In search of the new (U.S.) Passat

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(May 31, 2014) As you might have heard by now, Volkswagen has released preliminary information for the new Passat sedan and station wagon. Built off the latest iteration of the MQB platform, the new car is 187 pounds lighter than the car it replaces, marginally smaller outside, and has more interior room and luggage capacity than before.

It has more high-strength, hot-formed steel than ever, and even features an aluminum rear bulkhead panel. Fuel economy should rise 20%, and the new Passat will use the same suite of turbocharged 2.0-liter gasoline and diesel engines that launched in the latest Golf. The only problem for U.S. buyers is that this car won’t be coming here.

The U.S. Passat is a larger, wider sedan based on VW’s NMS platform. Created around the time the MQB effort was gathering steam, the NMS pulled some of that program’s ideas forward and married them with VW’s then-current chassis architecture. The resulting hybrid structure helped VW speed the U.S. Passat to market, and protected VW’s massive investment in the Chattanooga plant.

To the machines in the plant, there is little difference between the NMS and MQB structures. Moving to all-MQB production will take very little refitting.

So, we get stuck with the older NMS structure while the rest of the world gets the newer, more modern MQB structure, right? Not exactly. VW will introduce a modified U.S. Passat in about 18 months. It will feature a revised structure that uses more high-strength and ultra-high-strength steel in a body that has been significantly restyled.

Though the current car’s conservative styling appeals to a broad swath of mid-size car buyers, vehicles like the Hyundai Sonata and Ford Fusion have forced the competition to rethink their conservative styling strategies. As a result, the U.S. Passat will share its styling with its European cousin. You can expect to see a more wedge-shaped side elevation, aggressive front end, and pronounced character lines. Insiders say the car is “stunning”.

It’s expected that the U.S. Passat will increase its technology content. Therefore, U.S. buyers may share the Euro Passat’s reconfigurable 12.3-in TFT instrument cluster on top line models, along with VW’s upgraded infotainment systems, a blind spot warning system, and Park Assist. It’s uncertain whether or not the U.S. Passat will share the Euro Passat’s optional LED headlights.

The new styling, upgraded structure and increased technology should keep VW competitive until the next U.S. Passat arrives in about three year’s time. Though it will continue to be longer and wider than the Euro Passat, that car will be fully integrated into the MQB family, and built alongside the CrossBlue SUV.

The Virtual Driver