2007 Volkswagen Passat Expert Review:New Car Test Drive
New Car Test Drive
Sophisticated style, European flavor.
The Volkswagen Passat is a mid-size sedan similar in size to the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. It was completely redesigned for '06, and is unchanged for model year 2007, though wagon versions have been added to the model lineup.
The 2006-07 Passat is longer and wider, larger and more mature than previous-generation models. It offers more interior room, particularly for back-seat riders, so a six-foot passenger can now sit behind a six-foot driver. It boasts generous standard content and a beguiling mix of high-tech and haute couture. And while the previous model was among the safest cars in America, the structure of the new Passat is substantially improved.
Its steering is precise, with effort that automatically adjusts to the situation. Its six-speed automatic transmission is smooth and responsive, and its brakes are excellent.
The base engine is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with 200 horsepower that should satisfy most needs, while returning 23/32 city/highway mpg with a six-speed manual transmission.
The optional 3.6-liter narrow-angle V6 growls when pressed and delivers robust torque, allowing the Passat to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 6.6 seconds.
Traditionally, the Passat line has included a wagon as well as a sedan. This time Volkswagen rolled out the new sedan first, during 2005 as an '06 model. The wagon followed in early calendar-year '06. Packing 35.8 cubic feet of cargo capacity, and returning 18/26 city/highway mpg even with optional all-wheel drive, the Passat wagon presents a more easily managed alternative to a big, tall SUV.
The 2007 Volkswagen Passat is offered as a four-door sedan or five-door wagon. It's available with a 200-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder or a 280-hp, 3.6-liter V6. Four-cylinder sedans can be ordered with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. Wagons and V6s come with the automatic only. The V6 models are available with VW's 4Motion all-wheel drive.
The base Passat sedan is available with a manual transmission ($22,960) or an automatic ($24,035), while the wagon comes standard with the automatic ($25,235). All come with a nice level of trim. The climate control system includes air conditioning and a pollen filter. The leatherette-upholstered front bucket seats adjust manually eight ways, with additional adjustment for the head restraints and lumbar support. Increasing interior utility are 60/40 split/folding rear seats, in the sedan as well as the wagon. Also standard are power windows; an electronic parking brake; central locking; heated outside mirrors; an eight-speaker stereo with in-dash CD player, MP3 capability, and an auxiliary input jack; three auxiliary power outlets; and 215/55HR16 all-season radials on 6-1/2 x 16-inch steel wheels.
The 2.0T comes with the same 2.0-liter turbocharged engine as the base model. The 2.0T sedan is avaialble with the six-speed manual gearbox ($23,960), the six-speed automatic ($25,035), and the wagon comes with the automatic ($26,235). The 2.0T add niceties such as ambient interior lighting, illuminated footwells, six-way power for the driver's seat (plus four manual adjustments), split folding rear seat with armrest, storage and pass-through, dual sunvisors with illuminated mirrors, chrome exterior trim for the window surrounds, body moldings, and 16-inch Catalunya alloy wheels with all-season tires.
The 3.6L sedan ($29,960) and wagon ($31,160) come with the V6, 17-inch Le Mans alloy wheels with all-season tires, power sunroof, Sirius Satellite Radio, and all the features on the 2.0T. The all-wheel-drive 3.6L 4Motion sedan ($31,910) and 4Motion wagon ($33,110) are identically equipped.
Options for the 2.0T include Option Package 1 ($1,750) with a power sunroof, six-disc in-dash CD changer, Sirius Satellite Radio (including activation and three months service), heated front seats, and heated washer nozzles. Package 2 Luxury ($4,400) for 2.0T includes Package 1, plus leather seats with 12-way power up front; 3-way memory for front seats and mirrors; leather shift-knob and multi-function steering wheel; dual-zone automatic climate control; fog lights; automatic headlights; environmental lighting on exterior mirrors; rain-sensing wipers; HomeLink; switchable auto-dimming interior rearview mirror; and interior wood and aluminum trim. Package 2 Sport ($5,450) for 2.0T includes all of the above, plus a sport-tuned suspension and 235/40R18 all-season tires on Samarkand alloy wheels. Brushed aluminum interior trim replaces wood and aluminum.
Similar Luxury ($3,250) and Sport ($4,030) Packages for 3.6L include essentially the same equipment, plus high-grade amenities such as Park Distance Control, a cargo net, and sunshades for the rear (sedan only) and rear-side windows. Additionally, the Luxury Package for the V6 upgrades to 235/45R17 all-season tires on Le Mans alloy wheels.
Stand-alone options for 2.0T and 3.6L include 17-inch ($400) and 18-inch alloy wheels; bi-xenon headlights with adaptive steering ($950); Dynaudio premium sound ($1000); DVD navigation with glovebox CD changer ($1800); adaptive cruise control ($975); heated front seats ($225). An iPod adapter ($199) will join the list later in the model year.
