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By Jim Flammang
May 20, 2003
Vehicle Overview Redesigned and dubbed the New Passat, the latest version of Volkswagens midsize sedan and wagon went on sale in February 2001 as a 2001.5 model. For the 2003 model year, Volkswagens 170-horsepower, turbocharged 1.8-liter engine is standard in the GL trim level. An Electronic Stability Program is optional in the GL, GLS 1.8T (turbo) and GLX models. New 15-inch alloy wheels and a sunroof are now standard on the GLS sedans.
Built as a front-wheel-drive (FWD) model, the Passat also comes with 4Motion all-wheel drive (AWD). Three versions are available: the GLS 1.8T, GLS 2.8 V6 and upscale GLX.
Early in 2002, Volkswagen introduced the Passat W8, which is equipped with a uniquely constructed eight-cylinder engine that has a W configuration. Sedan versions of the Passat W8 went on sale in late April 2002 and were followed later by the wagon. Volkswagens 4Motion all-wheel-drive (AWD) system is standard. A five-speed automatic is the only transmission available, but a six-speed-manual gearbox will be offered later in the 2003 model year. An optional Sport Package with 17-inch wheels and a sport suspension will also be available at a later date.
Only about 5,000 Passat W8 models will be available at dealerships each year unless Volkswagen decides that demand is sufficient enough to increase production. The German automaker emphasizes the five-passenger Passat W8s performance, refinement, luxury and value.
Though it is similar in appearance to the previous model, nearly all of the New Passats body characteristics were modified during 2001. Only the roof and doors went unchanged, but most modifications were subtle. The grille was more sharply raked and integrated into the front bumper than the one in prior Passats. Chrome accents were added to the window surrounds and side strips.
Body-colored bumpers have a black lower section, and the sharply raked black grille contains a pronounced center logo. Halogen projector-lens fog lamps are integrated into the front bumper. The taillights are fully transparent and encompass two small round lenses.
The standard steel wheels on GLS models hold 15-inch tires, and alloy wheels are optional. The GLX edition rides on 16-inch tires and seven-spoke alloy wheels.
Apart from special W8 badging on the body, the Passat W8s appearance is essentially the same as that of the regular Passat sedan and wagon. High-intensity-discharge headlights are fitted with power washers. Alloy wheels hold 16-inch tires, and four exhaust outlets are visible. A glass sunroof is standard.
Both the sedan and wagon ride a 106.4-inch wheelbase and stretch 68.7 inches wide. The sedan measures 185.2 inches long overall, and the wagon is 184.3 inches long overall.
Five occupants fit inside the Passat sedan and Wagon. Each vehicle is equipped with reclining seats up front and a benchlike 60/40-split, folding rear seat. When equipped with 4Motion AWD, the backseat has a folding armrest with a pass-thru provision.
The gauges have brushed-aluminum accents and the familiar Volkswagen blue lighting at night. The 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.
Helped by a space-saving hinge, the sedan has 15 cubic feet of trunk capacity; the cargo capacity decreases in models equipped with AWD. When the backseat is folded down, cargo volume in the Passat Wagon totals 56.5 cubic feet.
In the W8 sedan and Wagon, five occupants can savor leather seating surfaces and chrome and wood accents. The hated front seats are equipped with an eight-way power feature. Standard equipment includes a 200-watt, eight-speaker Monsoon audio system, automatic climate control, rain-sensing wipers, heated windshield washer nozzles, an Immobilizer anti-theft system and a HomeLink universal garage-door opener and transmitter.
The sedans trunk holds 10 cubic feet of cargo, where the wagon offers 54.6 cubic feet of space when the rear seat is folded down. With the rear seat folded down, the wagon offers 54.6 cubic feet of cargo space.
Under the Hood
Volkswagens 170-hp, turbocharged 1.8-liter inline-four-cylinder engine goes into the GL and GLS 1.8T sedan and wagon. The GLS 2.8 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 an optional five-speed automatic is equipped with Tiptronic for manual gear changes. The 4Motion AWD system is available with the V-6 engine only.
In the Passat W8 Sedan and Wagon, the 32-valve 4.0-liter W-8 engine develops 270 hp and 273 pounds-feet of torque; it drives a five-speed-automatic transmission with a Tiptronic manual-shifting provision. Volkswagens 4Motion AWD system ordinarily splits the engines torque 50/50, but that can automatically increase to 67 percent at the front wheels. Premium fuel is recommended.
Six airbags are standard in the Passat Sedan and Wagon: two in the front, two for side-impact protection and two curtain-type airbags. All-disc antilock brakes, daytime running lights and child-safety seat tether anchorage points for the rear seating positions are standard. Traction control is standard with FWD models.
Front-seat side-impact airbags, front and rear curtain-type airbags, and daytime running lights are standard in the W8 Sedan and Wagon. Antilock brakes use vented discs, and a standard Electronic Stability Program enhances vehicle traction. Three height-adjustable headrests are installed in the rear.
Whether in wagon or sedan form, the Passat is an excellent road car with any engine but it turns into a superior, highly satisfying highway machine with the W-8 power plant. Other than a high price, its faults are mighty few.
Buyers of the Passat W8 Wagon get all the virtues of a regular Passat a lovely, quiet ride, precise handling and interior comfort. But the Passat W8 Wagon also features sterling performance. Acceleration ranks as vigorous at all speeds, but some critics claim the engine needs more low-end torque for faster starts from a standstill. The great automatic transmission produces smooth, swift gear changes.
The Passat W8 Wagon is especially easy to drive and steer, and it stays on course with minimal effort and exceptional stability. It functions in an utterly effortless manner for a beautifully refined driving and riding experience.