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SEE ALSO:Volkswagen Buyer's Guide

The 1995 Volkswagen GLX Passat has some surprises for you. It has been almost completely restyled, and its base price has been reduced by 10 percent. This price reduction is not for a stripped down "special" model, but for a fully equipped sedan or wagon powered by an innovative narrow- angle V6 engine that develops 172 horsepower and a five-speed manual overdrive transmission.

After a successful debut in Europe, where it was awarded many accolades from the automotive press, the Passat arrived here in 1990. Its new styling was a successful departure from the boxy designs that VW had been offering. However, its transverse-mounted, 134 horsepower four-cylinder engine did not provide the performance anticipated by many American drivers. In 1993 a new 28 percent more powerful V6 engine became available, and gave the Passat what it needed to successfully compete in the crowded mid-size automotive market. The newest Passat successfully combines the convenience and versatility of a wagon with the power and performance of a sports sedan.

We took the GLX wagon to task by driving it on twisty mountain roads in rain and sunshine. Also we cruised on the interstates, state highways, and back roads. Our loads varied from a solo driver to three adults, two grand-children plus a lot of groceries and gear from the local General Store. The Passat GLX wagon performed admirably in all situations, and left these impressions:

APPEARANCE: "Functional" is the most descriptive word for the styling of the 1995 Passat wagon. It is very Teutonic with no flash, no extraneous frills and no nonsense, an excellent example of the engineering axiom "form follows function". The large VW logo is conspicuously displayed in the center of the black grille, and two wide bands of head and driving lights dominate the front of the Passat. This mid-size wagon has a large cabin with curved glass windows, well-rounded sides and flag- style side view mirrors, plus a roof rack. It is fitted with alloy wheels and Goodyear touring tires.

COMFORT: Many items that formerly were options are now part of the GLX standard equipment. Among these are air conditioning, trip computer, sound system, central locking with key-operated sun roof and window opening and closing, cruise control, secure storage pockets in the cargo area and a luggage area tonneau cover. Other practical and luxury features include adjustable front and rear seats, comfortable cloth upholstery, rear seats that are slightly higher than the front ones for improved passenger vision, and fold down rear seats for added storage capacity in the large flat rear cargo area. The only option installed on our test wagon was the tilt and slide sunroof. Available options are a four-speed automatic transmission, CD changer, leather interior and the all-weather package. We found the ergonomics for all instruments and controls to be excellent, and that the heating and cooling, and the sound systems did their jobs efficiently and provided a comfortable environment.

SAFETY: The re-designed Passat Wagon is equipped with the latest in passenger safety devices, meeting many 1997 Federal safety standards. It has dual front air bags with self-tensioning three- point seat belts for front passengers and three-point belts for outboard rear ones. Safety cell construction with crash-absorbing crumple zones and side impact protection insure that all occupants are secure in case of a collision.

ROADABILITY: This wagon is at home on any kind of road and handles like a sports sedan. Its "Plus Axle" suspension dynamics along with increased body stiffness, front wheel drive, four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and broad Goodyear Touring tires provide excellent adhesion and precise steering control on almost any surface. The Passat GLX is very quiet on the road with little wind, engine or road noise. It is capable of happily cruising all day at autobahn speeds.

PERFORMANCE: The compact design of the narrow-angle VR6 engine requires only a single head for both banks of cylinders and allows a larger-displacement six-cylinder engine to be placed in the space of a conventional four-cylinder one. With 172 horsepower now available and teamed with a smooth shifting short-throw five-speed manual transmission, the Passat now offers excellent performance across a broad power band. The VR6 cruises very quietly, but a touch of the throttle brings forth the feel and sound of power.

CONCLUSIONS: Volkswagen's interior and exterior styling refinements and suspension improvements along with a 10 percent base price reduction should increase the Passat's attractiveness.


           Base Price              $ 21,320
           Price As Tested         $ 22,620
           Engine Type             V-6, sohc - 12v, smpfi
           Engine Size             2.8 liter/170 cid   
           Horsepower              172 @ 5800
           Torque (ft/lbs)         177 @ 4200
           Wheelbase/Length        103"/181"  
           Transmission            5-speed manual w/od
           Curb Weight             3270
           Pounds per Horsepower   19  
           Fuel Capacity           18
           Fuel Requirement        Unleaded regular  (87 octane)
           Tires                   Goodyear Eagle GA  P215/50HR15 all-season
           Brakes                  anti-lock standard    vented disc/disc
           Drive Train             front engine, front drive
           EPA Economy - miles per gallon,        
             city/highway/observed          18/25/23.2  
           0 to 60 mph                      8.3 sec
           1/4 mi (E.T.)                    16.9 sec           
           Coefficient of drag (cd)         .36