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2020 Volkswagen Passat Trim Levels with Comparisons & Configurations.

2020 Volkswagen Passat Trim Levels, Configurations & Comparisons: S vs SE vs R-Line & SEL

What 2020 Volkswagen Passat Trim Level Should you Buy? What is the Difference Between Trims?

Are sedans are thing of the past? Volkswagen certainly doesn't seem to think so. This iconic brand continues to offer drivers several different options in this segment of the market, all typically loaded with great safety and technology features.

The 2020 Volkswagen Passat is a great example. Slightly larger than Jetta, this midsize sedan offers more space and practicality for many consumers. For this new model, Volkswagen has updated both the interior and the exterior of the vehicle. While the engine has not technically changed, it has been re-tweaked to provide greater acceleration. Plus, more luxury features have joined the list of available options.

Four different versions of the Passat exist. The entry-level S will appeal to many with its low price and decent number of features. Others will need to go all the way up to the SEL level in order to get the things they need. In between, both the SE and R-Line trims have their own charms.

Choosing the right trim level means finding the features a buyer wants without overspending. To help make this easier, this guide will highlight the differences between the trims in detail.

Price Tip
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Compare the 2020 Volkswagen Passat S vs SE Trim Levels. What is the difference?

All four of the available trim levels of the 2020 Volkswagen Passat are powered by a turbocharged 2.0L inline four-cylinder engine. It will produce 174-horsepower along with 206 lb-ft of torque. This is more torque than the 184 lb-ft that the 2019 model was able to produce. The Passat is equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission including a feature that Volkswagen calls Sport Mode. With this activated, drivers have more control of gear shifts.

Fuel economy is more than decent in the Passat. EPA estimates have this sedan getting 23mpg in the city and 34mpg on the highway. That makes for a combined rating of 27mpg. With an 18.5 gallon fuel tank, drivers will not need to worry about making frequent trips to the pump in any trim level.

The S trim of the 2020 Passat, like all models, is a front-wheel-drive vehicle. It sits on 17-inch alloy 10-spoke alloy wheels. Exterior illumination is impressive with standard LED taillights, headlights, and daytime running lights. Other noteworthy exterior features for this trim level include heated side mirrors with a memory feature.

When looking at the 2020 Passat S in comparison to the 2019 model, buyers will immediately notice a difference in styling. The nose of the vehicle is sharper now, giving the Passat an overall more aggressive look. Ultimately, the new Passat S has a more coupe-like body profile and looks cleaner than in years past. The S is available in six different paint colors. Moving up the trim ladder does not unlock any additional options.

Moving inside the S trim, buyers will find cloth seating surfaces. The front seats have 6-way manual adjustment. Drivers get a multi-function steering wheel and a color premium display. This display is located between the gauges and shows drivers vehicle info, settings, media, and compatible phone info. It is designed to help minimize the time drivers spend with their eyes off of the road. The air-conditioning for the S trim is manually-adjustable.

The Passat is designed to seat up to five people. Thanks to the generous amount of leg and head room, three adults can typically sit in the backseat without any issues. Cargo space inside all trim levels of the 2020 Volkswagen Passat is impressive as well. The trunk offers up 15.9 cubic feet, a number bigger than most competitors.

Technology is respectable in the Passat S. This model uses a 6.3-inch touchscreen and works with App-Connect. Compatible smartphones can be plugged into the vehicle and then used with either Android Auto or Apple CarPlay. Either system will allow drivers to access maps, music, and messaging from their phone. This can be particularly handy considering most trims of the Passat do not come standard with navigation.

Bluetooth is also standard and allows for music streaming using compatible devices. Satellite radio and a single data USB port also are part of the Passat's standard equipment. All models come with a three-month trial subscription to SiriusXM radio.

Another reason many consumers may be satisfied with the entry-level S is its list of standard driver aids. This model gives drivers a blind spot monitor, rear traffic alert, and forward collision warning with both autonomous emergency braking and a pedestrian detection function. This system uses radar and can help apply additional braking when necessary. It will also step in and brake if the driver does nothing. A rearview camera is found here as well.

More traditional safety features are found inside the Passat as well. These include anti-slip regulation, electronic stability control, engine brake assist, and an electronic lock differential. A tire pressure monitoring system is standard along with an intelligent crash response system. This system is designed to step in and make the vehicle safer if the driver cannot. It turns on the hazards, unlocks the doors, and can even cut power to the fuel pump.

Also standard is a handy automatic post-collision braking system. In the event that a crash does not actually bring the vehicle to a stop, this system kicks in. It can slow down and even stop the Passat, which helps reduce the odds of additional collisions.

