“While it’d be misleading and dishonest to say I’m not a fan of in-car technology, I have to admit that today’s vehicles are starting to feel more like NASA command centers and Boeing 747 cockpits. Are there any straight-forward cars left out there?”
2016 Volkswagen Passat – The ‘No Gimmicks’ Kind of Family Sedan
Yes, yes there are, and the 2016 Volkswagen Passat is one of them. Fancy surround sounds, laser cruise control, massaging seats, self-driving autopilots, you name it, today’s cars have it. Heck, some of them even have aroma therapy and night-vision!
All of this dawned on me the other night as I spoke with my Dad on the phone while driving back home from Detroit in a $70k luxury SUV. It was past midnight, and I was cruising at 75 mph via radar cruise control, the lane-keeping system steered the vehicle to keep me in the center of my lane, I was enjoying a back and bum massage courtesy of the massaging seats, I was speaking hands-free via Bluetooth, and even the toggling between high and low headlight beams was being performed by the car. In other words, I was merely a passenger.
As I explained all of this to my 63-year-old Dad, he asked, “How do you learn, understand and remember to use all of these systems properly?” To which I answered with a better question, “How does a 63-year-old male (or older) take advantage of all these high-tech features?” I mean, I deal with them on a weekly basis, and sometimes it’s still confusing! So I can’t imagine a less tech-savvy individual. It’s nuts!
You may be wondering, what the heck does this have to do with the Passat? Well, the thing is that while the Passat isn’t a low-tech sedan, it’s all packaged in such a simple and straight forward manner that it feels simple. The navigation screen setup may look a little outdated, but it isn’t, and it’s super simple to use. All you have to do is punch in an entire address (no entering city and state separate), and the computer handles the rest. The lack of buttons on the center console is a beautiful thing, yet the Passat doesn’t lack any features compared to its competitors.
Our 1.8T SE test model featured the optional technology package, which included heated front and rear leather seats, navigation, Bluetooth connectivity, a sunroof, and even Apple Carplay, which brings ease-of-use to another level. When it comes to rear amenities, the kiddos enjoyed a super spacious rear seat, which featured its own climate vents, USB charging part, and even a heated rear seat. It was borderline executive.
It was only about three days into our week-long test drive that I really started to appreciate the simplicity, and the amount of thought and strategy that went behind grabbing most of today’s modern technology, and packaging them in a simple, straight forward, non-gimmicky setup. Major kudos to VW for that.
When it comes to the driving experience; well, it’s very German. Smooth, solid, quiet, and that feeling that you’re well planted to the ground. It’s very—German. There’s really no better way to describe it. The 1.8 liter turbocharged engine takes full advantage of its economical 170 horsepower, and it delivered a combined 23 mpg during our test. That being said, while the Passat’s suspension was comfortable and forgiving at highway speeds, it felt abrupt and unnecessarily hard around town. There were a few harsh jolts that made me question what the heck engineers were thinking when they came up with such spring rate?
Once you experience all of these great (and the not so great) qualities, it’s time to park the Passat, and take a step back to admire it. For starters, the Passat isn’t really a sedan that will turn heads, but that’s not to say it’s not good looking. It’s very clean-cut. Think about it this way, you can buy a White Westinghouse mixer, and you can buy a KitchenAid mixer. You can see and feel the quality behind the latter. Same thing with the Passat.
The strikingly sharp creases of the front and rear tell you this car means business, and it’s well thought-out. Nothing happened by accident during the Passat’s design process.
Overall, the 2016 Passat isn’t for everyone. If you want flashy electronics and a glitzy exterior and interior design, this isn’t your ride. But if you want a super-sized back seat, easy-to-operate technology, and a car that oozes a sense of safety and strength from behind the wheel, this V-dub is just for you.
2016 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SE
- Starts at: $23,260
- Price as tested: $29,230
- Conservative and timeless exterior and interior design
- Plenty of room for the entire family and their belongings
- Comfort features carry into the backseat
- It feels like a true German car
- Suspension feels harsh at city speeds
- Keyless access system has a mind of its own
- Lack of in-cabin storage compartments
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