Driven: 2017 Volkswagen Passat R-Line. The big VW drivers car?

A car that has recently captivated me in my quest for a replacement of my 2011 Saab 9-3 Turbo4 X led me to the Volkswagen Passat. In particular the R-Line trim level. Looking at the Passat model line as a whole, I was amazed at their value for the buck factor. German engineering built right here in the good ol' USA. I took the opportunity recently to drive an R-Line passat as part of the Dare to Compare campaign at Day Apollo Volkswagen in nearby Moon Township, Pennsylvania. Having spent the majority of my d
riving life behind the wheel of Volkswagen products, I had some expectations in mind. I expected the car to be good looking, which the R-Line checks off. I also expected it to be a good value for my money. Again the Passat checks that box. And lastly I expected it to be fun to drive. Which again, I was pleasantly surprised with.

The example I drove at Day-Apollo Volkswagen was Reef Blue Metallic which suited the muscular lines of the Passat well. The R-Line package is exactly that, a trim package. The front and rear bumpers are given a flared treatment with lots of gloss black accents along with flared rocker trim. This is paired with light gunmetal 19 inch aluminum wheels with performance all season Continental Conti Pro Contact tires. Standard on the R-Line is a media touch screen radio, heated seats, leatherette upholstery and dual zone climate control. A big feature addition is finally the addition of a USB interface which allows for use of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. This is a welcome addition that many in the VW/Audi camp have been begging the company for rather than their use of expensive proprietary adaptors. New standard features for 2017 come in the form of Front Assist, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Back Up camera and sensors.

The R-Line trim package was a new addition the Passat line up starting with the 2016 model year. Like other R-Line offerings in the VW line up, its all about the performance looks but does not pack the performance punch to back it up, which in a way is disappointing. I found the same thing with the Beetle R-Line and GSR offerings in 2014. However with the standard features and the larger wheels with better tires, it does make for an enjoyable driving experience.

I found the steering to be light and responsive with an excellent ride quality thanks to the longer wheelbase of the Passat vs. the comparable Jetta. Handling does make the car feel smaller than it is despite the cars large size. Brake feel was solid for a car of its size. I found the seats comfortable with plenty of support. The R-Line comes standard with a 6 way power drivers seat with power lumbar support. Driving position and visibility are excellent and all driver controls are easily within reach. While no different than the base steering wheel. The leather wrapped square bottom sport wheel feels more at home in the R-Line and is huge fun with the standard paddle shifter.

The Passat R-Line comes only with the 1.8 liter 4 cylinder turbo engine which produces 170hp with 184 lb ft of torque and comes mated to a 6 speed automatic transmission. Again there is the option of the both the kick over on the gear selector or the paddle shifters on the steering wheel if you want the sporty fun of a GTI or GLI. Sadly, VW does not offer the Passat R-line with an optional manual transmission like in the 2014-15 Passat Sport.  Despite the 170 hp and 3263 curb weight. The Passat R-Line still manages a 7.7 second 0-60 time and will run the quarter mile in 15.8 seconds. That being said, the car is actually fun to drive. For me it's a GTI that is a lot more comfortable for long trips and everyday driving, but you don't want to look like you're 18 with your first car when you pull in to the parking lot at work. Being a 4 door with more than enough space to seat 5 comfortably is also a big plus. Another big plus is the cavernous trunk. You just about lay flat in the trunk without having to fold either side of the split rear seat back down.

Overall, I am very pleased with the Passat. The R-Line gives the car the sporty look and feel of the GTI and GLI models, though it lacks any actual performance boosts. Though APR can take care of that for a couple hundred bucks. I have three complaints about the car that could be rectified and realistically should be by VW. First is the ride height. With the addition of the 19 inch wheels on the R-Line, gives the car a giant wheel gap and an almost off road appearance. It's not excessively bad, but the regular Passat seems to have this filled in better with the standard 16 inch wheels. The seconds would be given the R-Line treatment, a push button starter would have been more appropriate on this trim level than the traditional switchblade key that VW has been using since 1998. The SE trim level Passat has this feature and it really flows so well with the overall feel of the car and is a feature you see on many base level cars and many premium sedans in the category. And lastly, and this is my biggest gripe is the lack of availability of a sunroof. Why again this is not part of the R-Line package is beyond me. It's not even optional. It's just flat out not available. The same goes for a full leather interior.

I get that VW is trying to meet a price point with the car, but with the R-Line I see it as a premium trim that fits somewhere in between the Passat SE and SE V6. But please VW, If you're going to badge it an R-Line, at least back it up with some better features.

Despite the few gripes I have about option availability, after 1,200 miles of driving I am very pleased with the 2017 Passat R-line and highly recommend it.

#VWlove #VW #Volkswagen
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