Option number two, known as the Passat SE, has the same engine and drivetrain setup. Wheel size and style remain the same as well. A sunroof package is available on this trim. This is the only standalone package to be found for the 2020 Passat. Otherwise, this trim looks identical to the S.

Significant upgrades start popping up inside the cabin of the SE. It gets dual-zone automatic climate control. There is also a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Other noteworthy upgrades include keyless access with push button start and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. The SE trim gains a feature known as VW Car-Net. This gives the vehicle a remote start. It also adds a Wi-Fi hotspot.

Seating surfaces also are a lot nicer here. The front seats gain heat, and the upholstery is upgraded to V-Tex leatherette. This material looks very similar to leather and is easy to keep clean. Drivers now get 8-way power adjustment that includes power-adjustable lumbar support. There are now two charging-only USB ports in the back.

Adaptive cruise control and a lane keeping system are the two driver aids added by the SE trim. The first feature helps the vehicle maintain a set distance between it and the one ahead of it. It adjusts the speed of the Passat as necessary. That second feature can detect visible lane marking with its rearview camera. When the vehicle starts to drift out of the lane without the proper turn signal activated, it beeps to alert the driver. It can also help to gently steer the vehicle back into the lane.

Compare the 2020 Volkswagen Passat SE vs R-Line Trims. What is the difference?

Once again, the equipment underneath the hood stays the same when going with the R-Line. The exterior of this trim does stand out from the others, however, thanks to upgrades such as 19-inch alloy wheels. Also different here is the style of the front bumper, which is designed to look more aggressive. Buyers will also find a rear spots valance.

This trim level automatically gains the power-tilting and sliding sunroof that was optional for the SE. It also adds power-adjustment to the side mirrors. Convenient rain-sensing windshield wipers round out the changes made for the exterior of the R-Line.

Inside, these models of the 2020 Volkswagen Passat gain ambient interior lighting. Special R-Line door sill protectors are added. Otherwise, the interior remains the same. No significant upgrades are made for either tech or safety features.

Compare the 2020 Volkswagen Passat R-Line vs SEL Trim. What is the difference?

The SEL continues to have the same engine and to only be available with front-wheel-drive. Wheels are smaller for the SEL than the R-Line, with the SEL getting stylish 18-inch two-toned machine alloy ones. A hands-free easy open trunk is standard for the SEL.

As for exterior illumination, the SEL gets a fancy adaptive front-lighting system. This system includes a corner-illuminating feature. With this, the Passat can turn the low beams in the direction the driver intends to go.

The upholstery becomes genuine leather for the top-of-the-line SEL trim. Not only do the front seats have heat here, but the rear outboard ones do as well. This is an uncommon upgrade for a midsize car, making it a nice surprise. The drivers seat has 3-position memory abilities. This allows up to three drivers to easily save their preferences.

Tech-wise, the big upgrade made for the SEL trim is the Fender premium audio system. It features a 400-watt amp and nine strategically placed speakers. This is also the only model that gives buyers a navigation system and HD radio.

The big safety upgrade for the SEL is called park distance control. Using ultrasonic sensors, it monitors both in front and behind the vehicle, up to a distance of five feet. When it detects an object, it begins to beep. Faster beeps mean the object is getting closer. The idea is to make parking easier, particularly parallel parking.

There are several add-on accessories that can be added to the SEL. Some of these are also available on lower trim levels. Examples of things buyers can choose to their Passat include a universal tablet holder, mud-resistant trunk liner, and a chrome protection plate for the rear bumper.

Also available is a more sophisticated rearview mirror with HomeLink. This can be programmed for up to three devices and is compatible with most garage doors. It also works with select security systems and gates. Adding this at the SEL trim level means getting a frameless rearview mirror with an integrated compass and the auto-dimming feature.

2020 Volkswagen Passat: Which Trim to Choose?

Buying Tip: To avoid overpaying on a new car, shop prices online first. Get up front pricing before you walk into a dealership. We recommend the following free services; Car Clearance Deals, NADAguides, CarsDirect & Motortrend.
These free services will offer you the lowest prices and supply you with multiple competing price quotes. You will know the best price before you visit the dealer.

Four strong choices exist for the 2020 Volkswagen Passat. The S trim is worth serious consideration, especially considering it has the same engine and infotainment system as all of the other trims. It also has one of the lowest base prices for a vehicle in this class. That said, the upgrades to the seating and climate control make the SE model tempting. The sunroof is also available for this trim.

The R-Line certainly looks a little more sporty. Unfortunately, it does not have the performance upgrades it would need to back the look up. The SEL trim is nice, but unless buyers have their hearts set on genuine leather or an upgraded sound system it can likely be skipped.

The SE trim level of the 2020 Volkswagen Passat offers the perfect number of features for the money, making it a good choice for most buyers.
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