2020 VW Passat Prototype First Drive: Proof Is In The Packaging

An hour outside of Phoenix, hidden behind a giant, unassuming brown wall and some shrubbery sits Volkswagen's 1,600-acre Arizona proving grounds. Complete with a 4.7-mile high-speed oval and more than 200 employees, it's one of the Volkswagen Group’s eight manufacturing, design, and production facilities in the U.S. It’s also where the company stress tests almost every vehicle under its umbrella. That includes SEAT, Skoda, Bentley, and even Lamborghini.

The last time we got a crack at the facility was to test the Jetta prototype ahead of its debut. And now for the second time since 1992, Volkswagen invited journalists to VW invited journalists to its Phoenix-area facility to sample the 2020 Passat prototype. VW encouraged us to push it to its limits in a number of different settings: A dirt course, a high-speed oval, and over rough roads.

Like the Jetta, the Passat plays an important role in VW's U.S. lineup. After 40 years on the market, in one form or another, the company has sold more than 1.7 million examples in the United States. In 2011, VW moved Passat production from Germany to its then-new, $1.1-billion Chatanooga,Tennessee facility. The company has been pumping out Passats (and starting in 2017, Atlas's) since. This new-for-2020 model calls Chatanooga home, too, and will include a few U.S-specific elements when it comes off the line...