Volkswagen redesigned its midsize Passat for 2006. Sedans hit dealerships first, and wagon versions followed later as early 2007 models.
The Passat's base engine is a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Constructed with four valves per cylinder, the engine features direct-injection fuel delivery. The four-cylinder generates 200 horsepower, and a narrow-angle 3.6-liter V-6 is also available. Front- and all-wheel-drive models are offered.
Other than the debut of the redesigned wagon body style, changes are fairly minor for 2007. New options include adaptive cruise control and an iPod adapter. An auxiliary input jack for connecting MP3 players has been added, and 18-inch wheels are available on 2.0T models.
A medallion-shaped grille is installed on the Passat. The Passat's brakes have a wiping feature that removes moisture on the discs. A sport suspension and Volkswagen's Adaptive Front Lighting System are optional. Standard wheels measure 16 inches in diameter, but 17- or 18-inch wheels are available. A power liftgate is standard on wagons.
Volkswagen says the five-occupant Passat's enlarged exterior translates to more interior width and legroom, especially in the backseat. Rear legroom has risen from 35.3 to 37.7 inches. Vents for the air conditioning system are installed in the rear, and the 60/40-split, folding rear seat has a pass-thru provision. Sedan owners get 14.2 cubic feet of trunk room while wagons have 35.8 cubic feet of cargo room. The Passat has an electronic parking brake, and the driver faces a four-spoke tilt/telescoping steering wheel. Simulated leather seat trim is standard, but leather upholstery is available.
Air conditioning is standard, and models equipped with the 3.6-liter V-6 can have dual-zone automatic climate control. A CD stereo is standard and a six-CD changer is optional. Walnut or brushed-aluminum trim is optional for the 3.6 model. A navigation system and park assist are also optional.
Under the Hood
Volkswagen's 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder develops 200 hp and 207 pounds-feet of torque. Either a six-speed manual gearbox or a six-speed automatic that incorporates Tiptronic manual gear selection can team with the four-cylinder engine. The 280-hp, 3.6-liter V-6 drives only the six-speed automatic.
The Passat is equipped with six standard airbags, including frontal- and side-impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags. Rear-seat side-impact airbags are optional. All five occupants have adjustable head restraints, and the ones for front passengers are active. All-disc antilock brakes, brake assist, a tire pressure monitoring system and an electronic stability system are standard.
The V-6-powered Passat sedan with the Sport package is quick from a standstill and responds promptly and eagerly when passing or merging. Acceleration doesn't diminish much when the turbocharged four-cylinder is teamed with the automatic, and it's offset by greater fuel economy. Exhaust sounds are satisfying, but the V-6 is a little noisy while accelerating.
An undeniably taut sport suspension yields confident control and adept steering and handling without impairing ride quality too much. Bumps are commonly felt, but not too many are troubling. The ride isn't much different in four-cylinder Passats.
Ample glass aids visibility, but the mirrors aren't as useful as some. The car's deep-set, hooded gauges almost disappear at times on sunny days. The low cowl provides good forward visibility.
Front space is ample, and the seats are indisputably firm but adequately comfortable, though the wide console is close to the driver's knee. The sedan's rear headroom is sufficient and legroom is acceptable thanks to an additional 2.4 inches in this generation.