The only customers buying a Passat were rental car fleets. In turn, they were easy upgrade fodder.
Earlier this year, I mused about the end of production for the Volkswagen Passat at the Chattanooga assembly plant.
Back in 2011, the introduction of this enlarged mid-size sedan for North America was seen as one of those ideas that kept Volkswagen in the game. Along with the rest of the sedan market, the Passat 7became irrelevant.
Volkswagen tried to give it a last shot for the last update in 2020. They reconfigured the roofline, gave it a new front clip and sharpened up the rear end and trunk lid. All for naught.
The only customers buying a Passat were rental car fleets. In turn, they were easy upgrade fodder. They equipped them with more than enough equipment for business and leisure customers to feel comfortable over every mile.
Because I had some key errands to accomplish – including getting clearance on my care for my left foot – I needed a vehicle to take care of some things before a forecasted winter storm in the Twin Cities.
A spin on the Rental Car Roulette yielded a 2022 Volkswagen Passat SE. Not exactly a winter-type of car, but I’ll take the space it offers and its familiarity for getting around.
Over the years, I had plenty of experience driving a Passat through the winter. I know how this car drives and is capable of. Yet, I also know that there are a few obstacles that could turn a day of winter errands into a nightmare.
For one, tires. If you ask George Torline and I what’s important for survival in Minnesota, we will say to get an extra set of winter/snow tires. He has them on his car, as we speak. The tires shod on this Passat were the standard all-season Giti rubber. I knew that would come down to winter driving skill than relying on the car to get me through from Point A to every stop on the way.
Even with winter driving skills, the Florida-plated dark blue Passat with 22,000 miles on the clock was comfortable and made getting around town easy. It is also quite well equipped with driver assistance features, adaptive cruise control, and an easy-to-use climate control system. The heated seats made things bearable with the air temperatures dropping to below zero Fahrenheit.
If you’re a Volkswagen person, you would appreciate that the Passat had no haptic touch controls and confusing infotainment system – the two complaints the German automaker are addressing. It is always nice to work on some tactile switchgear for once.
Not to mention, it had analog dials. I always appreciate the touches that make the Passat a vehicle that is simple and straightforward to use.
The final Passat models are powered by a 174-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine. This is connected to a six-speed automatic transmission driving the front wheels. The driveline offers plenty of power with smooth shifting. It also manages cold weather like a champ.
If you were considering buying a new Volkswagen Passat – forget it. That model has been removed from the brand’s retail site. The capacity that the Passat took up at the Chattanooga plant has been supplanted by the ID.4 electric vehicle.
There may some Certified Pre-Owned and used examples out there. New 2022 Passat SE models started from $27,295. There were no options available, bringing the complete sticker price to $28,290. The 2022 Passat was also available in R-Line and Limited Edition trim levels.
For what it’s worth, I always find a “home” in the Volkswagen Passat. Sure, it may have been too Americanized for brand loyalists. Maybe it was engineered to placate a certain demographic that were attracted to the likes of the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima, etc.
However, I also found the Volkswagen Passat to remind me of that feeling of wearing a comfortable pair of shoes. It just so darn comfortable, easy to use, and nice to drive.
Could this be the last drive in a Volkswagen Passat? Who knows? I wouldn’t mind another spin of Rental Car Roulette for one at another date.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicle rented by Victory & Reseda
All photos by Randy Stern