Safety features that come standard on all models include front airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags for driver and front passenger, side curtain airbags, four-wheel-disc brakes and ABS, speed-variable electromechanical steering, electronic stability control (ESP), tire-pressure monitor, and a security system. Rear-seat si.
Completely new last year, the 2007 Volkswagen Passat has a presence common to well-crafted cars. It is a stunning example of Volkswagen's goal of melding the aesthetic and the technical. It has a dynamic stance and just enough extraneous shapes and creases to make the car interesting from various angles. Its look is an evolution of the Passat's often copied lines, as there was little reason to break completely with tradition.
The nose is aggressive, with the medallion-shaped grille, vee-shaped contours on the hood, and a large VW badge. Composite headlamps frame the nose like a pair of eyes, staring intently down the road, and large intakes along the bottom of the nose reaffirm the car's performance intentions.
In profile, the Passat's substantial overhangs signal a heftiness associated with large, luxurious automobiles. The wheels and tires, especially the optional 18-inch wheels, fit well within the wheelwells and underscore the Passat's look of a well-grounded automobile. The sweep of the roof is of the modern, sporty sort, its coupe-like contours delineated by chrome trim surrounding the side glass. Chrome is also used in a trim strip to tie together the front and rear fender arches and the sharply cut tail, which is defined by round, horizontal taillamp clusters that echo the shape of the front lights.
The Volkswagen Passat benefited from an all-new, roomier cabin for 2006, which changes little if at all for 2007. The overall design is well designed and continues VW's tradition of quality materials, sensible gauge layout, and an ergonomic correctness about the driver's relationship with the controls.
The seating position is commanding, the seats themselves a good combination of comfort and control, with especially good lateral and under-thigh support. Standard 10-way (and available 12-way) adjustability the seats and a fully adjustable steering wheel ensure a good fit for all body types.
The Passat offers good rear-seat legroom. We found a six-foot passenger could sit comfortably by a six-and-half-foot passenger.
The available wood trim and leather upholstery make the car feel like a junior VW Phaeton, minus tens of thousands of dollars on the bottom line.
The dashboard design is broken into upper and lower layers, avoiding the monolithic, crowded look of many contemporary control centers. The upper panel, housing the air outlets and deep cowl shading the gauges, is darker in contrast to the lighter lower panel that handles various accessory functions, including the button for the new electronic parking brake, rotary controls for the headlamps and, to the right of the steering wheel, the engine start/stop slot.
The center console flows rearward from the dash, the navigation screen, climate controls and shift lever nestled within a handsome expanse of wood. Flanking the shifter are buttons for ESP deactivation, an Auto Hold function to keep the car from rolling backward on hills, and optional Park Distance Control. The chrome surround for the shifter looks nice but reflects the sunlight at some angles, causing glare. Two large cupholders fit between the seats just forward of the folding armrest. The furry material around the cupholders looks like it could be a haven for crumbs, not good for people who eat in their car. Storage is available in a number of storage bins, including a sunglasses holder.
The Passat's interior ambience is best defined as understated luxury. Despite the cockpit's many creature comforts and electronic controls, there's a simplicity about the design and functionality that helps drivers fulfill their assigned task without confusion or calamity. Optional sunshades for the side windows and backlight help keep light and heat levels down by day. Ambient lighting helps with interior illumination at night. An umbrella holder in the driver's door, complete with a drainage system so a wet umbrella can be stowed without harm, makes us feel like we're in a Rolls-Royce.
Instead of fitting a key into a column-mounted ignition switch, the entire fob is pushed into a dash-mounted slot. To stop the car and eject the fob, simply push it again. What might seem a gimmick is in reality a boon to safety and reliability: A dangling keychain can prematurely wear an expensive ignition switch or cause leg injury during a crash. However, we found it hung up sometimes when we tried to exit the car in a hurry, and was hard to pull out, which was annoying.
The Passat wagon can carry a surprisingly large amount of cargo, even without folding the back seats down. Pull the cargo cover over your precious cargo hides it from prying eyes. Fold the back seats down simply by flopping the seatbacks forward. This expands the cargo area, though the rear seats do not fold perfectly flat.
The Volkswagen Passat is available with a choice of engines and this time around we're finding ourselves favoring the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder in some respects over the 3.6-liter V6.
The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that comes on the base and 2.0T models is responsive and works well with the six-speed automatic. Volkswagen and Audi seem to have solved some of the drivability issues we've expressed in the past about the compatibility of the 2.0-liter turbo with the automatic transmission. On previous-generation models, the turbo and automatic didn't work together: The turbo would lag and the transmission would upshift right when we stepped on the gas and wanted to go, which was not good when we were moving out of a slow lane into a fast lane with trucks looming in our rearview mirror. All of that seems to be gone now; the automatic on the 2007 models seems to work just fine with 2.0-liter turbo engine.
