Review: The Improved 2020 Volkswagen Passat Is a Missed Opportunity
When Volkswagen decided to launch the significantly updated 2020 Passat near some of Southern California’s legendary driving roads, it raised a few eyebrows (both of mine). The Passat is no longer our first choice for a midsize sedan we’d hoon up a world-class road like Angeles Crest, but could this midcycle refresh change that?
For 2020, the bodywork is now a bit swoopier, with a reworked front-end design, new LED headlights, a fresh grille that ties it to the current Jetta, and a sculpted rear that makes the Passat a more handsome machine than before. The 2.0-liter turbo-four makes the same 174 hp but is up to 206 lb-ft of torque, and the six-speed automatic gets a new torque converter. Inside, the changes are even more subtle. But they shouldn’t have been. The gauge cluster in the EU-spec Passat hosts a teeny color display between an analog tach and speedometer—had VW made the move to the MQB platform, the Passat could have come with Volkswagen’s state-of-the-art fully digital instrument cluster, like in the Tiguan, but the sedan’s older platform won’t allow for it. The climate controls remain unchanged, as does the center console. Volkswagen did make blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and automatic LED headlight features standard across all trim levels, however.
The 2020 Passat’s dashboard has been adapted to include some Arteon-esque air vents, and the infotainment display is new. At just 6.3 inches, the touchscreen is small for the segment—European Passats can be upgraded to an 8.0-inch display, something that isn’t possible in the North American car thanks to its dated platform. Desirable optional gear includes a Fender audio system, adaptive cruise control (standard on three of four trims), heated front and rear seats, and dual-zone climate control (also standard on three of four trims).