Quietly stylish new Volkswagens never wear peace symbols in their back windows.
They tend to clash with urban chic and leather seats, but about the time I get nostalgic about the simple, hippie-dippy tin-can Bugs of my youth, cars like the 2018 Passat GT remind me that Volkswagen – at least – continues to move on and up.
Do these bellbottom jeans look a bit dated, incidentally?
Probably, but don’t expect to find any rebellious vestiges of the ‘60s – once a big part of little VW’s appeal – in the polished mid-size Passat I had recently.
In fact, I doubt its stereo can even play Iron Butterfly’s Inna Gadda Da Vida, which may not be such a bad thing.
Low, wide and substantial looking, my white Passat GT felt more like some entry-level BMW than a VW with clattering, flower-power heritage.
At about $30,000 for a roomy, well-equipped, V-6-powered sedan with German moves, the Passat GT struck me as one of the better deals I’ve stumbled across lately.
However, there’s a twist, kids: Volkswagen has announced it is dropping the GT V-6 in 2019 and will only offer a turbocharged 2-liter four in the car.
A current V-6 model might be well worth looking for.
My Passat didn’t shout about its extra muscle visually, though, featuring a simple, thin horizontal grille up front flanked by prominent two-projector headlamps.
A long, broad hood, meanwhile, gave the Passat a fairly powerful presence, while a gracefully curved black top added to the car’s European feel.
Although the sides were mostly flat, slight shoulders at the tops of the large doors gave them a taut appearance.
Moreover, the body clung tightly to good-looking 10-spoke, 19-inch wheels wrapped with low-profile 235/40 tires.
It also sits about an inch lower than other Passats. Park the GT next to one of the standard models and you’ll notice the difference – hunk versus clunk.
What really makes the car special, though, is VW’s long-running 3.6-liter V-6, good for 280 horsepower – or roughly 100 more than its replacement engine next year.
With 3,500 pounds to lug around, the Passat benefits from the extra horsepower, feeling smoother and much more lively with the V-6 than the turbo four.
Bolted to a dual-clutch six-speed automatic, the engine generated crisp, instant waves of torque, pushing the GT to 60-mph in a tire-chirping 5.9 seconds, according to Car and Driver.
Boot the Passat hard and it gathers revs quickly and cleanly, pulling past 6,000 rpm with a muted growl.
The downside – and the probable reason VW is getting rid of its sweet six in the Passat – is modest fuel economy of 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway.
Sorry, but I don’t have a problem with opting for the V-6 over the turbo-four even if it costs me six mpg of city fuel-economy. The superior drivability is worth it.
Although the Passat GT lacks the corner-carving abilities of the storied Volkswagen Golf GTI – despite its name – the big front-wheel-drive sedan handles curves and corners reasonably well.
If you push the Passat into a corner, it leans some and feels sedan-like, but settles on its springs pretty quickly and displays decent grip.
Likewise, the Passat rides a bit softer than the legendary GTI, but still retains some of the brand’s German firmness.
As I’ve come to expect with most modern Volkswagens, the steering in the Passat felt too soft and didn’t provide much road feel, but at least it was quick and easy to drive.
At first glance, the black-and-gray interior in my Passat looked kind of basic, but I came to view it as tastefully spare – unlike the bare-bone seats and metal dash in my late-‘60s Bug.
While the Passat offered lots of black plastic, everything seemed clean and well-executed with a broad, flat upper dashboard and a small 6.3-inch display screen anchoring the mid-dash.
Small knobs controlled the audio system and larger ones took care of the climate system.
Like the dash, the door-panels were mostly hard black plastic, but included a slight roll at the top to keep them from looking totally boring.
The seats, though, commanded most of the attention, with fairly smooth black bolsters and perforated light-gray centers.
In addition, the back seat offered excellent leg- and headroom for those lanky teen-agers you still have to cart around. (Just wait until they’re 25 and living in your basement with their boyfriend/girlfriend.)
My well-equipped Passat didn’t arrive with a single option and I never felt anything was missing.
Too bad we’ll soon be waving bye to a solid mid-size sedan with affordable German performance.
Photo Credit: VW
- What I liked most: The Passat’s clean, uncluttered styling and smoothly potent V-6 engine.
- What I would change: The Passat could use a sportier suspension and slightly better steering to fully justify its GT badge.
- MSRP: Base price, $29,145; as equipped, $29,995.
- Fuel economy: Rated at 19 miles per gallon in town, 28 on the highway and 22 mpg combined with filler on the right.
- Official color: Pure White.
- Odometer reading when tested: 12,951 miles.
- Weight: 3,555 pounds.
- Length-width-height: 191.9 inches long/72.2 inches wide/57.9 inches tall.
- Fuel-tank capacity: 18.5 gallons.
- Towing capacity: 1,000 pounds.
- Spare tire: Temporary compact.
- 2018 Volkswagen Passat GT in a few words: Another VW, for now, that more or less qualifies as a poor-man’s German sports sedan.
- Warranty: Six years, 72,000 miles.
- Final assembly location: Chattanooga, Tenn.
- Manufacturer’s website: www.vw.com
- E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Up next: 2019 Mazda CX-3