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Volkswagon

Volkswagon For 1998

By Carey Russ

Volkswagen has a reputation for making cars that have unique character and fun-to-drive performance. This reputation should be enhanced by the all-new 1998 Passat.

The new Beetle will be a 1999 model and should be in showrooms partway through 1998. Although it shares some styling cues with its illustrious namesake, the new car will be a front-engined, front-wheel drive, liquid-cooled machine, and a close relative of the Golf.

Passat

The 1998 Volkswagen Passat shares little with last year's version besides the name. It breaks new ground for Volkswagen, and is the most upscale, refined car ever made by the German-based manufacturer.

Stylistically and technically, the '98 Passat stands out from the crowd in the midsized sedan field. It is based on the same platform as the Audi A4, but is longer and roomier. Currently, it is offered with a 150-horsepower turbocharged 5-valve-per cylinder 4-cylinder engine. Transmissions are a 5-speed manual or sophisticated 5-speed automatic with Porsche Tiptronic manual shifting. Future Passats will be available with further engine choices, including a 30-valve V6 and the innovative Volkswagen direct-injection turbodiesel. Synchro all- wheel drive versions are also coming in the near future.

Outside, the new Passat is a harbinger of Volkswagens to come. Inside, it is well-appointed, contemporary, and spacious. Standard front seat-mounted side airbags add safety.

Golf and GTI

The 4-door Golf and 2-door GTI hatchbacks have a number of enhancements for 1998, including available front seat-mounted side airbags. The Golf and base GTI have a 115-horsepower 2.0-liter 4- cylinder engine, while the GTI VR6 uses the 172-horsepower VR6.

Jetta

The Jetta, VW's small-outside, big-inside sedan, also gets optional side airbags for 1998. Besides the 115-horsepower 2.0-liter 4- cylinder and 172-horsepower VR6 versions, a fuel-frugal 1.9-liter, 90- hp direct-injection turbodiesel is offered.

Cabrio

Volkswagen's popular ragtop comes in two models, base and GLS. For 1998, the luxuriously-appointed GLS has a standard power- operated cloth top to go with its other high-grade features. Not that the base Cabrio is too basic. Its hand-fitted 6-layer vinyl top is one of the best in the industry. Both models have standard glass backlights with defoggers. Side airbags are optional on all VW Cabrios.

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