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Volkswagen Passat
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Volkswagen
Overall: VW’s Tennessee-built mid-size sedan gets its first serious facelift, while also introducing a new sporty R-Line model.

Drivetrain: Carryover 1.8-liter turbo gas engine and non-turbo V6; optional turbo-diesel provides a bit more power and shuns gas stations, but as of this writing sales of the latter are on hold.

For 2016, Volkswagen has given this big sedan a fairly decent makeover as everything forward of the windshield has been replaced, leaving a wider grille, narrower headlights — with optional LED versions available — and a deeper lower fascia. The rear is less noticeable, although VW says that’s new too, including LED taillights and more chrome trim. This is an attempt to boost the Passat from the second-tier for sedan popularity, behind the top dogs from Toyota, Honda, Nissan Ford and Hyundai. Why it lags is a bit strange as the Passat comes with a passel of pluses. Interior styling, inspired by Volkswagen’s Touareg tall wagon, is clean, uncluttered and devoid of the trendy dashboard swoops and swirls found in competitors. The turbocharged 170-horsepower 1.8-liter four-cylinder carries over as does the optional 2.0-liter turbo-diesel with 150 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. It should be noted that at the time of writing, the final outcome of VW’s diesel scandal were still unknown, so there’s a good chance that these figures will change. Standing pat is the optional 280-horsepower 3.6-liter V6. For the first time, the Passat will not come with a manual transmission, meaning the 1.8 will use a six-speed automatic, while the turbo-diesel and V6 operate with six-speed automated manual gearbox called the DSG. The Passat’s starting-point S model is equipped with the usual basic power accessories plus a new MIB II infotainment system that can finally read and charge USB devices. The SE, Sport and SEL editions are what your local dealer refers to as “full-load” models. An extensive list of options, some of which come standard on better-equipped Passats, include a leather- and walnut-trimmed interior, navigation system, 17, or 18-inch alloy wheels (17-inch steelies are standard), push-button start, sport seats, touch-screen navigation and a premium Fender-brand audio package. The new R-Line adds larger front and fascias, lower side sills, a more obvious rear diffuser and 19-inch wheels with summer-only performance tires.

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