Volkswagen Passat Wagon
By The Car Family
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We liked the 2007 Passat station wagon a great deal, but probably not as great a deal as what they were listing the 2.0 turbocharged four cylinder vehicle for at it was nearly $28,000 (US). What you get for that money is a utility player able to handle most tasks with ease from providing a sporty ride, ample room for five, and enough cargo space to haul both the dog and doghouse home. Indeed space utilization is the strong suit for this Volkswagen as its rear seats split 60/40 for transporting large loads. We especially liked the front-door side pockets that had room for 1.5 liters bottles and the air-conditioned glove compartment. The rear deck is very low and the flat cargo area easy to load. In all aspects, this is a handy vehicle and would be excellent with the diesel engine.
Previously, we tested the Volkswagen/Audi’s 2.0 engine in an Audi 4 equipped with a continuously variable transmission. This transmission is ideal for a turbocharged small displacement powerplants because it keeps the engine speed constant. We got nearly 30 mpg with the Audi, but with the Volkswagen and its six speed automatic we were pressed to break 25 mpg.
Driving the Volkswagen is frustrating at times because the power does not come on until nearly 3000 rpm. When that magic figure does arrive there is plenty of acceleration and the accompanying torque steer, despite the electric steering, as the mild mannered wagon turns a bit aggressive. The ride is compliant and fairly energizing with the 200 horsepower turbocharged engine giving a realistic 24-mpg in mixed driving. It is faster than most six-cylinder passenger cars, but certainly not a hot rod. It corners very well for a station wagon and the driver has good visibility in all directions, except that it is impossible to tell where the hood ends. This is vitally important because there is a large, garish chrome grill there with very little bumper protection. It wouldn’t take much to mar that massive overbite air inlet.
Irritating items with the Volkswagen were its lack of a plug in for portable MP3 devises, a key fob that also served as the ignition key and, unfortunately, proved to be much less effective than those on the Lexus and Toyota models. However, it was much better and more reliable than the overpriced Porsche ones, In addition, the Passat’s rear headrests need to be removed for the seats to fold flat. By the way, you can almost carry a two-meter by one-meter package back there. The rear hatch is easy to open and the liftover is very low and wide.
Safety wise you get ABS brakes, traction control, an abundance of air bags including side curtains, and active front head restraints as well as a disc cleaning devise that keeps the brakes dry and a hill-hold button that prevents rollback when activated. Government crash tests have proven good for the Passat with excellent and good scores.
The bottom line is that the Volkswagen Passat is the second best wagon losing only to the Subaru Legacy which has better pricing, better performance, and all wheel drive as standard. Still, the Passat wagon is a great vehicle and safer that top heavy SUVs.
Mom’s view: I felt immediately at home in the Passat. It is attractive, has a functional interior, and excellent visibility. As most Volkswagens, it comes in a variety of forms but I would recommend the base model and use it as a workhorse rather than a show horse. You can get the Passat with a very powerful 3.6-liter normally aspirated engine and more standard features, but it is quite a bit more dear. The dash has a carbon fiber look, which is an acquired taste, but at least it doesn’t have the gaudy look that luxury car wanabes use. There are storage pockets everywhere and that includes an umbrella holder in the door panel.
The stereo and air and heat controls are easy to master, but we had to run the air on high if we left the Passat out in the sun any length of time. It took a long time to cool down due to the large windows. I would definitely tint them. By the way, the glove box is air-conditioned.
On the road the ride is quiet and the steering is subdued in the traditional European sedan fashion. The brakes are adequate, but could have better feel, and the powertrain is always eager to help you. It rides well with the family onboard and you can be confident when making emergency lane changes that could upend large SUVs. Overall, a much improved Passat and a family friend, but the seats could be a little softer and the controls for them simpler to use.
Dad’s view: This is the Swiss Army Knife of station wagons. Whereas the Subaru is quicker and has all wheel drive, the Passat is easier to load, has more storage spaces, and is better suited to urban living. It is fast enough, handles well enough, gets good enough fuel mileage, and has ample cargo capacity to handle just about any situation. The 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine with a direct-injection fuel-delivery system does its best to get the two-ton plus wagon off the mark. Of course the 280 horsepower V6 has more torque, but we like the smaller engine better even with the noticeable torque steer when briskly accelerating from a stop. All the doors open wide and the mirrors offer good visibility. It is a stable ride, but not really a sports car ride. If you manually shift the Tiptronic transmission you can get a lot more from the engine, and the MacPherson front suspension and fully independent rear set up steady the ride enough to feel playful. The brake pedal has a longer travel, but we didn’t find any fade. Essentially, a nice combination of practicality and friendliness, but not particularly frugal to buy
Young working male’s view: In some markets this Passat is being sold with Bluetooth technology that lets you use the phone numbers in your cell phone to make hands free calls. The sound system is okay, but the base unit is just that. The readout for the stereo radio is difficult to read in the sun. Driving the Passat isn’t demanding and isn’t all that rewarding either, unless you shift the transmission for yourself to keep the 2.0 liter engine’s revs up. You can probably get to 100 km in less than eight seconds, but why bother? This is a station wagon and unless the dog is really ill just enjoy the better than average fuel mileage and the upgraded stereo you hopefully ordered. Can you say Dynaudio?
Young working woman’s view: Although there are a lot of attractive options for the Passat such as bi-xenon headlights, wood and leather trim, adaptive cruise control to all wheel drive to rear side airbags, the most interesting is standard equipment and that is the a 6-speed manual transmission on the 2.0 model. This makes driving the Passat a lot more enjoyable, but the shifts are rather long. I liked the wagon far more than the Subaru, which is probably its main competition. The Subie interior is just too dull as is the exterior. I wouldn’t mind owning a diesel version of this vehicle. It has what I want and that is versatility with a hint of glamour.
Family conference: There is little doubt that the Passat wagon is a great and safe alternative to gas hoggish SUVs and is both much better handling and easier to load. The pricing and resale may present some problems, but the livability of this Volkswagen can offset these negatives until someone prods Volkswagen into making the Micobus again.
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