New Car/Review


Volkswagen Passat GLX

By Matt/Bob Hagin


Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price              $ 26,250
Price As Tested                                    $ 26,750
Engine Type       VIVT* DOHC 30-valve 2.8 Liter V6 w/SMFI**
Engine Size                                 169 cid/2771 cc
Horsepower                                   190 @ 6000 RPM
Torque (lb-ft)                               206 @ 3200 RPM
Wheelbase/Width/Length                  106.6"/68.5"/184.1"
Transmission                           Five-speed automatic
Curb Weight                                     3597 pounds
Fuel Capacity                                  16.4 gallons
Tires  (F/R)                         195/65R15 H all season
Brakes (F/R)                          Disc (ABS) disc (ABS)
Drive Train                  Front-engine/front-wheel-drive
Vehicle Type                       Five-passenger/four-door
Domestic Content                                One percent
Coefficient of Drag (Cd.)                              0.27


EPA Economy, miles per gallon
city/highway/average                            20/29/26          
0-60 MPH                                        9.5 seconds
1/4 (E.T.)                          17.5 seconds @ 85.0 mph
Top-speed                                           125 mph
* Variable intake valve timing
* Sequential multi-point fuel injection           

(Volkswagen has come a long way from its stark, basic transportation model, the original Beetle of a half-century ago, says Bob Hagin. His son Matt sees in the new Passat body some vague similarities between it and the Beetle, but not much.)

MATT - Dad, the Passat was introduced in '90 and redesigned in '98 into this new version. The original Beetles were harsh, noisy and totally lovable with a funky air-cooled engine in back that drove the rear wheels. But now all passenger cars wearing the VW logo have the engine up front and they all use front-wheel drive. The Passat is an example of this change-over and it bristles with neat engineering features. Volkswagen uses a really slick suspension with a front design consisting of four links per side to control front-drive torque-steer, a system also used on the cars from VW's sister company, Audi. Torque- steer can be a real headache on high-power front-drive cars, but the Passat seems to have conquered this problem.

BOB - Matt, this Passat does have lots of power. The engine is a 2.8 liter V6 with four cams, five valves per cylinder and variable intake valve timing. It pumps out 190 horses and even more torque. The mileage we logged in averaged of 26 MPG, which is good for a V6. The Passat has good performance, too, and it's capable of accelerating through the quarter-mile in a little over 17 seconds. But this is not the same engine that Volkswagen uses to hot-rod their smaller cars. The five-speed automatic that's standard equipment on this Passat GLX is OK because it lets you shift manually. But I have to be honest and say that given a choice, I prefer the five-speed manual that came as an option on our car. Another version of the Passat can be had with a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-banger, but the V6 is the smoothest, the most powerful and therefore the best choice.

MATT - This is a very slippery car, Dad. It has a drag coefficient of 0.27 and I'd bet that the ride height has something to do with that. It's just four inches off the ground and that's barely enough to get over a speed bump. The Passat can be had as a true station wagon too, and I can't remember Volkswagen offering a square-back since the old Fox model of the late '80s.

BOB - This Passat is almost three inches longer in the wheelbase than its predecessor. Our Passat has a lot of interior and trunk room, but I wonder why the company didn't put in a 60/40 split rear fold down- seat. It's not offered on our GLX tester but it's available in the less-fancy GLS Passat. In either model, the trunk is cavernous. Our GLX tester is the top-line model, and came standard with leather-covered seats that had that typical firm German "feel" which grips your body really well in hard turns. Your mom liked the sun roof operating switch that allows you to turn the knob to the desired amount of openness, then by just letting go of the knob, the roof slides or tilts to that setting. She likes that kind of tricky stuff.

MATT - I appreciated the automatic climate control and Volkswagen even added heated outside mirrors to the standard features of this very fancy four-door. Four air bags are standard on the Passat, two dash-mounted in front of the driver and front-seat passenger, and one on the each outer-upright side of the front seats. The seven-spoke alloy wheels are definitely on the sporty side, but I would have been more impressed if the spare was a match for those on the ground. It would make tire rotation much easier and extend the life of the set by several thousand miles. Volkswagen is also offering the Passat sedan and the station wagon with all-wheel drive. It's the same system that's used on the all-wheel drive version of the Audi A6, but VW labels it the "Syncro" system rather than "Quattro."

BOB - This Passat is certainly a far cry from those old Beetles, but one thing that has not changed is the big round emblem in the center of the grille. It's still that chrome "VW" inside of a circle.

MATT - Compared to the old Passat, Dad, I think that's about the only thing that didn't change.

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