1999 Volkswagen Passat

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1999 Volkswagen Passat
Available in 7 styles:  Passat 4dr Wagon GLS shown
Asking Price Range
Estimated MPG

20–23 city / 29–32 hwy

Expert Reviews

    Expert Reviews 2 of 2
1999 Volkswagen Passat 3.8 11
$ 318-5,126
December 17, 1998

So, you're in the market for a sporty, affordable and fun-to-drive midsize family sedan. You've looked at the top-selling cars in the class, the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and Ford Taurus. And you wonder: Isn't there anything else?

As a matter of fact, there is.

Volkswagen has just overhauled the Passat. And now this car is ready for prime time.

The V-6 version is a credible alternative not only to the big three (Accord, Camry, Taurus) but also to the much more expensive BMW 325i. The Passat is priced within reach of middle-class families.


The Passat GLS V-6 has a marvel of a motor. It's a 2.8-liter engine that has five valves per cylinder, instead of the usual two or four. The additional valves allow more air to flow through the engine. The result is a smoother, more efficient engine.

When you turn the key, your senses won't detect much. There is a very slight vibration and nearly no noise as the engine comes to life. That doesn't change once you shift the Passat into gear and get under way.

Velvety smooth power builds strongly and evenly as the 3,200-pound car takes flight. The round shifter knob fits snugly in your hand and clicks softly into each gear. Even under hard acceleration, the Passat tracks straight. You'll feel no torque steer -- a pulling to the left or right -- when you need a quick blast of power.

For some reason, I've equated this high level of refinement in Japanese cars to blandness. And yet the German-made Passat doesn't feel boring; it doesn't dull your senses. Is this fair? I can't say for sure. But if the Toyota Camry and VW Passat each tested the same for the amount of noise and vibration the drivetrain makes and for its road manners, I'd still say the Passat was the more exciting car -- maybe because the styling is a bit more expressive.

The four-wheel independent suspension is a bit on the soft side -- much softer than a BMW -- but that doesn't seem to affect the Passat's ability to round a corner. The body doesn't lean perceptibly. And most bumps in the road are effectively muffled.

An excellent braking system is one trademark of nearly all German cars. The Passat is no different. The four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes erase the speed with ease. Traction control, which helps keep the front tires from spinning on dirt roads or slippery pavement, kicks in seamlessly.

In terms of performance and handling, the Passat is a cut above most of the competition. It's refined and civilized, yet still an entertaining car to drive.


In terms of quality, Volkswagen has come a long way in a short time. The German automaker has almost always made decent cars. But sometimes VWs fell apart when they got older, especially the models made in America in the early 1980s. I've seen some deplorable old VWs.

Yet after a close look at the way the Passat is made, with its high quality materials and tight assembly, I feel confident that this car will hold together well for many years.

The door panels are thick and heavy. So is the upholstery and carpet. The switches have just the right feel. And the doors close with a solid sound.

The interior has warm ambience. There's real wood trim on the console and door panels. The seats are firm and offer good lower back support. But VW engineers need to take a fresh look at the way the manual seats are adjusted. They go up and down as well as back and forth at the same time. It's a clumsy arrangement that makes for an awful lot of fussing to get comfortable.

The dash is pleasing to the eye, and all the controls, buttons and switches are within easy reach. The analog gauges are bathed in blue light, which gives the car a unique look at night.

I lent the Passat to a tall person. He had no trouble fitting inside but felt that the car could be a bit wider. I agree. Though I never felt cramped, a couple of extra inches in width would make the Passat much nicer.

Rear seat passengers have plenty of foot and legroom. The bottom seat cushion is large enough and firm enough for wide fannies. The trunk offers plenty of cargo room.

For some reason, the outside passenger-side mirror is smaller than the driver's side mirror. This is really annoying, and it doesn't make much sense.

The list of standard features is impressive. The Passat comes with dual front and side air bags, air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, mirrors and remote control door locks. Those power windows have one-touch up and down switches. The air-conditioning system has a built-in pollen filter. Other standard features include built-in fog lights, folding rear seats, AM-FM cassette radio and an anti- theft system.

An optional automatic transmission costs about $1,000.

I particularly like the Passat's smooth, aerodynamic body. It's clean and uncomplicated looking. The arch of the roofline gives the Passat a classy appearance.

1999 Volkswagen Passat GLS V6

Base price: $23, 190. Safety: Dual front and side air bags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, front and rear crumple zones and side-impact protection. Price as tested: $24,690. EPA rating: 20 mpg city/29 mpg highway. Incentives: None.

    Expert Reviews 2 of 2

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