2021 Volkswagen Passat

By March 12, 2021

If you’re a fan of the current Volkswagen Passat, you better act fast if you want one—the current model is due to be phased out without a proper replacement within the next couple of years.

Perhaps in anticipation of the end, the 2021 model loses the top-dog SEL trim, leaving the R-Line as the most expensive Passat. The remaining trims now all come with adaptive cruise control and a leather-wrapped gearshift and steering wheel.

There’s only one powertrain available: a 174-horsepower 2.0-liter turbo-4 paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels. EPA ratings check in at 24 mpg city, 36 highway, and 28 combined.

This year, adaptive cruise control joins automatic emergency braking and blind-spot monitors as part of the standard safety equipment. Move past the base model and you’ll also get active-lane control; the priciest models come with automatic high-beams and automatic parking assist.

The Passat aced all crash tests administered by both the IIHS and NHTSA.

Model Lineup

The Passat is now a three-trim car. The cheapest of these is the $24,990 S, which gets 17-inch wheels, LED lights, cloth upholstery, and a 6.3-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

For $27,990, the mid-grade SE adds heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, a power driver’s seat, and leatherette upholstery.

The headlining model this year is the $30,990 R-Line, which dresses up the Passat with 19-inch wheels and glossy black trim on the outside and ambient lighting, Fender audio, paddle shifters, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation on the inside.


The Passat got redesigned last year, but the sedan still features the same general look it first sported in 2011. The overall design has held up well; it’s still contemporary, with a nod toward the traditional. The proportions are right and the lack of fluff is refreshing. It’s a clean, handsome look.


The cabin is classic VW: no nonsense and clean in its design. A few more emotional flourishes would be nice, and we’d like to see some higher quality plastics brought in, but otherwise this is a very functional, highly livable cabin.

The touchscreen is small, at 6.3 inches in base spec, but on the R-Line, an 8.0-inch touchscreen is standard.

With their cloth upholstery and manual adjustment, the base seats aren’t exactly extravagant, but provide decent comfort and support. We’re taken by the upgraded seats in the SE, which feature 8-way power adjustment and heated cushions. The extra adjustment goes a long way in making longer drives more doable.

The back seat gives passengers a generous 39 inches of leg room, which is more than most mid-size sedans. It’s a similar story with cargo space, with the big trunk capable of holding nearly 16 cubic feet even before dropping the split-folding rear seats.

Driving Impressions

Volkswagens have traditionally offered something special from behind the wheel. The Passat drives well, but its 174 horsepower feel modest in such a large car. All trims use the same engine; to get more output, you’ll have to spend up to get the sleek Arteon four-door.

Comfort is the name of the game here, and the Passat is tuned with that in mind. The 6-speed automatic shifts deliberately, the independent suspension smothers bumps, and the variable steering never gets too firm. As a family car, these qualities make it an amenable partner for everyday driving.

Final Word

The 2021 Passat soldiers on as Volkswagen shifts to SUVs and electric cars for the U.S. market. It’s large, safe, and reasonably up to date on technology. If you can get a good deal, pick up an SE.


—by Anthony Sophinos, with driving impressions from The Car Connection

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