Whenever you walk onto a dealer’s lot and look at the selection of midsize sedans, they are for the most part equipped with their base four-cylinder engine. It is what most people buy as they provide the balance of power and fuel economy they are looking for. But among the base four-cylinders lie a few of the models equipped with the more powerful engine, whether it be a turbocharged four-cylinder or V6. Are you missing out by not going with the larger engine? We decided to investigate this with the recently updated 2016 Volkswagen Passat and its optional V6.
The V6 in question is a 3.6 with 280 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. This engine also powers the CC and Touareg. Drop it into the Passat and it makes the vehicle a hot-rod. If you’re not careful with the accelerator when leaving a stop, you will spin the front tires easily. Once you figure out how lightly you need to step on the accelerator when the light turns green, you’ll be impressed at how fast the Passat pickups speed. More impressive is how V6 goes about its business with barely any noise or vibrations. I know four-cylinders, in general, have gotten better in terms of NVH, but the V6 still holds a clear advantage in this regard.
There are some pitfalls the Passat’s V6 option. First is the standard DSG dual-clutch transmission. At low speeds, this transmission exhibits hesitation and causes the vehicle lurch and even bog down. The DSG does get its act together at higher speeds where it delivers some of the fastest shifts in the class. But I can’t help but wonder how much better it would have been if the V6 was paired with an automatic. Second is fuel economy. The Passat is rated by the EPA at 20 City/28 Highway/23 Combined, which is the lowest fuel economy numbers in the class. Our average for week reflects this with an average of 22.1 MPG.
In terms of the ride, the Passat feels like a big American sedan. Bumps and road noise barely make their way inside, making it the perfect long-distance cruiser. Around corners, the Passat shows a little bit of body roll. Steering feels direct, but I did find myself wanting a bit more weight.
Volkswagen made some much-needed changes to the Passat’s exterior. The front end gets a larger grille, new headlights, and a reshaped hood. Other changes include a new trunk lid and revised wheels. Yes, the Passat still looks a bit dull when compared to the competition. But to be fair, the changes do give the Passat some semblance of style. The interior hasn’t changed much since we checked out the Passat back in 2014, and that isn’t a bad thing. There is still the well laid out dashboard and a spacious back seat that could rival flagship luxury sedans. New for 2016 is the ability to run Apple CarPlay and Android Auto through the infotainment system. Unlike some of other the vehicles I have tried with CarPlay, I didn’t run into any issues. The system recognized my phone within seconds of plugging it in and brought up the CarPlay moments thereafter. Also, I found that none of the apps I used through CarPlay crashed or have some sort of other problem.
There is one big problem with the V6 option for the Passat, the price. To get into the V6, you need to opt for the top SEL Premium trim which starts at $36,835. Add in destination and you’re looking at a final price of $37,655. You do get a lot of equipment such as blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control, automatic emergency braking, dual-zone climate control, navigation, and Fender audio system as standard. But that same amount of money can get you into a decently equipped luxury sedan. Making this more problematic is you can get the SEL Premium with the 1.8 turbo for only $2,300 less. The 1.8 turbo is a great engine as it delivers decent power and refinement, and features excellent fuel economy figures (25 City/38 Highway/29 Combined).
The Passat’s V6 option isn’t as great as you might think. The engine gives the model some real thrust, but, the 1.8T feels just as fast and doesn’t have to visit the gas station as often. Plus the high point of entry makes this a non-starter for more people. Think of it this way, the Passat V6 is the model that will sell you into getting a lower trim of the Passat or even another midsize sedan.
Disclaimer: Volkswagen Provided the Passat, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Trim: V6 SEL Premium
Engine: 3.6L FSI VR6
Driveline: Six-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 280 @ 6,200
Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 2,500
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/28/23
Curb Weight: 3,571 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Chattanooga, Tennessee
Base Price: $36,835
As Tested Price: $37,655 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge)