NMS Passat Comparison

The New Midsize Sedan (NMS) Passat replaced the B6-chassis Passat in North America in 2012. It is similar to, though slightly larger than the B7-chassis available in other parts of the world. Available engines were the 2.5L I5, a 3.6L VR6 and the 2.0L I4 TDI we bought in 2013. In 2016, the NMS Passat received a “facelift” update to its styling and technology features. The 2.5L I5 was replaced with a 1.8L turbocharged I4 making similar power in 2014 before the facelift and the 2.0L TDI was dropped late in 2015 due to the infamous Dieselgate scandal.

Stylistically, the hood, front and rear were subtly altered. The hood received two additional creases, loses the logo cutout at the lip and gained chrome trim under the lip and over the headlights. The grill was restyled slightly with one fewer horizontal slat, chrome trim at the base and the VW badge on the front was fully enclosed in clear plastic making it much easier to clean. More chrome trim at the bottom of the lower intake was added along with subtle restyling of the fog/turning lights and the housing around the fogs was brought out in bumps on the surrounding bumper. At the rear, reflectors were added to a new strip at the top of the bumper that spanned both fenders and the badges were moved from the top of the trunk lid to the lip. The optional spoiler was increased very slightly in size.

Technology-wise, all interior lighting was upgraded to LEDs. LED headlights and turn signals were offered as were LED tail lights (standard on the SEL Premium). It’s unclear why the halogen fog lights weren’t updated to LED. The side mirrors were augmented with automatic folding units (also standard on the SEL Premium). The body control module (BCM) was updated and can be programmed for the feature to open and close the windows and sunroof from the key fob. (The old BCM only operated the sunroof tilt.) Inside, the crummy 9” LCD with resistive touchscreen on the top model was replaced with VW’s much more responsive “Discover Media” capacitive touchscreen interface that augments the UI with a proximity detector that enhances the on-screen menus when your hand approaches the screen. The 400W Fender audio system continues on the top models as before. There’s a new hands-free trunk opener that actuates the electric release when you kick your foot under the bumper in case both your arms are full. An array of sensors (’lectric curb feelers) front and back enable the on-screen Park Pilot. It plays beeps on the speaker near the corner where something is getting close to the car and shows approximate distance on a top-down view of the car on the LCD screen. The back-up camera continues as before, but the turn-on delay has vanished thanks to the Discover Media head unit.

The facelift also adds some optional driver assistance features. Adaptive cruise control regulates your following distance to the car in front of you. The Lane Assist analyzes visual lane markings and gently nudges the electric power steering toward the center of your lane (and brightens the dash indicator light). Together they move VW toward driving automation, but not so much you would feel even remotely confident taking your hands off the steering wheel. These systems are an assist only. Also available are a Front Assist automatic emergency braking system and a blind spot monitor that alerts you with lights in the side mirrors. More interestingly, the Park Assist automatically steers the car backward into parallel or perpendicular parking; the driver operates the gearshift, accelerator and brakes. It’s pretty neat to witness the steering wheel spinning itself in operation, but the novelty wears off quickly and I don’t think we’ve used it since the car was brand new.

An “R-line” trim was added with the facelift. It adds sporty-looking side skirts, front bumper, rear diffuser and unique 19” wheels. But don’t confuse it with “R” models like my Golf R. There is no sporty 2.0T motor, adjustable suspension or 4Motion AWD. R-line is just an expensive cosmetic option. And it’s not even offered on the VR6. It’s only available with the 170 hp 1.8T. And an automatic (2-pedal DSG). I suppose R-line is to R as Audi’s S-line is to S. Fellas, make me a Passat R as a 2.0T 4Motion Avant, please.