2015 Volkswagen Passat V6 SEL Premium Review
by Arison Knapp
Rare and unlike most vehicles is the 2015 Volkswagen Passat V6 SEL Premium sedan. In today’s front-wheel drive, midsize sedan segment the four-cylinder leads, six-cylinder gasoline engines are a dying breed. You used to be able to get any of the midsize sedans with a more-powerful six-cylinder engine. Now only half the segment offers the option. Existing only as an option it translates into even a smaller minority of exclusive six-cylinder models to be assembled. There is a silent V6 midsize sedan extinction in effect. This is why I choose this exciting and endangered-ride, the 2015 VW Passat V6 SEL Premium.
The Passat is in its fourth year of its seventh generation. It continues to be offered as a front engine, front-wheel drive five-passenger, four-door midsize sedan. At a length of 191.6 inches long it measures up close to the competition. A single trim is available for the V6 engine this year as an SEL Premium model and will start at an MSRP of $35,995. The only German-engineered vehicle available in its segment, direct competition is the Honda Accord V6 Sedan, Toyota Camry V6 XLE, and Chrysler 200C with V-6.
Volkswagen’s modern brand design DNA of bold angular, horizontal-orientation is visually commanding on-road and demands respect. The exterior architecture leads your eyes first to the Passat’s sophisticated front chrome VW grille. Quickly glancing at the lower fascia your eyes sweep up the hood and turn to see the beautifully articulated metal-bending of the fenders over the wheels. Then look across the aero side mirror, up the windshield and over the distinct roofline that leaves your eyes drifting down the muscular C-Pillar. Down further with your eyes ending on the glare of the rear twin-spoke 18 inch wheel.
It’s by far the most grand and authentically formal-looking of the competition. The SEL Premium models styling is even more striking with the V6 engine, receiving trim specific styling. Adding body-colored lower front and rear valance and side-skirt extensions shown in our WTR? photographs. The V6 model Passat looks just as good in person as it photographs.
CAFE standards become stricter each year. Manufacturers are turning to more fuel-efficient variants like hybrids, EVs and diesels. Volkswagen is able to meet CAFE standards by having high-mileage variants in their line-up and will continue supply rip-roaring performance with bigger-displacement gasoline engines.
Covering the stimulating spectrum today is the VWs naturally aspirated 3.6 liter six-cylinder gasoline VR6 engine stuffed into the Passat. The VR6 spins out a full-bodied 280 HP and 258 lb.-ft. of torque peaking as low as 2500 RPM. Its transversely mounted, praiseworthy housing combined with modern combustion technology like hydraulic valve lifters, dual cam variable valve timing, direct injection and oil cooling. Roping in an average mileage of 20 city, 28 highway you’ll be glad to hear VW takes care of the rest of the bills with a complimentary maintenance plan up to 10,000 miles or one year.
The robust engine rotation is channeled the legendary and decade old, 6-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG) with transmission oil cooling. It is referred to in the industry as an auto-shifting manual transmission. To put this mechanical art simply its two three-speed transmissions, each with their own automated clutch, in the same box creating a 6-speed. One set odd gears and one set even. The gearbox is able to pre-shift up or down depending on engine, wheel speed and pedal force then when the driver wishes to shift the DSG can disengage one clutch almost at the same time as engaging the other clutch for amazingly rapid shift speeds.
Driving the DSG on the VR6 while cruising around town the shifts were buttery smooth and never gave me a feeling of being swept away like the traditional automatic, great power train braking too. It was also lightning fast for highway downshifts when I needed to kick it up to speed. There was a bit of torque steer during takeoff accelerations from the large-displacement V6 engine but the Electronic Differential Lock (EDL) and Anti-Slip Regulation (ASR) features were working hard laying down the power and finding grip. I always felt I was being propelled ahead and never stuck spinning tires. Consistent, honest power I could count on when entering highways or drag strips.
Chassis and Suspension
The steel “safety cage” unibody structure was solid and rigid with very little twisting and bending. I never heard much creaking in the body over bumps and driveways. That lasting build quality will be great at 100,000 miles. Soaking up the bumps and providing a pure agile sports sedan feel was a durable four-corner fully independent suspension system with strut-type up front with thick quality lower control arms and a super stable multi-link configuration in the rear.
The Electro-mechanical steering system felt light through the three-spoke steering wheel with paddle shifters. The compliant steering worked well with the suspension. It was invigorating the way the power steering felt with the peppy engine. A true engaging drive VW is known for. Highly maneuverable vehicles at slow and high-speed. The mechanical center console hand-pull parking brake is another endangered species that is standard on the Passat and crucial for purist sport driving. I am a big fan, as all control freaks should be. Good job VW!
NHTSA awarded the Passat an overall top score of five-stars for collision safety. Including the strong impact designed chassis the Passat also comes standard with safety features such as a group of six airbags including a thorax bag, Intelligent Crash Response System (ICRS) and Car-Net crash response emergency call program.
Hopefully you don’t need to use any of those safety standards. Just stick to using four-wheel disc brakes with big 12.3 inch rotors and two-piston calipers in front and a single-piston caliper with still a big 10.7 inch rotor in rear. The stability management programs that are standard include anti-lock braking, brake assist and electronic stability control.
The interior atmosphere is fittingly German with a splash of American spirit. Comfortable, spacious 8-way power front bucket seats don’t bolster-in too hard for me and my wide friends. The bottom of the seats is wide and long for supreme long trip Autobahn comfort. Great for sitting up straight or leaning back like Snoop Dogg.
The SEL Premium trim specific seating felt and looked more luxurious and attractive however the Cornsilk beige leather interior with Dinamica seat inserts was hard for me to keep clean and would be a hassle with kids or pets. The rear seating is another amazing feature having so much room, the most rear seat space in its class. It’ll be great for transporting three adults in the back or super comfort for two pets. I was able to fold my legs together and I am a big legged guy at 5’11 ft. tall with a short torso.
The instrument cluster is clear and easy to read. It has a clean black background with eye grabbing white numbers. Tachometer on the left and speedometer on the right is a traditional layout that works well in the Passat. A middle place LCD read out shows practical info like vehicle data, sound system data and navigation data. Steering wheel controls are great when you learn them but a little small and complex for new drivers.
Controlling infotainment in the Passat V6 SEL is a high-definition 6.5 inch LCD touch screen. Standard with RNS 510 turn-by-turn navigation and rear-view camera it also comes with HD radio and a 30GB hard drive. Sounding off directions or your favorite music is a 400 watt Fender branded and amplified sound system with eight Panasonic speakers. I am not the best sound system judge but the quality of sound was loud and clear with great bass. More in-cabin electronic standards include Bluetooth, MDI and Homelink.
Why This Ride?
– VR6 Power
– Rear Seating Space
– VR6 Exterior Styling
– Engaging VW Steering Feel