you can pass on a two-lane highway. I don’t suppose, though, that it’ll come as a surprise to anyone reading this that the VR6 is a great engine. What really surprises is the steering.

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Again, I wasn’t expecting much of the Passat, so when I drove around my first corner, it came as a shock to me to find steering so lovely. As with many new cars, turning the wheel doesn’t take a lot of effort. In fact steering is light, but a heavy wheel and an informative wheel aren’t necessarily the same thing. When you round a bend in the Passat, there’s a rolling fluidity to the steering that I can only describe as—and I’m sorry about this—as Mazda-like. It’s so good, in fact, that I actually went hunting twisty roads in it, something that I really didn’t expect to do.

When you take this big, sedate, sedan to the twisties you find that the balance is really rather nice. There isn’t much understeer until you get very silly and you really do get a lot of information through your hands. The combination of engaging steering and ample power is so good, in fact, that I forgave the 2017 Passat for not getting particularly good mileage (combined 23 mpg) and for having a truly awful brake pedal: it really doesn’t feel like it’s connected in any meaningful way to the brakes, which work well.

And when the fun twisties turn back into dull straighties, the Passat turns back into a normal sedan, perfect for ‘bahn storming. I will say, though, that for my rather skinny 6 ft 1inch frame, the seats aren’t especially comfortable. I had a hard time finding a seating position that left my legs at a comfortable distance from the pedals while also leaving the steering wheel within reach. Maybe I’m shaped weirdly, but I do prefer to be able to reach  all of the controls. Otherwise, though, the interior is nice. It’s filled with nice materials organized in a visually pleasing, if unexciting way. Everything works well, too, and Volkswagen’s HVAC system remains top-notch.

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Ultimately, getting the V6 Passat is kind of an irrational choice. It weighs more, costs more, consumes  more, and even has a worse coefficient of drag than its four-cylinder sister. It would be so tempting to get the 1.8T (starting at $22,440), because of the $7,000 premium that you have to pay for the V6 (starting at $29,295), but I implore you not to. All of the faults pale in comparison to extra 110 hp you get with your two extra cylinders.

Making sacrifices for something  you love is cool. Genuine hipsters aren’t insufferable, people who shop at Urban Outfitters are. SUVs aren’t awful, crossovers are. Big sedans don’t have to be appliances if they have a soul, and the VR6 endows the Passat with a big lovable soul.

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