Volkswagen's midsize sedan and wagon went on sale as freshened 2001.5 models. A TDI turbo-diesel engine became available during the 2004 model year.
For 2005, Volkswagen has dropped the costly Passat W8 model. Leatherette seating surfaces replace cloth in the GL and GLS models, and the GLS gets heated front seats as standard equipment. The Passat is available with either front- or all-wheel drive. A redesigned Passat is expected for 2006.
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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.
Helped by a space-saving hinge, the sedan has 15 cubic feet of trunk capacity; space decreases in sedans with all-wheel drive. Steel wheels on GL models hold 15-inch tires, but the GLS now has standard 16-inch tires and the GLX moves to standard 17-inch alloy wheels.
Up to five occupants fit inside the Passat. Reclining bucket seats are installed up front, and a 60/40-split folding bench seat goes in the back. The gauges have brushed-aluminum accents and the familiar Volkswagen blue lighting at night.
Under the Hood
The Passat can be equipped with either a 170-horsepower, turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder; a 190-hp, 2.8-liter V-6; or a turbo-diesel 2.0-liter four-cylinder that produces 134 hp and 247 pounds-feet of torque. The turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder can be equipped with either a five-speed-manual transmission or a five-speed Tiptronic automatic that permits manually selected gear changes, but all other engines are available only with the automatic.
Six airbags, including two for front-seat side-impact protection and two side curtain-type airbags, are standard. All-disc antilock brakes, daytime running lights and child-safety seat tether anchorage points for rear outboard seating positions are standard.
Volkswagen's Passat is one of the smoothest-riding sedans in its league. The suspension is taut, but it absorbs moderate bumps handily with no sense of overreaction.
The exceptionally quiet V-6 delivers more than ample acceleration. Automatic-transmission response is crisp and positive. Volkswagen's turbocharged four-cylinder is coarser during hard acceleration and isn't especially powerful at lower speeds; but otherwise, it's as energetic as many V-6s.
The Passat steers with moderate effort and excellent precision, but at times it's a trifle slow to respond. It displays minimal body lean in curves. Every element of assembly comes across as A-1.
Because Volkswagen has used diesel engines for years in its smaller Jetta, one would expect the Passat diesel to be wholly satisfying; sadly, that's not the case. Performance is acceptable, if tame. You can clearly hear the diesel-engine sound when a window is open. More important, the diesel-engine powertrain in two early Passats stumbled periodically.�
In wagon form, the Passat differs little from its sedan counterpart. Cargo capacity is 39 cubic feet behind the rear seat and 56.5 cubic feet with that seat folded down. All-wheel-drive wagons have slightly less cargo volume. Back to top