Redesigned during the 2001 model year, the latest version of Volkswagens midsize sedan and wagon went on sale in February 2001 as a 2001.5 model. To clarify its marketing position, VW refers to the restyled 2001.5 model as the New Passat. Except for the addition of a premium CD/cassette stereo and an escape handle in the trunk, changes are few for the 2002 model year.
At a glance, the Passat doesnt look dramatically different than the old one. Nevertheless, a Volkswagen engineer touted some 2,300 changes to the new model, compared with its 1997 2000 predecessor, though most of the modifications are subtle. The Passat is the car that has paved the way for our re-emergence in North America, says Frank Maguire, Volkswagens vice president of sales and marketing. Its one of the companys family-size cars with attitude and flair. More than 80,000 Passats were sold in the United States during 2000.
Built as a front-drive model, the Passat also comes with 4Motion all-wheel drive, which was introduced during the 2000 model year. Three Passat versions are available: the GLS 1.8T (turbo), GLS V6 and upscale GLX.
Late in 2001, Volkswagen is expected to introduce a Passat W8, which debuted at the 2001 Geneva Motor Show with an eight-cylinder engine. Part of a developing modular W family, coupling two four-cylinder engines creates the W-8 power plant.
Though it is similar in appearance to the previous model, Volkswagen asserts that nearly all of the Passats body is fresh. Only the roof and doors were unchanged. The grille is more sharply raked and integrated into the front bumper than the one in the prior Passat. Chrome accents were added to window surrounds and side strips.
Body-colored bumpers have a black lower section, and the black grille contains a pronounced center logo. Halogen projector-lens fog lamps are integrated into the front bumper. Newly shaped taillamps are fully transparent, encompassing two small round lenses.
The four-door sedan has 15 cubic feet of trunk capacity, helped by a space-saving hinge. Torsional rigidity of the Passats structure has been increased by 10 percent. Standard steel wheels on GLS models hold 15-inch tires, and alloy wheels are optional. The GLX edition rides 16-inch tires on seven-spoke alloy wheels.
Five occupants fit inside the Passat, with reclining seats up front and a benchlike 60/40-split, folding rear seat. When equipped with 4Motion, the backseat has a folding armrest with a load-through provision.
Gauges have brushed aluminum accents and the familiar Volkswagen blue lighting at night. A new console contains adjustable-size cupholders and a compartmented storage area. An Immobilizer II anti-theft system prevents start-up unless a properly coded key is used.
Standard GLS equipment includes air conditioning, cruise control, central door locking with an automatic-lock feature, an eight-speaker cassette stereo system, a four-spoke padded steering wheel on a telescoping column, power windows and mirrors, and velour seat upholstery.
The GLX gets 16-inch tires, leather upholstery, walnut wood interior trim, automatic temperature control, heated eight-way power seats, a power sunroof, HomeLink transmitter system and an eight-speaker Monsoon sound system. The GLX passenger mirror automatically tilts down when backing up, and a rain-sensor windshield wiper system is installed.
Under the Hood
Two engines and two transmissions are available: Volkswagens turbocharged, 1.8-liter four-cylinder, which has been boosted from 150 to 170 horsepower, goes into the GLS 1.8T. The GLS V6 and GLX carry a 190-hp, 2.8-liter V-6 with variable valve intake timing. Both engines require premium fuel.
A five-speed-manual transmission is standard, and the optional five-speed automatic is equipped with Tiptronic for manual gear changes. A 4Motion all-wheel-drive system is available with the V-6 engine only.
Six airbags are standard, all for front-occupant protection: two standard airbags, two for side-impact protection and two curtain-type airbags. All-disc antilock brakes, daytime running lights and child-seat tether anchorage points for rear seating positions are standard. Traction control is standard with front-drive models.
Everything about the 2002 Passat comes across as smooth and easy. It is a supreme road car and one of the smoothest-riding vehicles in its league. Though taut, the Passats suspension absorbs moderate bumps handily, with no sense of overreaction even when the going gets rough.
The V-6 engine is exceptionally quiet, and it delivers more than ample acceleration. Automatic-transmission response is crisp and positive, with only a moments delay between gear changes. Volkswagens four-cylinder engine is more coarse during hard acceleration and exhibits some lack of push at relatively low speeds; but otherwise, its as energetic as many V-6s. The clutch works well with the easy-shifting manual transmission, which has short throws between gears.
Steering with a moderate touch and excellent precision, the Passat is just a trifle slow to respond at times. Hanging tight in curves, with a tenacious grip on the pavement, the sedan displays minimal body lean.
Seats are magnificently comfortable and well contoured, with cushioning that invites the occupant to stay a while. Space is plentiful up front and in the rear, and even the center rear position isnt bad on the benchlike seat. Leather upholstery in the GLX edition is simply luscious, featuring excellent stitching. In fact, every element of the Passats assembly comes across as A-1.