Such is the level of competition in the mid-size sedan segment that it’s possible to build a thoroughly competent automobile, unleash it on the market, and cause barely a ripple. This is especially true in Canada, where smaller cars have long called the tune and affordable family four-doors are increasingly displaced by crossovers and SUVs of various shapes, sizes and price points.

This may well be the fate that befalls the 2016 Volkswagen Passat, whose recent refresh of what was already a very decent automobile seems unlikely to win over anyone not already infatuated with the German brand’s mojo. Agreeable in all respects, and with a few tweaks to its styling to go with a renewed investment in driver and infotainment technologies, the Passat is hobbled by the lack of its killer app – the now-suspended TDI turbodiesel drivetrain – and a strange reluctance to accord the model with the same underhood advancements that have been afforded higher volume members of the VW line-up.

Playing To Its Strengths

Lest I paint too dark a picture of the 2016 Volkswagen Passat’s future, let me first tell you what the sedan does well. The Passat has been gifted with a suitably huge cabin whose plus-size dimensions are most readily appreciated from the rear, where legroom is abundant and a healthy roofline keeps things airy on longer trips. All versions of the car benefit from revised interior trim, which remains simple in design but upgrades higher trim levels to tasteful wood grain and tactile metal inlays on the door panels and dashboard.

Seat heaters for forward occupants become standard as soon as you hit the second rung on the Passat order ladder, while genuine leather upholstery, heaters for the outboard occupants out back, and of course a moonroof and a hands-free trunk feature reveal themselves the pricier the vehicle gets. Volkswagen has affixed new front and rear fascias to the car in an effort to sharpen its appearance, and LED headlights make their debut for the current model year. Enthusiasts can further hone the looks of the Passat with the R-Line package, which provides a sportier appearance for the sedan by way of a mild body kit and unique 19-inch rims to replace the 16, 17 and 18-inchers offered elsewhere in the lineup.

Android Auto hands-on in the 2016 Honda Accord

The Volkswagen Passat also sees two notable infotainment and communications updates for 2016. The first is a next-generation version of the car’s touchscreen interface, which no longer holds you hostage to extended load times after turning the key, and which features a passable navigation option to go with its revised menus and logic. The head unit also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two software interfaces that replace factory infotainment functionality with a limited implementation of their respective operating systems (while simultaneously bricking your mobile device in the process). As you can see I’m not a fan of either, but that doesn’t mean these features won’t find their audience. More groundbreaking – and part of the requirement for enhanced cell phone integration – is the acknowledgement of 21st century data standards by Volkswagen, with honest to goodness USB ports installed in the Passat for the first time in its long and noble history.

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