The 3.6-liter V6 is a smooth engine. Responding with an approving growl to the driver's right foot, the narrow-angle V6 delivers a robust flow of power, taking the relatively heavy Passat to 60 mph from a stop in about 6.6 seconds. The 3.6-liter engine has good torque down low, and once underway it revs freely, happily climbing toward the 6200-rpm power peak without harshness. But it sometimes hesitates at the bottom end. Step on the gas and there's a moment when nothing happens, both from a standing start and when cruising slowly. This can be annoying.
Otherwise, the six-speed automatic transmission with Tiptronic control feels well suited to the 3.6-liter's powerband. A highly robust unit, it's designed to handle much more power than the V6 can deliver. Gear control is smooth when shifting manually using the Tiptronic.
The optional sport-tuned suspension lowers ride height (by 15 mm) and stiffens the springs and shocks. But even the standard settings feel far more sporty than in the previous generation. Body roll, brake dive and acceleration squat, all undesirable traits of former VW chassis, have been eliminated, and torque steer is all but nonexistent.
The 2.0L Wagon we drove felt like an old man's car. It did not encourage sporty driving. But it was quite comfortable in parking lots and on bumpy neighborhood streets, with a nice, cushy ride.
We found the Passat 3.6L sedan to be very stable at high speeds (135 mph), tracking straight and true. These are benefits of its balanced chassis with multi-link rear suspension and MacPherson strut front suspension. The front suspension does a good job of handling the conflicting duties of the front tires to both pull and steer the car.
The Passat's electromechanical rack-and-pinion steering is very responsive and adjusts the power-assist based on steering wheel angle and vehicle speed. It also corrects for side winds as well as minimizing column vibration. We can attest to its precision while making rapid lane changes at high speed.
Braking is excellent. The four-wheel discs (ventilated in front) provide direct feedback, and the ABS threshold is set high enough to allow a good measure of late braking for the sporty driver. Overall brake feel is superb, and the car stops from high speeds with little drama, aided by Brake Assist (as we found out on the Autobahn, when an old, wheezy, and plastic-bodied jalopy left over from the Communist era pulled into our lane about 75 mph short of our velocity).
We've also driven a Passat 3.6L sedan equipped with the 4Motion all-wheel-drive system, though we haven't had a chance to try it out on slippery or snowy roads. Volkswagen has offered all-wheel drive in the Passat since 1984, but the current system was all-new for 2006. The electronically controlled system is designed to work effectively with the ABS, traction control, electronic differential lock, and electronic stability program. On dry pavement, where we experienced it, it was largely invisible. We recommend.
The Volkswagen Passat is a sophisticated car with a high-quality cabin. It's roomy and comfortable. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine makes a much better companion for the automatic transmission that it did on pre-2006 models and we can recommend this combination. The ride is smooth and comfortable and the chassis is well controlled at high speed. The available 4-Motion all-wheel drive is an excellent option for bad weather. And the wagon makes for a highly practical car.
New Car Test Drive correspondent Greg N. Brown filed the original report from Hamburg, Germany; with editor Mitch McCullough reporting on the Passat Wagon 2.0L and Passat 3.6L 4-Motion from Los Angeles.
Volkswagen Passat sedan 2.0L manual ($22,960); sedan 2.0L automatic ($24,035); Wagon 2.0L automatic ($25,235); 2.0T sedan manual ($23,960); 2.0T sedan automatic ($25,035); 2.0T Wagon automatic ($26,235); 3.6L sedan ($29,960); 3.6L Wagon ($31,160); 3.6L 4Motion sedan ($31,910); 3.6L 4Motion Wagon ($33,110).
Options As Tested
Package 1 Luxury ($3,250) includes leather comfort seats, 12-way power driver and passenger seats with 3-position memory for driver seat and exterior mirrors; heated driver and passenger front seats, heated washer nozzles, dual-zone Climatronic air conditioning; wood and brushed-aluminum interior trim, including walnut shift knob; leather-wrapped four-spoke steering wheel with audio controls; automatic headlights with coming-home feature; fog lights, rain-sensing wipers, Homelink, switchable auto-dimming interior mirror; Park Distance Control; manual rear and side sunshades; storage net in trunk; Bi-Xenon headlamps with Adaptive Front Lighting System and washers ($950), Dynaudio premium sound system ($1000); 18-inch alloy wheels with 235/40HR18 all-season tires and sport suspension ($600); DVD navigation with glovebox-mounted six-disc CD changer ($1,800).
Volkswagen Passat 3.6L sedan ($29,960).
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