Mother Proof's view

When the 2008 Volkswagen Passat rolled into my driveway, I had no idea how exciting our time together would be. I knew VW has upheld an uber-cool image for many years, and I remembered that the Cabrio was my dream car when I was 16. I also knew that in the last 10 years, VW has had some reliability issues, so I had my doubts about the 2008 Passat. While reliability is hard to test in seven days, I must say I was very impressed with everything else the Passat had to offer. From the built-in sunshades for backseat passengers to the easy-to-use navigation system, I was instantly intrigued and couldn’t wait to see more.

After perusing the interior, I took the Passat for a drive. The ride was unbelievably smooth and quiet, with no lack of oomph at all. On several occasions, I caught myself driving faster than I thought I was because the turbocharged Passat made 70 mph feel as peaceful as 20 mph. To learn how this love story unfolded, read on … you might just find your match made in heaven!

IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT Storage compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore Cargo/trunk space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Galore

SENSE AND STYLE Family friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Excellent Fun factor (None, Some, Good times, Groove on): Good times

The Passat’s exterior didn’t really appeal to me, but it looked as unique as I believe a VW should. It was sporty without being small. I asked other people what they thought, and most found the Passat to be sharp- or cool-looking. The test model I drove included the Hi-Def Kit with fancy front and rear bumpers, side sills, a lip spoiler and a sport exhaust tip for added Passat pizzazz.

Overall, the Passat’s exterior proves that you can have a spacious, fuel-efficient sedan without giving up style and character. But I did have a problem with its four doors. I’m afraid I’m just getting to the point where a two-door car is actually more convenient because of my small kids. Getting everyone in through one portal seems easier to me than running around the car to make sure that everyone is in the car properly. Does anyone else see it my way?

Let me preface this portion of the review by saying that I drove the loaded version of this spacious car, so it was as cozy as any well-designed minivan. There was leather everywhere: It was on the steering wheel, on the highly adjustable seating, etc. … and it was sooo nice. I spent a few minutes perfecting my seat position, and I was sadly disappointed by the lack of lumbar support in the obviously expensive seats. The dash was glitzy, some might say that it was a little much, but I liked it. I especially enjoyed doing some night-time driving in the Passat with its inspiring red- and indigo-colored lighting, which was very eye-catching.

The large in-dash screen allows for easy viewing of radio stations, navigation maps and other media features. This whole area of the car was refreshing in its ease of use. For example, in other test cars I’ve driven, the pre-programmed radio stations are accessible via controls on the steering wheel, but you have no way of seeing what the next preset radio station is (granted, once you’ve memorized your selections this wouldn’t pose a problem). In the Passat, all of your programmed stations are listed and visible on-screen, so you can see where you’re going instead of aimlessly toggling until you get to the station of your choice. It seems simple, but this feature really made me happy.

Moving on to the Passat’s fun factor — aka “Sorry kids, it’s Mom’s turn to play with the car” — the Volkswagen ups the fun by providing three driving options in the same car. What on earth does this mean? The Passat has an automatic transmission with two manual options. You can happily drive around using the automatic transmission or you can move the gear shift to the right to go into manual shifting mode. Another option is to use the steering-wheel paddles to operate the manual transmission. Suhweeeeeeeet! Three options! Choose the one that best fits your mood … or your shoes! I truly loved this. But wait! Remember how smooth and quiet I said the Passat was? Well, even in manual mode it maintains its tranquility, which isn’t something that most manual lovers are looking for. We want some noise, some feeling of being catapulted into the next universe with each changing gear. If that’s the kind of driving experience you enjoy, you might have to look elsewhere to find it. Other interior features that raised my eyebrows included the Auto-Hold button, which holds the car at a stop and allows you to take your foot off the brake pedal without the car rolling back; an easy one-push cruise control system; front and rear object sensors; dual sun visors for the driver and passenger; dual-zone climate control with pollen filter; a mute button for the stereo system, which comes in handy when your cell phone rings or you need to place an order at the drive-thru; programmable garage door opener; front and rear seat reading lights … the Passat really was the gift that kept on giving. It took fully loaded to a whole new level. How many more features can you fit in here?

Having fallen head over heels for the Passat because of its many features and how much fun it was to drive, I honestly never called into question its safety features. Somehow, the car seemed so prepared; I just knew it wouldn’t let me down in the safety arena.

In case you’re curious, the Passat includes an electronic stabilization program, anti-slip regulation, antilock brakes, all-season tires, front and side airbags for the driver and passenger, side curtain airbags in the front and backseat, height-adjustable seat belts, side impact bars, and automatic wipers and headlights to keep your hands on the wheel at all times. If all these features don’t satisfy your safety fancy, VW throws in 24-hour roadside assistance for the first four years or 50,000 miles, whichever comes first. That’s right, no worries.

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