Respectable much of the time: The 2018 Volkswagen Passat GT

Sometimes you want your “family sedan” to be capable of a little more fun in the side. If that’s what you’re looking for, check out the 2018 Volkswagen Passat GT.

First Impressions

The Reflex Silver Metallic paint contrasts subtly with the Black Uni Roof, side mirrors and window trim. The colours set off the clean lines and subtle bulk of a handsome German touring sedan.

The GT trim sports design touches that visually set it apart from other Passat trim levels. Red brake calipers peek out from behind 19” wheels. They match the red piping above and below the front GT-badged honeycomb grill.

image courtesy Volkswagen

GT badging graces the exterior in other places too. A modest black spoiler on the trunk completes the look.

The GT is lowered 13 cm, a subtle touch that ought to appeal to the tuner crowd. It also features dual exhausts with trapezoidal chrome tips, keeping the Passat’s rear looking smooth.

Interior

image courtesy Volkswagen

The two-tone sport leatherette seats look interesting. They consist of Titanium Black bolsters around a Moonrock Grey insert (where your butt and back make contact with the seat) held together using grey stitching.
It’s a far cry from the quiet, unobjectionable, all too common black seats many cars sport these days.

I found the seats firm but comfortable. The drivers seat adjusts 8 ways, but I found it lacking in one specific direction – down. The power sunroof, as it does in many vehicles, rubbed against the top of my head, but it wasn’t overly annoying.

The rest of the interior offers refined touches, from piano black accents to the leather-wrapped flat-bottomed steering wheel to the aluminum pedals.

Hockey bag test

VW sedans pack plenty of space in the trunk, and the Passat is no exception. I lowered the 40- part of the 40-60 split-folding rear seats to poke my sticks through, but I could have stowed two hockey bags in this trunk. Note: The battery sits in a covered spot on the left side of the trunk.

In-cabin technology

The 400-watt digital Fender Premium audio system can rock the cabin, if you’re so inclined.

The one front-seat USB port was difficult to access, jammed in a cubby ahead of the shift knob. That cubby hid my phone nicely, though. Plugging in to that port fired up Apple CarPlay. It will also activate Android Auto if your phone runs on Google’s OS.

If the phone isn’t your thing, two SD slots flank the screen. One of them was occupied by a card containing VW’s navigation system.

You access these systems using the 6.33” touchscreen. VW equips its screens with proximity sensors so that (non-CarPlay) icons on the screen grow larger when your finger approaches. Why more automakers don’t do this, I don’t know.

A screen sits in the middle of the instrument cluster too. It offers a pedestrian selection of driving information, the trip computer, and access to the car’s settings.

Driving

The 3.6L naturally aspirated VR6 puts 280 hp to the front wheels. It does so rather enthusiastically. Several times, when meaning to get off to a quick start, I spun the wheels. I confess the Passat’s enhanced exhaust sound tempted me to make more such starts.

This 6-speed automatic offers paddle shifters on the steering wheel. Automakers putting this touch of Mr. Hyde into their largely Dr. Jekyll cars gets old quickly. I guess it makes up for VW not offering the Passat with a true manual transmission. Put the manual from the Golf, for example, into this Passat, and Mr. Hyde would emerge more clearly.

VW keeps pace with its competition in the active safety game. Blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert ought to keep surprises from sneaking up from behind. The passenger side mirror tilts down when you put the Passat in reverse.

Fuel economy

The 3.6L V6 was a pleasure in all circumstances, but the 2.0 TSI engine available on other trim levels would be a better choice if you suffer from gas pump anxiety. Volkswagen publishes 12 L/100km city and 8.5 L/100km highway mileage numbers for the 6-cylinder. Equivalent measures for the 2.0 TSI are 9.3 and 6.5, respectively.

Conclusions

The decades-old Passat has stayed true to its respectable image throughout its run. Volkswagen offers the GT for drivers looking to shed respectability every now and then.

Pricing

The 2018 VW Passat GT retails at $33,795. With the Driver Assistance Package, freight, PDI and excise tax on air conditioning, my tester sells for just over $36,000 MSRP.

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