The 1998 Volkswagen Beetle is stealing all the attention, but when thecurious head to the showroom to check it out, they'll also run into the 1998Volkswagen Passat-- and that's just what VW wants.

We tested the Passat GLS, which is built on a 106.4-inch wheelbase and is184.1 inches long overall.

The car is powered by a 1.8-liter, 150-h.p., 20-valve 4-cylinder teamed with a 5-speed Tiptronic rated at 21 m.p.g. city/31 m.p.g. highway. Tiptronicis the automatic transmission system that allows you to run through the gearsas you would in a manual, only without having to use a clutch.

Passat has been redesigned for '98. It's now built off a modified versionof the Audi A4 platform with a three-inch longer wheelbase. The A4underpinnings make the car solid.

The car is roomy front and rear and the trunk is spacious. Traction controland four-wheel ABS are standard, along with dual front and side air bags.

But we bet it wouldn't wander as much if it came with 16-inch treads ratherthan 15-inch. And though solid and tight, it still is typically German stiffand the seats could use a tad more cushioning. Heated seats are an option,much needed with the leather covers.

A 190-h.p., 30-valve V-6 will be offered, but not for about another month.Plans to offer a high-mileage turbo diesel have been temporarily shelved.

Base price is $20,750. The test car added $280 for a compact-disc changer,$1,075 for five-speed Tiptronic, $950 for leather interior and $500 forfreight.