As Volkswagen was preparing to launch its current top-of-the-line sedan for the U.S. market, it created a big mystery around its name. Slated to replace the Passat but designed specifically for Americans, the model was cryptically referred to as the NMS, which stood for “new mid-size sedan.” Just when the suspense had become almost unbearable, the name of the new car was revealed as . . . Passat.
Although the name was unchanged, the new U.S. Passat had split from its European cousin. Built atop the existing PQ46 platform and stretched to offer plenty of rear-seat room, the American-built car was designed and engineered to go after the Toyota Camry. Meanwhile, the European Passat, which uses the newer MQB architecture, moved to become a credible alternative to Audis. That’s particularly true of the top-of-the-line version, which we just spent two weeks with on its German home turf.
While the U.S. Passat’s powertrain lineup is topped by a 3.6-liter V-6, which VW of America claims exhibits “European-type restraint in its fuel consumption,” that engine has been purged from the European lineup because of its drinking habits. The range-topping Continental Passat comes with a 276-hp turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-four. And even though we love the silky-smooth sound of the six, the equally powerful four arguably is a better engine, strong enough (according to VW) to propel this car to 62 mph in 5.5 seconds and on to an electronically limited 155 mph. The fuel economy is laudable; we managed an indicated 21 mpg, with extended amounts of driving at triple-digit speeds. In the European test cycle, this Passat is rated at 33 mpg, and with a light foot, that figure is achievable.
The engine’s output is channeled to all four wheels through a crisp-shifting six-speed dual-clutch automatic. This Passat is an absolute joy to flog on twisty roads. The steering is precise, direct, and nicely weighted; the pleasantly firm suspension is adjustable in three settings and is neither too harsh nor soft in any of them; and the car is neutral at the limit. The brakes bite sharply and exhibit no fade. Our car was fitted with 18-inch wheels, which do their part to visually spice up this car’s otherwise painfully conservative styling. Complete review on www.caranddriver.com, by Matthias Knöedler