In January at the 2019 Detroit auto show, Volkswagen took the wraps off the 2020 Passat sedan that will be sold in the United States. It’s got fresh styling, an updated interior, and some new technology features. But none of those updates really moved the needle compared to the outgoing model, and to make matters worse, the “new” car is still built on the same platform used by the U.S. Passat since 2011-and it uses the same engine and transmission, too. Now enter this, the facelift for the eighth-generation Passat that is sold in Europe, which will make its debut in March at the Geneva auto show. The European Passat is completely different from the American one, and, man, does it seem a lot better.
Let’s get the most important fact out of the way: There’s a wagon variant available, and it looks awesome. There are two wagons, actually, as VW also offers a model called the Passat Alltrack; like the Golf Alltrack, it’s a lifted wagon with crossover-like styling and all-wheel drive. Much as we fawn over wagons, don’t get us wrong: the Passat sedan is attractive, too. It looks more upscale than the new U.S. car, and the surfacing and detailing are more sophisticated. The Euro Passat’s facelift brings typical facelift changes including minor styling tweaks to the bumpers, new matrix LED headlights, different wheel designs, and some new interior trim options.
The Euro Passat rides on the same modular MQB platform as nearly every other Volkswagen model (and a bunch of other VW Group cars, too), and VW hasn’t bothered tweaking anything when it comes to the Passat’s chassis. That’s no bad thing, as MSN Auto’s most recent drive of the Euro Passat revealed it to be “an absolute joy” to drive. All-wheel drive is still only available on the Alltrack wagon.
Volkswagen has also barely changed the Euro Passat’s engine lineup for 2020 beyond fitting some new particulate filters to each engine. There are three turbocharged gas four-cylinders and, surprisingly, four turbo-diesels on offer. The biggest news in terms of mechanicals comes to the GTE plug-in hybrid, which is available in both sedan and wagon form. The 215-hp GTE uses a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, an electric motor, and a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and it’s the quickest model in the Passat lineup. The GTE’s battery pack has now been increased in size from 9.9 kWh to 13.0 kWh, and range in its fully electric mode has gone up by about 12 miles for a total of 34 miles on the European WLTP cycle.
The headline tech feature of the updated Passat is what VW is calling Travel Assist, which is a Level 2 semi-autonomous driving system that the brand is introducing under its IQ. Drive umbrella of active-safety features. Travel Assist, which works at speeds from zero to 130 mph, consists of features including advanced adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, and steering assist. The Traffic Jam Assist feature on the previous Passat only worked at speeds up to 25 mph, and unlike the new system, it couldn’t steer the car.
Travel Assist also can react to speed limits, slowing down or speeding up the car as necessary, and it works on on- and off-ramps, intersections, and traffic circles. VW says that the Passat’s steering wheel is now capacitive, meaning the driver only needs to touch the wheel lightly for the car to recognize that the driver is in control, as opposed to the driver’s having to fully grip the wheel to keep the system active. A new infotainment system has wireless Apple CarPlay capability, and the digital instrument cluster has been improved. (Unlike the Golf and Jetta, the new U.S. Passat can’t be had with digital gauges at all because it doesn’t have MQB’s electrical architecture.)
Sadly, there is no hope for any version of the new European Passat to come to America, especially now that our 2020 Passat has been revealed. Fear not, though, Europhiles, as we do get something close to Europe’s Passat in the States: the gorgeous new Arteon liftback.