Passat was redesigned two years ago and changes for this year are minor. Among the additions is the Monsoon audio system, an eight-channel, eight-speaker setup with 200 watts of power. The Monsoon system can be supplemented by a trunk-mounted, six-disc CD changer. A dealer-installed, in-dash CD player is a new option.
Low-speed traction control (up to 24 mph) was standard last year. This year it has been upgraded to work at all speeds. Anti-lock brakes and side-impact airbags for the front seats also are standard.
Passat comes in four-door sedan and station wagon body styles, both with front-wheel drive. A permanently engaged all-wheel-drive system is planned for the wagon.
The Passat's rounded styling borrows from the Audi A6's (from which the Passat is derived). Audi is Volkswagen's luxury division. The sloping front and rear pillars follow the same theme as the New Beetle's.
With an overall length of 184 inches, the Passat sedan is sized like a compact car on the outside. The 106-inch wheelbase moves it up to the midsize class.
The Passat is roomier inside than most cars with similar exterior dimensions. Headroom is plentiful all around, though the power sunroof (standard on the GLX and optional on the GLS) reduces clearance to just adequate for six-footers. Legroom is generous in front and more than adequate in the rear seat, which is split 60/40, folds for extra cargo space and can be locked to secure valuables in the trunk. Trunk capacity looks larger than the 15 cubic feet listed by Volkswagen.
Under the Hood
Standard engine on the GLS model is a turbocharged, 1.8-liter four-cylinder with 150 horsepower. Standard on the GLX and optional on the GLS is a 2.8-liter V-6 with 190 horsepower. Both engines are used by Audi and are available with manual or automatic transmissions.
Passat has more room than some midsize sedans and more character than most. All models deliver crisp handling, athletic moves and brisk acceleration. The GLX model's standard equipment includes just about every feature expected on a luxury sedan.
Volkswagen throws in a 10-year powertrain warranty, 12-year corrosion warranty and two years of free scheduled maintenance and roadside assistance.