VW Passat to remain on old platform, update styling, tech for 2020

A rendering of VW’s next-generation Passat. Photo credit: VW

DETROIT — The 2020 Volkswagen Passat will receive new exterior styling, more standard safety equipment and an updated instrument panel, but it won’t land on a new platform or feature a new powertrain as the automaker, citing the shrinking midsize car market, strives to save resources.

The German brand showed the refreshed Passat midsize sedan to journalists Tuesday at a briefing here before next month’s Detroit auto show, where it will be shown to the public ahead of a planned arrival in U.S. showrooms over the summer. However, no photographs were allowed, and the brand released only a sketch to tease the new styling ahead of its public reveal Jan. 14.

“The only piece of sheet metal we didn’t change was the roof,” said Steven Warrick, manager of the Passat family model line for Volkswagen’s North American region. The new design features a new front fascia and more aggressive styling lines but is evolutionary in nature and makes the sedan easy to identify as a Passat.

The Passat has been built at Volkswagen’s Chattanooga Assembly plant since it opened in 2011 and will remain on the same PQ46 platform as the previous generation. It will continue to be powered by a 2.0-liter I-4 engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

In Europe, the current-generation Passat, introduced in 2014 and the continent’s top-selling midsize car, rides on the VW Group’s new MQB platform.

U.S. sales of the Passat have dropped 34 percent to 38,285 this year in a segment that has shrunk 16 percent.

A rendering of the next-generation Volkswagen Passat for the U.S. Pricing will be announced closer to launch but VW is trying to keep the Passat affordable in the segment.

No complaints

Warrick justified the decision to keep the car on the existing platform by explaining that customers had no complaints about the current Passat’s driving dynamics. “There was nothing wrong with the platform,” he said.

Unlike the smaller Jetta, which was redesigned and engineered on Volkswagen’s global MQB platform this year, remaining on the older platform means that the Passat won’t get the full range of Volkswagen’s latest infotainment technology, such as its virtual cockpit instrument cluster, but the instrument panel does have updated controls. Also, safety features have been updated, including adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, front parking assist and new, brighter LED lighting.

Pricing will be announced closer to launch, Volkswagen officials said, but Warrick said the company was trying to keep the Passat affordable in the segment. Part of that decision was to decrease the number of available equipment configurations from 17 to five models for the 2020 model year, to reduce manufacturing complexity, he said. Pricing for the 2018 models start at $ 23,980, including delivery.

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